The U.S. Congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack led gripping, and often devastating, public hearings earlier this year that kept many viewers – including myself – glued to their screens.

But I also kept circling back to one tricky question. The Congressional committee lacks legal authority to charge former president Donald Trump or others for their alleged involvement in the riots. So, what could this all ultimately lead to?

These sorts of committees are uncommon in the U.S., but groups often known as truth commissions have carried out high-profile work in other countries following political controversies and conflict, from Guatemala to South Africa.

After a monthslong break, the Jan. 6 Congressional committee will hold new hearings on Thursday. Rachel Bowen, a political science scholar at the Ohio State University, explores the committee’s potential legacy.

“The Jan. 6 committee is not investigating a military dictatorship, as has happened in Latin America. But it is creating a historical record that will shape how Americans think about their own democracy for years to come,” she writes.

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Amy Lieberman

Politics + Society Editor

The U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol resumes on Sept. 28, 2022. Win McNamee/Getty Images

What the Jan. 6 committee could learn from the failures of truth commissions to bring justice and accountability

Rachel E. Bowen, The Ohio State University

While the Jan. 6 committee investigating the US Capitol attacks has limited legal powers, it can help craft an accurate narrative of American democracy and history.

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