To Rebuild Lives, Suffering Must Be Acknowledged, ‘Justice Done’, Human Rights High Commissioner Says, as Security Council Takes Up Transitional Justice
From Africa to the Americas to Asia and Europe, transitional justice mechanisms that are locally owned and focused on the needs of victims have repeatedly helped to address grievances and pave the way for more peaceful societies to take root, delegates said today amid calls for the Security Council to take decisive approaches to conflicts in concert with other United Nations bodies.
Among those leading that call was Yasmin Sooka of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa and Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, who recalled that during the apartheid years, detainees reportedly jumped from police headquarter windows, hanged themselves in cells and died hitting their heads against police filing cabinets. “Inquests held under the apartheid system found nobody responsible for their deaths,” she said.
Two decades after South Africa’s transitional justice process, these inquests are being reopened, she said. As fragile States may not have the means to carry out such programmes, the United Nations should be required to help. She urged the Council to work with the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the General Assembly and others. “It is essential to ensure that peace and justice are seen as mutually reinforcing imperatives, and not replaced by erroneous notions that peace must come first before accountability,” she stressed.
Taking up that charge, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, briefing from Geneva, said the recent overthrow of the regime in Sudan was driven by demands for justice across society, built over decades of impunity for rights violations. “To rebuild lives without fear of recurrence — and for society to move forward — suffering needs to be acknowledged, confidence in State institutions restored and justice done,” she agreed.
She pointed to the 1999 “Memoria del Silencio” report by Guatemala’s truth commission, which offered an authoritative record of violations during 36 years of conflict, in stressing that success requires tackling unfair power structures. “Without humility and modesty, the risks of failure are real,” she assured.
Francisco de Roux, President of the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition, pointed out that transitional justice costs very little when compared to military or corporate transactions. In Colombia, victims participated in the sentencing of perpetrators from the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC). And just last week, former FARC fighters apologized for an attack launched 17 years ago.
In the ensuing debate, more than 60 speakers shared national experiences with truth commissions and other reconciliation instruments, highlighting lessons learned. Rwanda’s delegate said his country’s truth and justice process was not about reprisal, but about healing. The Government responded to the genocide against the Tutsi swiftly by accepting responsibility and establishing Gacaca courts, providing victims a means to learn the truth about the deaths of their family members and giving perpetrators the chance to confess their crimes, show remorse and ask for forgiveness.
South Africa’s delegate similarly said transitional justice was a vital to securing a peaceful transition for his country from apartheid to constitutional democracy. He encouraged countries to explore a range of measures, from criminal prosecutions, truth commissions and reparations, to exhumation of mass graves, apologies and institutional reforms to redress abuses. Tunisia’s delegate said that in his country, civil society advanced transitional justice even before a new constitution was drafted, helping to establish a commission for reconciliation and bring perpetrators to account. The Security Council can encourage these and other measures, which can benefit both from local input and international law.
As for the Security Council’s role, Germany’s delegate recalled that resolution 2467 (2019) introduced a survivor-centred approach, urging the 15-member organ to include reconciliation and mediation capacities in mission mandates and to invite Human Rights Council commissions to brief more often. Liechtenstein’s delegate meanwhile blamed the Council for ignoring accountability and justice in Syria, passing the ball to the General Assembly. In the case of Myanmar, it has not considered — let alone acknowledged — the International Criminal Court decision on provisional measures to be taken by Myanmar on the basis of the Genocide Convention, he said. Slovenia’s delegate emphasized the importance of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, handling the remaining cases of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia.
Among those stressing that transitional justice must involve local communities and redress local concerns was the Russian Federation’s delegate, who said mechanisms should not be used to consolidate victory of one side over another or allow interference in the internal affairs of a weakened State. He cited the “illegitimate” International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria in this context, stressing that “the United Nations should not dictate”.
Determining the appropriate role for the United Nations is a balancing exercise, others said, with Brazil’s delegate arguing that significant aspects of transitional justice fall outside the Security Council’s mandate. Post-conflict, the Council can encourage the incorporation of mechanisms into peace accords and design mission mandates that support transitional justice processes. In Nepal, “our focus has been to strike a balance between compliance with international norms and standards, and the national sociopolitical context by putting the victims at the centre”, added that country’s delegate.
At the end of the day, transitional justice plays a humanitarian role, said the speaker from the International Committee of the Red Cross — especially in the situation of missing persons. “If you speak to families you hear that their suffering is both acute and haunting,” he said. “It is the last open wound.”
Also speaking today were representatives and senior officials from Belgium, Niger, Estonia, United States, Indonesia, United Kingdom, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Dominican Republic, Viet Nam, Guatemala, Spain, Japan, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Lebanon, Portugal, Kenya, El Salvador, Slovakia, Italy, Colombia, Armenia, Georgia, Qatar, Egypt, India, Ireland, Peru, Turkey, Fiji, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Argentina, Romania, Syria, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Netherlands, Malta, Canada, Gambia, Iraq, Angola, Croatia and Ukraine, as well as from the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 6:10 p.m.
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said lasting peace is interlinked with justice, development and respect for human rights. “Peace does not automatically break out when weapons fall silent and atrocity crimes cease,” she said. To rebuild lives, without fear of recurrence, suffering must be acknowledged, confidence in State institutions restored and justice done. In Sudan, the recent overthrow of the regime was driven in large part by demands for justice across society, built over decades of impunity for rights violations.
