Humanitarian Law

The Human Right to the Truth in International Law: On Some ‘Untimely Meditations’

In the second part of his Untimely Meditations, Nietzsche asserts that the motto of History raised to the status of a science in the nineteenth century is fiat veritas, pereat vita. Nietzsche draws a line between the right uses of History that serve life, and the wrong uses that jeopardise life. This text seems to capture or encompass if not all at least many of the criticisms now levelled at the right to the truth. Starting from this critical discourse, the paper tries to answer the following question: might not this ambition to establish the truth and to make truth a ‘human right’ – that is, a universal right deemed to be inherent in human nature – lead to blockages and dead-ends, or even completely jam the social machinery so preventing its renewal and reproduction, in other words preventing it from living?To try answering this question, the paper presents the right to the truth in context in the legal texts as an emerging human right in international law before trying to describe the main challenges that the right to the truth must take up. In conclusion, the paper looks at the role that international supervisory bodies must play in securing the right to the truth nationally.