At some point in our lives, all of us were probably taught to differentiate between various forms of truth. There was scientific truth: the hypothesis that best fit the results of experiments and observations and that was subject to modification and change in the light of both. There was, conversely, religious truth, which accepts certain assertions because of their origin, rather than their content; and its ally, political and ideological truth, which must be accepted by followers whether it corresponds to the facts or not. Political truths are especially dangerous, since their wide acceptance makes them almost into facts, and in politics one often confronts shadow rather than substance. The establishment of truth commissions, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed in South Africa following apartheid, leads to other kinds of truth.
In theory, and to some extent in practice, legal truth is closer to scientific truth than any other type. It is what can be proved in a court of law, and in criminal cases such proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet fundamentally legal truth is much more subjective compared to scientific truth, because it depends on the weighing of arguments within a process that contains no scientific methodology. It is always possible, especially in finely balanced cases, that one jury or another or a different set of judges would come to another conclusion about guilt and innocence. Thus, the Bosnian Serb Goran Jelisic was acquitted on the charge of genocide in Brcko in Bosnia, and the truth, for the time being at least, is that genocide did not take place there. Given the complex and slippery nature of the evidence,
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Publication information: Book title: War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World. Contributors: David Chuter - Author. Publisher: Lynne Rienner. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 225.
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