Noting that transitional justice processes have repeatedly shown they can help to address grievances, she said her own experience in Chile convinced her that processes that are context-specific, nationally owned and focused on the needs and informed choices of victims can empower and transform societies. Truth-seeking initiatives not only enable victims to recount their experiences, they open new spaces within which victims and perpetrators can re-establish a connection, facilitating recognition of multiple narratives about what has occurred and the formulation of recommendations for redress and reform.
Over the last 30 years, truth commissions in the Americas and elsewhere have advanced transitional justice, she said, pointing to the landmark “Memoria del Silencio” (1999) report of Guatemala’s truth commission, which offered an authoritative record of rights violations during 36 years of conflict, giving voice to the victims and analysing the dynamics underlying the fighting. It was instrumental in advancing victims’ rights. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations-supported consultations in the Kasai region enabled victims to express their views on truth, reconciliation and reparations. During her visit to Ituri, she was struck by the desire by both the Hema and Lendu communities for transitional justice. Recalling that the violence, which erupted in 2003, never gave rise to efforts to promote accountability, she expressed her belief that “this failure to sustain justice processes has been a factor in the revival of violence today”.
For a society to succeed in establishing a transition to peace, she said systemic discrimination, institutional deficiencies, unfair power structures and structural impunity are among the issues to be identified and addressed, with the broadest possible participation of civil society in decision-making. It is particularly crucial for military and police forces, and more broadly, all Government institutions, to regain the confidence of traumatized and abused communities. As fair, even-handed and accountable use of public power is central to rebuilding shattered trust in law enforcement, vetting processes and security reforms should be given high priority. She described the work under way in Colombia on guarantees of non-recurrence by the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, citing the landmark 2011 Victims Law, which calls for a range of mechanisms to prevent and resolve social conflict, as well as legal empowerment of victims, distributive land restitution and measures to dismantle economic and political structures that have benefited from, and given support to armed groups.
Citing the Council’s “sustaining peace” resolution, she said creating trust among former enemies will always be a challenge. Transitional justice cannot be imported or imposed from the outside. Rather, locally led and locally appropriate permutations of transitional justice have the best chances of success. “Without humility and modesty, the risks of failure are real,” she assured. At the same time, the international community, and the Council in particular, have essential roles in helping States in these complex processes, by sharing experiences, mandating international support and encouraging implementation of comprehensive approaches. She drew attention in this context to the Council’s mandating of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to explicitly advise on the establishment and implementation of judicial and non-judicial processes to address the legacy of large-scale human rights violations. Transitional justice should not be seen as an alternative to criminal accountability for the perpetrators of atrocity crimes. However, criminal accountability should be accompanied by measures to support truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. And while there is no single way to get the mix right, there is a way to get it wrong by considering victims’ rightful demands as an inconvenient distraction that can be papered over or indefinitely delayed.
FRANCISCO DE ROUX, President of the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition, said transitional justice is an encouraging peacebuilding tool and the best international response to war-related tragedies, costing very little when compared to military or corporate transactions. Peace in Colombia has already led to positive changes, providing new hope. Outlining several key points, he said the victims of armed conflict should be at the centre of efforts. During the 50-year-long conflict in Colombia, 240,000 people were killed and there were almost 9 million known victims. In all countries in transition, the road to peace typically begins with a ceasefire ahead of the difficult role of peacebuilding.
Truth in transitional justice is a gateway, he said, noting that the concept has become more developed to work on judicial issues to end impunity. In Colombia, victims participated in sentencing People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) perpetrators, with one group given the sentence of eight years imprisonment and building a school. Such efforts aim at determining responsibility and not singling out or fuelling hatred. Another unit in Colombia serves families of “disappeared” individuals, given that the whereabouts of more than 100,000 people remain unknown.
Indeed, an acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrators is a way to ensure non-repetition, he said. Last week, former FARC fighters apologized for an attack launched 17 years ago. To ensure non-repetition, efforts like those made in a village where paramilitary fighters committed crimes against children must focus on addressing issues, overcoming the past and moving towards a common positive future.
Ensuring a comprehensive transition means caring for the lives of former combatants, he said, including reintegrating them in society with dignity. It requires the Government’s political determination to avoid polarization, which undermines such programmes and their desired results. People tend to forego violence when they taste peace, he said, adding that transitional justice is based on ethics, requiring a will to learn of best practices that put human beings above any other goal. Without transitional justice, it would have been impossible to achieve peace in countries the Council addresses and in Colombia. In this regard, the Security Council must play its role.
YASMIN SOOKA, Executive Director, Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa and Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said she comes from a country where, during the apartheid years, scores of detainees were said to have jumped from windows at police headquarters, hanged themselves in cells, died hitting their heads against police filing cabinets or fatally slipping on bars of soap. “Inquests held under the apartheid system found nobody responsible for their deaths,” she said. Now, two decades after South Africa’s transitional justice process, these inquests are at last being reopened, with many of those who were detained speaking out about their torture at the hands of South Africa’s notorious security branch
She said these reopened inquests — and reports that Sudan’s Omer al-Bashir may be transferred to the International Criminal Court to face genocide and war crimes charges — demonstrate the importance of addressing impunity. But even the best processes exclude many who are not yet ready to tell their stories. As in her own country, it can take decades to deliver justice, and often the quest for truth is driven by the families of victims. Recalling that South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was deeply influenced by the Latin American experiences of building accountability, while also ensuring stability and continuance of new Government, she said that as an actor in the transitional justice process, she was deeply conscious of the limitations of a narrow mandate which did not allow for considering structural violations.
