The University of Notre Dame Press, with the support of the Ford Foundation, does a great service in making available to an English-speaking readership the full text of this exhaustive report on human rights violations in Chile, in particular the most serious, which resulted in deaths and disappearances committed by the Pinochet dictatorship. In two strikingly sober and comprehensive volumes the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, established by President Patricio Aylwin following his inauguration in 1990, documents the tragic facts of those years, names the victims and provides a detailed history of the institutional and historical context within which these crimes occurred. Despite the constraints imposed on the commission by the political transition, the sheer power and transparent honesty of its findings did indeed achieve the catharsis for which Aylwin hoped. The commission's report thus played a critical role in the successful democratization of Chile.
Beyond the Chilean setting, this is also a remarkable document of our times. The thoughtful comparative introduction by Jos Zalaquett, in particular, should be required reading for those who must confront the now recurrent and difficult problem of how democratic successor regimes balance justice, retribution and truth in the aftermath of massive and systemic violations of human rights by their dictatorial predecessors.