Right to truth – a new human right?

Available in Russian

Price 150 Rub.

Author: Aleksandr Evseev

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2022-2-24-37

Keywords: the right to truth; to deal with the past; international criminal law; war crimes; international law of human rights; enforced disappearances


This article deals with theoretical and practical problems arising in connection with the recognition of a new human right — the right to truth. The genetic origin of this right is traced to violations of it that were widespread in Latin American countries in the 1970s and 1980s. As development of this right spread to the European continent, the right to truth grew from a local norm into a global procedural guarantee of the international legal status of the person, often supported by constitutional norms. This article emphasizes the need to ensure this right by an appropriate institutional structure of “transitional justice” – by so-called “truth commissions”, disclosure of archives, and legal examination of the facts of state terror as revealed through judicial proceedings. The significance of decisions recognizing the right to truth made by regional courts of human rights, primarily the Inter-American and European ones, is emphasized. The article focuses on the international legal nature of this right even though it is not yet possible to qualify it as a customary norm of international law. It concludes with a discussion of opportunities for scholarly research on this issue.

About the author: Aleksandr Evseev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Evseev A. (2022) Right to truth – the new human right? [Pravo na pravdu – novoe pravo chelo­veka?]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 24–37. (In Russian).


(2013) Osobye mneniya sud’i A.Kovlera: “Yanovets i drugie protiv Rossii” [Dissenting and concurring opinions of judge Kovler: Janowiec and others v. Russia. Judgment of 16 April 2012]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 120–123.

Aldana R. (2011) Ispravlyaya oshibki proshlogo i izlechivaya bolezni nastoyashchego: Gomez Lund (Gomez Lund) i drugie protiv Brazilii [Repairing the past and healing the present: Gomes Lund et al. v. Brazil]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 55–60.

Antonov A.N. (2020) Rassledovanie prestupleniy v usloviyakh mezhdunarodnogo vooruzhyonnogo konflikta [Investigation of crimes in the context of an international armed conflict], Moscow: Yurlitinform.

Bilsky L. (2020) The Right to Truth in International Criminal Law. In: Heller K., Megret F., Nouwen S., Ohlin J., Robinson D. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 473–494.

Chernyshova O.S. (2015) Syuzhet dlya seriala? Pravo na pravdu v praktike ESPCh [The plot for the series? The right to truth in the practice of the ECtHR]. In: Rossiyskiy ezhegodnik Evropeyskoy konventsii po pravam cheloveka [Russian Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights], no. 1, Мoscow: Statut, pp. 140–166.

Epple N. (2020) Neudobnoe proshloe: pamyat’ o gosudarstvennykh prestupleniyakh v Rossii i drugikh stranakh [An inconvenient past: the memory of state crimes in Russia and other countries], Мoscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.

Garibian S. (2014) Ghosts Also Die. Journal of International Criminal Justice, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 515–538.

Gaynor F. (2012) Uneasy Partners – Evidence, Truth and History in International Trials. Journal of International Criminal Justice, vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 1257–1275.

Golovko L.V. (2012) Teoreticheskie osnovy modernizatsii ucheniya o material’noy istine v ugolovnom protsesse [Theoretical foundations of modernization of the doctrine of material truth in criminal proceedings]. Biblioteka kriminalista, no. 4, pp. 65–87.

Groome D. (2011) The Right to Truth in the Fight Against Impunity. Berkeley Journal of International Law, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 175–199.

Klyuchnikov A.Yu. (2020) Pravo na istinu v mezhdunarodnom pravosudii [The right to the truth in international justice]. Lex Russica, vol. 73, no. 12, pp. 106–117.

Koposov N.E. (2020) Retropolitika, ili Istoricheskaya pamyat’, demokratiya i populism [Retro politics, or Historical Memory, democracy and populism]. KOINON, vol. 1, no. 1–2, pp. 144–163.

Kovler A. (2018) “Voz’myomsya za ruki, druz’ya”: Predislovie k Deklaratsii San-Khose [“Let’s join hands, friends…”: Introductory to Declaration of San Jose]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 55–57.

Lyozina E. (2021) XX vek: prorabotka proshlogo. Praktiki perekhodnogo pravosudiya i politika pamyati v byvshikh diktaturakh [XX century: study of the past. Transitional justice practices and memory politics in former dictatorships], Мoscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.

Méndez J.E., Bariffi F.J. (2012) Truth, Right to, International Protection. Available at: https://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r17382.pdf (accessed: 18.05.2022).

Nazar M. (2021) Archives for Truth and Justice in Argentina. In: Boel J., Canavaggio P., Quintana A. (eds.) Archives and Human Rights, New York; London: Routledge, pp. 296–308.

Nelaeva G.А. (2020) Pravo na ustanovlenie istiny v kontekste pravosudiya perekhodnogo perioda: opyt stran Latinskoy Ameriki [The right to the truth in the context of transitional justice: the experience of Latin American countries]. Latinskaya Amerika, no. 5, pp. 43–52.

Schabas W.A. (2018) Time, Justice and Human Rights. Statutory Limitation on the Right to Truth? In: Adler N. (ed.) Understanding the Age of Transitional Justice: Crimes, Courts, Commissions and Chronicling, New York: Rutgers University Press, pp. 37–55.