While the principles to combat impunity, developed by Louis Joinet, advanced the field of transitional justice — positing that States bear primary responsibility for ensuring victims and their families realize their right to truth, justice and reparations — she said African experiences have challenged the narrow focus on civil and political rights violations, in light of the legacies of violence and structural violations arising from their colonial histories. Processes in such countries as Sierra Leone, Peru and Tunisia have also addressed gender. Rural women in Sierra Leone, for example, asked the Truth Commission to ensure that the Government allocate funds received from the heavily indebted poor countries debt initiative for girls’ secondary education. The Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia has been ground-breaking, including by ensuring an independent budget to facilitate the participation of women and girls.
But sexual and gender-based violence is too often still framed narrowly as a matter of gender identity, she said. While focus on women and girls is critical, ignoring violations perpetrated against men and boys limits the analysis of how gender norms fuel the use of sexual violence and stymies prevention efforts. Further, fragile States have not always been able to carry out ambitious transitional justice programmes. The United Nations should be required to provide vital support. She urged the Council to ensure the non-recurrence of violations and to address such indirect causes of conflict as structural violence, discrimination and economic exploitation. It should take innovative, decisive approaches to conflicts on its agenda in concert with the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights, General Assembly and bodies such as the African Union. “It is essential to ensure that peace and justice are seen as mutually reinforcing imperatives, and not replaced by erroneous notions that peace must come first before accountability,” she stressed.
PHILIPPE GOFFIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence of Belgium, Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the 15-member organ plays an important role in transitional justice, with peace operations helping States to strengthen their capacity and reform their institutions. Establishing responsibility for crimes is essential for building peace. The International Criminal Court can play a complementary role with national transitional justice measures. But, implementing transitional justice has many challenges, including costly restorations of traditional judicial systems. The sequence of measures taken is essential for success. The Council should concentrate on specific actions, including adopting a holistic approach that respects national ownership. In addition, the victims’ demands must be at the core of transitional justice, using inclusive measures that includes a gender perspective and addressing the root causes of conflict.
KALLA ANKOURAO, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigeriens Abroad of Niger, said promoting reconciliation is just as important as breaking a cycle of impunity. Expressing support for the United Nations and political missions that strive to strengthen trust between civilians and security forces, he said Niger has created the High Authority for Peacebuilding with similar goals that has already made gains in ensuring victims’ needs are met and establishing an environment of confidence. Endorsing the 2019 adoption of the African Union’s policy on transitional justice, he underlined the importance of drawing upon members’ experiences and shared values.
MÄRT VOLMER, Deputy-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, shared his country’s experience in overcoming the harmful legacy of mass atrocity crimes, stressing the vital importance of building strong institutions capable of preserving the rule of law and ensuring human rights for all. Following its independence in 1991, he said, Estonia re-established the rule of law, reinstating democratic institutions while bringing to justice the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the occupation by the repressive regime. Welcoming recent reports of Sudan’s commitment to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, he said this would constitute a significant step in the pursuit of justice — a case referred to the Court by the Security Council 15 years ago. His country also supports international independent fact-finding and evidence preservation efforts, including in Syria and Myanmar. Going forward, Estonia wishes to see a more consistent Council record on preventing atrocities, he added.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said his country values national transitional justice processes. “In our own case, transitional justice was a vital cog in securing a relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to the stable constitutional democracy we are today.” Noting South Africa recently marked the thirtieth anniversary of the prison release of transitional justice champion and former President Nelson Mandela, he said the goal pursued was not simply to end conflict, but to rebuild the political, security, social and economic dimensions of a society emerging from conflict. The spectrum of transitional justice should be explored, from criminal prosecutions, truth commissions and reparations programmes, to exhumation of mass graves, apologies, amnesty and institutional reforms to redress human rights abuses.
For South Africa, the restorative justice approach chosen by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought to fight impunity, uncover gross rights violations and help the families of victims heal, he said. It also had the strategic goal of promoting national unity. While ensuring justice by means of individual accountability is important, it often fails to address the structural challenges that initially sparked violence and causes a State to relapse into conflict. Thus, the United Nations should be enabled to provide more support to national transitional justice, notably through peacekeeping missions and the Peacebuilding Commission. The Council should encourage adherence to international guidelines and regional policies, he said, cautioning that transitional justice must not be appropriated by the international community but rather driven by those emerging from conflict. He highlighted the importance of including reconciliation in holistic transition plans that consider community-based justice mechanisms and ensure that women and young people, in particular, are represented.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) recalled that resolution 2282 (2016) calls for comprehensive approaches to transitional justice, noting that United Nations tribunals can play an integral role and calling for more equitable burden-sharing in this regard. While transitional justice must incorporate the views of victims and survivors, it is also a political process, in which political leaders set the tone. They should develop a public record of abuses and work to reintegrate those members of their forces into society. Transitional justice processes must be nationally owned and inclusive, and it is imperative that women and girls are reflected in the related mechanisms, as women’s direct participation in peace processes increases the sustainability of peace agreements. A country’s existing legal and institutional structures also must be taken into account. She called on South Sudan’s leaders to implement all aspects of the peace agreement, including for transitional justice, recognizing the comprehensive approach taken in the Central African Republic, where the Peacebuilding Commission ensured that the peace process was linked to the 2015 consultative process. While she welcomed that women-led civil society groups were consulted, she expressed concern that no women were signatories to the accord.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that transitional justice process should be forward-looking, as it is not only about addressing past grievances. The process must lay the foundation for reconciliation and rebuild trust in society. This approach will help countries in transition move towards sustainable peace and development. Transitional justice should become part of the broader peacebuilding and sustaining peace process. It must also be nationally owned and inclusive, with women playing a central role. Countries in transition often face capacity challenges in political, legal, security and socioeconomic sectors. Therefore, comprehensive reform is essential. Stressing the importance of external support for building their capacities in governance and rule of law, he said that they must build their own economic resilience against a recurrence of conflict. In 2019, Indonesia organized an international workshop to share best practices in agriculture-based economic development in post-conflict countries.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said many countries have experienced different types of transitional justice, including measures related to emerging from dictatorships, civil war or other situations characterized by violations of freedom and moral integrity. Common factors include strengthening institutions, ensuring the non-repetition of violence and fostering reconciliation. Turning the page of the past is necessary to avoid discord and a return to violence. In Tunisia, civil society played a key role in pushing forward transitional justice even before a new Constitution was drafted. During this time, Tunisia took a number of steps, including establishing a commission for reconciliation, bringing perpetrators to account and restoring rights to victims. The Security Council can encourage transitional justice through these and other measures, which can benefit both from local input and international law. His delegation supports the ability to benefit from trust funds for victims, provided for by the Rome Statute.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said legal accountability and ending impunity are key in healing the wounds. Citing cases in Myanmar and Sudan, she commended actions taken to recognize these concepts. Indeed, transitional justice is an innovative way that has brought peace to many countries on the Council’s agenda, with mechanisms and processes becoming increasingly national-owned and -led. Welcoming the recent verdict in the Central African Republic regarding cases related to war crimes, she said efforts are more frequently being situated in a broader legal reform spectrum. While such efforts can make inroads during ongoing hostility and long after a conflict ends, the root causes of conflict, if left unaddressed, can morph into various forms of violence down the line, reducing transitional justice into little more than lip service and threatening recurring cycles of conflict. She pointed at the truth and reconciliation commissions in Kenya and Tunisia as examples of ways to address the root causes of conflict.
MATHIAS LICHARZ (Germany) said that transitional justice and the search for truth have been particularly important to his country. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and during the course of Germany’s reunification, the Stasi Records Agency was set up in 1991 to manage, research and make accessible files documenting how the German Democratic Republic spied on its citizens. Shocking findings in these files led to further measures, especially in the area of transitional justice, with the establishment of two commissions aimed at reconciliation of society. Transitional justice must be survivor centred. Resolution 2467 (2019) introduced a survivor-centred approach for the first time. Germany supports the International Criminal Court and the investigative mechanisms mandated by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. Reconciliation and mediation capacities must be included in mission mandates more often. The Security Council should invite Commissions mandated by the Human Rights Council to brief on their efforts in collecting evidence and establishing a path to accountability. The link between mediation and transitional justice needs to be reflected in the design of transition processes for peace to be sustainable.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said lasting peace requires establishing the truth about past atrocities, underscoring the importance of assisting States in transition to tackle these challenges, starting with peace negotiations, by allocating adequate resources. In the Central African Republic, he encouraged the High Commissioner to support the Truth, Justice, Reparations and Reconciliation Commission, which complements the building of an impartial judiciary that can meet people’s legitimate demands for justice. All parts of civil society must be involved in transitional justice, with women participating in the design of its processes, and community and religious leaders and victims also playing lead roles. It is up to States to allow the process of remembering to unfold and to fight revisionism. In the Balkans, it is unacceptable for leaders to glorify war criminals and deny crimes. For transitional justice to be effective, international support must be lent to national efforts, and he expressed strong support for the International Criminal Court in this regard, calling for universal ratification of the Rome Statute. He called for expanded compensation for victims, especially those of sexual violence, also paying tribute to the families of the disappeared, notably in Argentina and Syria.
HALIMAH DESHONG (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said transitional justice should always form part of a larger political strategy to address structural inequalities in conflict affected societies, reflecting the different needs and abilities of all participants, notably women, young people, ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, the elderly and rural populations. Such mechanisms should be complemented by efforts to address the causes of insecurity. The Council should more often engage the Peacebuilding Commission’s strategic advisory capacities and, where necessary, make use of the Peacebuilding Fund to address governance gaps. Stressing that initiatives must always be tailored to local customs and values, she welcomed the African Union continental guideline for transitional justice, adopted one year ago, which considers the many complexities of mass violence, yet privileges local traditions when delivering justice and accountability. Indeed, well-designed mechanisms restore public confidence in State institutions and foster normative realignments across societies as new precedents are created to offer accountability, rehabilitation and reparations.
WU HAITAO (China), noting that some conflict-affected countries and regions are facing the arduous task of reconstruction, said the United Nations peacebuilding architecture has played a positive role in this regard. Transitional justice should be taken forward in the arena of peacebuilding, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and refraining from intervening with a State’s internal affairs. Indeed, no model should be imposed from outside. Instead, helping States should include enhancing capacity-building, he said, highlighting the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in this regard. Integrated measures should also aim at promoting the rule of law and transitional justice, which should serve the long-term fundamental interests of local populations with such elements as disarmament, reintegration of former combatants and poverty eradication programmes, with a broader view of eliminating latent threats of recurring violence. It is deplorable that many ongoing conflicts have languished for years, he said, adding that the Council must shoulder its enormous responsibility to ensure respect for international law and to work towards resolving and preventing war.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said the goal of transitional justice is safeguarding human dignity, and all necessary tools to do so must be used, from establishing tribunals to ensuring an end to impunity. Post-conflict processes must include specific mechanisms that help affected families in such areas as reunification and searching for the missing. Underlining the importance of guaranteeing rights, justice, reparation and a non-repetition of past tensions, he said gender analysis should be used, with a view to recognizing the role of women. Commending Colombia for its progress, he said transitional justice can sometimes pose challenges, but can be overcome. Recalling the Council’s visit to Colombia in 2019, he said members witnessed the situation on the ground and steps being taken to move forward along the path of peace. The Council must now play its part to promote peace and do its utmost to avoid at all costs a return to violence.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), associating himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said justice plays a critical role at the global and national level. Noting that the United Nations and the Security Council have used all its tools to address transitional justice in the post-conflict context, he raised several related points, underlining the importance that all efforts must be national-owned and -led and consider long-term goals. Impunity for atrocities must end in a manner that keeps transitional justice society-based. Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he underlined the need to avoid the imposition of externally imposed models. International assistance is crucial, focusing on helping to build up and strengthen national institutions and mechanisms. In addition, all such processes should consider the impact on and active role of women, youth, children and other vulnerable groups, with regional arrangements playing a constructive role.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said it is important to determine the best forms of transitional justice, observing that internal conflicts are the main expression of military force today. Their proliferation comes against the backdrop of the overthrow of legitimate Governments by outside forces. He urged the Council “not to get carried away by prescribing the same medication to all patients”, expressing scepticism that the Secretary-General’s 2010 guidance note, drawn up without the participation of Member States, is correct. Noting that the United Nations has covered various phases of transitional justice — with hopes pinned on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia — he said it became clear that the latter mechanism in particular was not effective and the Council opted against replicating those bodies. Attention then shifted to the International Criminal Court, which seemed attractive as it is based on the principle of complementarity. But its activities revealed that complementarity was only “a dead letter”.
He credited the Nuremburg Tribunal created by all allies in the anti-Hitler coalition as the most important global achievement in combating crimes against humanity. It did not need a completion strategy or costly measures to preserve its legacy. By the mid-2000s, the most effective forms of transitional justice were based on national dialogue, supported by United Nations efforts. The United Nations must focus on providing the most appropriate forms of technical assistance to restore national justice systems and law enforcement bodies destroyed by conflict. It cannot make unconditional demands — such as on the unacceptability of amnesty or the primacy of the international component of international or mixed bodies. Transitional justice mechanisms should not be used to consolidate victory of one side over another or allow others to interfere in the internal affairs of a weakened State. He cited the “illegitimate” International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria in this context. “The United Nations should not dictate,” he said. “It should encourage and complement national initiatives.”
PEDRO BROLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said that in any peacebuilding process, justice mechanisms are essential for achieving lasting peace. Guatemala is making efforts to achieve national reconciliation, and thereby lessen polarization, building confidence and legal certainty to foster investment and comprehensive economic development, guaranteeing that Guatemalans will never again be pitted against one another. Stressing that negotiation and the search for common goals will benefit the population, he said the 1996 peace agreements saw the creation of the Secretariat of Peace to coordinate peace accords at the national level. Guatemala has worked to strengthen the justice system. At the international level, it has committed military troops to seven peacekeeping operations, forming a unique part of its foreign policy, and it will continue to send troops. “We believe in the relevance of the United Nations role in resolving conflicts and promoting the rule of law,” he assured.
MARÍA ARÁNZAZU GONZÁLEZ LAYA, Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain, recalling her country's experience with transitional justice following a dictatorship, said no State is immune to hate speech and fear mongering, which can threaten democracy and lead to conflict. For its part, Spain adopted a law of historic memory in 2007 and, at the international level, supports United Nations efforts in Colombia. However, lasting peace hinges on justice, a recognition of the dignity of victims and ending impunity. As the Rome Statute is an important tool in this area, she urged all States to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Regarding the dignity of victims of terrorism and defenders of democracy, she said their testimony must be recorded and their needs addressed. The role of women is essential in any phase of transition, including in decision-making processes. It is also essential to maintain guarantees of the non-repetition of violence. While much remains to be done, much is possible, she said, underlining the critical role of multilateralism.
KIMIHIRO ISHIKANE (Japan) said trust is what makes a peaceful society. One that has endured conflict often lacks the foundations for trust, or seen them destroyed. “In these moments, people are full of fear,” he said, making the human security approach important to carrying out transitional justice initiatives. The aim is not to solely punish perpetrators but to support societal transformation to a State where people can live free from fear. Therefore, building strong, effective and trustworthy institutions is integral to peacebuilding and should be a crucial part of transitional justice. Transitional justice mechanisms must be considered legitimate and inclusive and based on local ownership if they are to gain people’s trust. Underscoring Japan’s commitment to improving judicial and security systems and institutions, he pointed to its support in building capacity in Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Afghanistan and Iraq.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that civil society, particularly women, should be included right from designing through implementation of transitional justice mechanisms. As part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, the specialized police teams from the Nordic countries support the national police to prevent, investigate and prosecute sexual and gender-based violence. The Nordic countries believe that the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations should include support to nationally owned transitional justice initiatives. United Nations envoys and special representatives should be encouraged to promote transitional justice measures. The Council must strengthen its partnerships with regional organizations, including the African Union, which in 2019 adopted a “transitional justice policy” for supporting reconciliation. The Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role could be better utilized.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said transitional justice is integral to conflict prevention. “Any person who has suffered atrocities has the right to know who is responsible,” he said, “and every society where these crimes have taken place has the right to learn their history — without lies or denial.” While the Council has a strong conceptual basis from which to work, it lacks a political will to translate thematic agreements on justice into practice. In the case of Myanmar, it has not even considered — let alone acknowledged — the International Criminal Court decision on provisional measures to be taken by Myanmar authorities on the basis of the Genocide Convention. “In doing so, the Council is missing a unique opportunity to help guarantee non-recurrence.” In Syria, it has ignored the accountability and justice dimension “pretty much altogether”, passing the ball to the General Assembly. While conceding the conceptual difficulty in giving transitional justice tasks to the Council, he doubted that the 15-member organ will stay engaged for the long years required to provide transitional justice. The Peacebuilding Commission remains the most underused United Nations body in this respect. While convenient to say there can be no peace without justice, in practice, the Council often prioritizes peace over justice. “How often have we heard in this room that the involvement of the International Criminal Court in Darfur — ironically mandated by this very Council — was not only unwarranted, but in fact, harmful for peace and stability in Sudan?” he asked, expressing hope that those indicted will be transferred to the Court.
NAHIDA BAGHIROVA (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that its member States have historically opposed war and supported peace, fought against colonialism and neo-colonialism, rejected all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and struggled to supress slavery and the slave trade. She stressed the need to fight impunity, stating that those responsible must be held accountable to prevent their recurrence and seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and reconciliation.
Mr. VIEIRA (Brazil), noting that there are “no universal recipes” for transitional justice processes, said effective strategies should consider local contexts and be based on widespread consultation with different sectors of society. National and local actors, especially women and youth, must be involved. Despite the uniqueness of each process, they share basic values. Citing the Secretary-General’s guidance note, international legal obligations frame transitional justice measures. In addition, each process represents a constant balancing exercise, with strategies encompassing potential tensions between peace and justice and finding ways to overcome them. Combining mechanisms only partially addresses the broader challenge of building peace, he said, pointing out that while security sector reform and disarmament programmes may benefit from transitional justice strategies, if poorly designed, these tools could undermine each other. However, significant aspects of transitional justice fall outside the Security Council’s mandate, particularly in situations that do not involve armed conflict. While recognizing these limitations, the Council can make an important contribution in post-conflict societies, including by encouraging the incorporation of mechanisms into peace agreements and designing mission mandates in support of implementing related transitional justice processes.
Mr. MARDINI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that “after the guns go silent, transitional justice creates a space for truth, accountability, and reconciliation”, helping break the cycles of violence and atrocities. Equally important, it plays a humanitarian role, recognizing wounds and addressing the suffering of individuals, families and communities whose lives were fundamentally changed by the conflict. One humanitarian issue that intersects with transitional justice is the situation of missing persons and their families, he said, urging the Council, Member States and United Nations missions to see transitional justice as an important avenue to implement resolution 2474 (2019). It is also vital to provide all families looking for a missing person an individual answer and support even though the case is not part of a judicial investigation under a transitional justice mechanism. States have the obligation under international humanitarian law to investigate and prosecute suspects of alleged war crimes. ICRC stands ready to provide expert advice in these areas, such as ways to include the issue of missing persons and their families in transitional justice processes, guarantee complementarity between transitional justice processes and any other mechanism set up to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, and ensure consistency between transitional justice processes and States’ obligations under international humanitarian law.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon), recalling the establishment of a special tribunal to find the truth about the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, said the newly formed Government recently adopted a ministerial declaration reaffirming its commitment to the process to ensure that law and justice prevail. As Lebanon was torn apart by a 15-year-long war, with the Red Cross concluding that 75 per cent of the population had a personal experience of armed conflict, she said a positive step towards restoring truth was taken in 2018 with a new law recognizing the right of families to know the fate of missing loved ones. More broadly, women and young people must be included in transitional justice processes. As conflicts and grievances take on varied forms, there is also a need for context-sensitive local transitional justice cognizant of national specificities and cultural sensitivities. Instead of burying grievances and remaining enslaved to the chains of the past, transitional justice provides a range of mechanisms allowing first the citizen and then the country to achieve sustainable and meaningful peace.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) said justice mechanisms play a crucial role in implementing peace agreements, preventing conflict and maintaining stability. Each State must have an independent system, with all concerned stakeholders involved, including civil society. From this point of view, young people are critical players in reconciliation processes and in the maintenance of peace and security. Responses should focus on victims’ needs, he said, recalling that vulnerable groups are particularly affected by conflict. Noting the importance of the Vancouver Principles, he said children must be considered when planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and other related efforts. Women must also be included in all steps of the peace process, particularly in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict. In addition to a range of benefits, transitional justice can play an essential role in efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.
LAZARUS OMBAI AMAYO (Kenya) said transitional justice and peacebuilding should incorporate elements including the entrenchment of democracy and accountability; building the resilience of affected populations; promoting peaceful coexistence; and programmes related to national reconciliation, restorative justice, restitution and reparations. In addressing conflicts, stakeholders should draw upon the principle of inclusivity to build meaningful partnerships among the involved parties. “Inclusivity will help to assure the formulation of lasting and sustainable transitional justice road maps,” he said, adding that listening to diverse voices also helps to consider the various root causes of conflict. Meanwhile, the involvement of witnesses, victims, minorities and individuals at risk of reprisal can be crucial to build confidence and lend credibility to the process. His country’s own experience has shown that investing in the training of women and youth is crucial, he said, pointing out that Kenyan women leaders have been at the forefront of peacebuilding and bridge-building activities.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) said that her country’s history taught that without comprehensive strategies, a lasting peace is not possible. A peace agreement that ended her country’s internal armed conflict laid the foundation for building stronger State institutions, but did not address other factors such as poverty and inequality. In 1993, a report documenting cases of human rights violations was published but the subsequent enactment of the Amnesty Law made it impossible to implement the recommendations set out in the report. This is a consequence of a partial approach to transitional justice. A number of transitional justice measures have taken place in her country, including the establishment of two truth commissions. Her country also launched a project, together with the United Nations, on preserving historical memory projects. Transitional justice is also fundamental to peacebuilding processes, she stressed.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) underscored the importance of accountability, saying that bringing perpetrators to justice is a basic requirement for conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation. He encouraged the Council to refer cases to the International Criminal Court when war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are being committed and national authorities who bear primary responsibility for prosecuting such offences are unable to do so. He added that transitional justice processes must create synergies with other processes, such as security sector reform. Given the gaps between the normative and operational aspects of the United Nations support for security sector reform, implementation of Council resolution 2151 (2014) on the issue must be strengthened, he said.
STEFANO STEFANILE (Italy) said the success of transitional justice mechanisms depends on the implementation of security sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. Therefore, Italy supports stronger United Nations standing capacities for those functions. Striking a balance between victims’ right to justice and the need for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence is a delicate exercise. The search for historic truth on violence and abuses and the public acknowledgement of responsibilities of each party are often a precondition for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. Each transitional process must be nationally owned and inclusive, while profound institutional reforms are often needed to affirm the rule of law, protect human rights and reorganize the State in keeping with democratic values.
ANDRÉS JOSÉ RUGELES (Colombia) said his country serves as a reference point for implementation of transitional justice. The Government and the rebel group signed a peace agreement and thus created a comprehensive approach for truth, justice and reconciliation based on lessons learned. Mechanisms were put in place to strengthen the rule of law and fight impunity. The transitional justice process must be complementary to other processes. Transitional justice does not have one single mode that fits all country contexts. It must be nationally owned, with a clear goal. Overloading the transitional process with the task of addressing the root causes of conflict such as poverty and inequality should be avoided. The participation of women in transitional process is also a priority.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said transitional justice processes are important tools, and their effective implementation requires victim-centred approaches, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups. Regrettably, incidents persist with regard to hate crimes and atrocities against ethnic and religious groups, State-led policies of hatred, racial and ethnic profiling, glorification and justification of past crimes and a dehumanization of victims, he said, pointing to genocidal acts perpetrated against Christians, Yazidis and other communities by terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria. The genocide Armenia experienced at the beginning of the twentieth century continues to pose challenges of denial and justification of past crimes, while the Government takes measures to consolidate global efforts aimed at preventing such crimes. Denying the Armenian genocide insults the dignity of victims, and manufacturing alternative historical narratives profoundly hampers the efforts to ensure the realization of the right to truth and non-recurrence, he said, commending the work of the International Centre of Transitional Justice. Citing several contributions his country has made to the United Nations, he said that upon Armenia’s initiative, the General Assembly designated 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. Recognition and condemnation of past atrocities is vital for preventing identity-based crimes, protecting the universality of human rights and achieving genuine reconciliation and sustainable peace.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), encouraging the Council to use Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations more often, advocated inclusive cooperation and a gender transformative approach as the foundation for effective transitional justice. Recalling Slovenia’s involvement in establishing the International Criminal Court, and expressing strong support for its work, she emphasized the importance of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals and expressed support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria. Slovenia, along with like-minded countries, also launched the Mutual Legal Assistance initiative advocating the adoption of a multilateral treaty that would establish inter-State cooperation mechanisms to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes.
OLOF SKOOG of the European Union delegation said the bloc was the first regional organization to adopt a comprehensive policy framework on transitional justice. Adopted in 2015, it stipulates that all transitional justice processes must be nationally owned and context specific. For accountability and justice to be successful, the justice system of each State must function effectively and independently, thus enabling the International Criminal Court to serve its intended role of complementing national jurisdictions. Transitional justice should be conducive to reconciliation, with victims and affected communities at the centre of all efforts, he emphasized, adding that such an objective — requiring extraordinary political leadership — must be considered from the outset of any peace support effort. He noted the advisory role that the Peacebuilding Commission can play to ensure that the Council pays appropriate attention to transitional justice and reconciliation. He went on to underscore the European Union’s support for transitional justice initiatives in Syria, Colombia and the Central African Republic, and its collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), adding that the bloc has the means to swiftly deploy transitional justice experts when requested.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, said that, while transitional justice is an essential building block towards reconciliation and sustaining peace, justice must first be served and atrocities committed during a conflict cannot go unpunished. Such processes should be nationally owned and context specific. In his country’s case, there was also an international dimension. Recalling the occupation of two regions of Georgia, he said impunity continues for crimes committed there, with the only available mechanism remaining being upholding the rule of law at the national and international level. Georgia also cooperates with the International Criminal Court on investigations into crimes committed during the Russian Federation’s aggression in 2008. At the regional level, Georgia has submitted applications to the European Court of Human Rights against the Russian Federation, he said, expressing hope that, after more than a decade, the alleged crimes will effectively be investigated and justice served.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that transitional justice is a priority to achieving peace and stability. Stressing the need for a comprehensive approach encompassing human rights, rule of law, institutions and good governance, she said fragility arising from human rights violations must be addressed in countries in transition. Ensuring a successful transformation based on the rule of law will deter the repeat of violations. Women and youth must be part of transitional justice and peacebuilding processes. Her country has played active roles in mediation efforts, and supports the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria. It co-chairs the Group of Friends on Responsibility to Protect.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said the issue of transitional justice is increasingly important to reconciliation and to the issue of sustaining peace and peacebuilding. This point was stressed in the five-year review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture. A holistic approach to transitional justice is needed to prevent relapse into conflict. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, he said, stressing the need to consider the specificity of each situation. International efforts to support transitional justice in countries in transition must be based on national priorities. The United Nations should consolidate its roles and break the silo. The Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role must be utilized more often. The United Nations must build stronger partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, including the African Union, which it chairs.
NAGARAJ NAIDU KAKANUR (India) said that since the end of the cold war, the international community’s activities in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding have grown rapidly, including using innovations such as the Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Fund. However, involving external actors in the internal or quasi-internal conflicts of States has become more frequent, involving levels of coercion. Efforts must focus on what is most beneficial to the people whose lives have been disrupted or even destroyed. Too often, the international community adopts a technocratic, one-size-fits-all approach that can be damaging, with transitional justice becoming steeped in Western liberalism and frequently appearing distant or remote to those who actually need it most. There is also a perception that transitional justice mechanisms have been providing a form of ideological obfuscation that is intended to divert attention away from those who benefited, and sometimes still benefit, from and in the system. For instance, historical injustices inherent to colonialism are rarely the focus on transitional justice. If transitional justice is conceived merely as a “Band-Aid” that can be applied to past harms during some unspecified and limited period of “transition”, it is unlikely there will be a transformational capacity. Reconciliation is an arduous process, and transitional justice mechanisms must contribute effectively to the will of local actors to shape their own destiny.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said her country’s understanding of transitional justice was profoundly shaped by its own peace process, based on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. Recalling that a Remembrance Commission worked from 2003 to 2008 to administer an assistance scheme to victims and their families, she said even today more remains to be done to deepen reconciliation and deal with the past. For that reason, in the context of the agreement reached in January on power-sharing in Northern Ireland, both the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom affirmed their commitments to push ahead with a framework of legacy institutions. Such an approach is founded on the principles of reconciliation, rule of law and acknowledging and addressing the suffering of victims and survivors. Noting that an implementation and reconciliation group will also be established, she said it will bolster other ongoing peacebuilding efforts and enable society to “move on from the past and fully harness the benefits of peace”.
NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO (Peru), commending existing mechanisms that are making strides in ensuring justice, said processes must be tailored to specific contexts, with actions aimed at ending impunity and promoting measures for reconciliation. The balance between these elements can be seen in Colombia, with its various commissions that address victims’ needs. For its part, Peru has adopted a series of laws that focus on victims’ rights and on providing assistance to those looking for missing persons. When it comes to serious cases of human rights violations, genocide and atrocities, the full force of the law must be applied, with the international community, and particularly the Security Council, using all available tools to ensure perpetrators are held accountable and justice is served. Citing such cases as war crimes reported in Syria and atrocities committed by Da’esh, he commended the role of the United Nations agencies in working towards addressing these and other concerns.
RAZIYE BILGE KOCYIGIT GRBA (Turkey) said reconciliation must be at the heart of transitional justice. Finding a basis to address the underlying causes of violence and marginalization is the most meaningful way to resolve conflicts, keeping in mind that a variety of approaches can be applicable and that there can be no one-size-fits-all solution. Raising public awareness is crucial in order to include the most vulnerable segments of society, with solid safeguards also put into place to protect victims. Prosecuting those responsible for large-scale atrocities and human rights violations contributes to upholding respect for the rule of law, establishing an accurate historical record and deterring other potential criminals, she said, adding that transitional justice efforts must be accompanied by sustained support from the United Nations and the international community.
SAPENAFA KESONI MOTUFAGA (Fiji) said that both Bougainville and the Solomon Islands present two examples where transitional justice processes were used successfully. The processes were supported by regional peacekeeping missions. These interventions show that there is a need for political support to Governments to establish inclusive transitional justice processes. The United Nations system has an important role to play. Transitional justice mechanisms should be actively integrated into national justice institutions. New conflicts will arise inevitably as climate-change-induced community relocation proceeds. Transitional justice measures offer unique possibilities for rebuilding communities affected by climate change.
GHANSHYAM BHANDARI (Nepal) said that his country is a uniquely successful case of a nationally owned and led peace process, culminating in 2015 with the promulgation of a new Constitution. To conclude the last leg of this process, two independent Commissions were set up, one on truth and reconciliation, and the other on investigation on enforced disappearance of persons. The mandates of these bodies have been extended, and the Government is preparing to amend the transitional justice laws in consultation with and participation of victims. “Our focus has been to strike a balance between compliance with international norms and standards, and the national sociopolitical context by putting the victims at the centre,” he said.
Ms. NEUMAUS (Switzerland) said criminal justice, while important, is not the only dimension of transitional justice. Pointing to Colombia’s experience, she called on the Council to give more consideration to the complementarity between judicial and non-judicial measures, with the Secretary-General’s guidance note on the United Nations approach to transitional justice serving as a possible reference. She emphasized the leading role that civil society, particularly women, can play in advancing accountability and the fight against impunity. She added that each context is different and that the Council measures should be based on a thorough understanding of the needs of society overall.
Ms. BRAUN (Luxembourg), aligning herself with the European Union, said that a decade after the United Nations guidelines on the issue were launched, the ever more complex conflicts today require particular attention. Taking a holistic approach to transitional justice is ideal, she said, adding that efforts must be redoubled to find tailored approaches to fit local contexts. Setting up appropriate justice systems in the face of human rights violations provides an opportunity to set up conditions for progress and sustainable development, including realizing the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Reiterating a call for inclusive transitional justice, she underlined the importance of involving the citizenry and even the perpetrators, provided the end goal is reconciliation. She highlighted the work of the International Centre of Transitional Justice, including its many efforts in Tunisia.
RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh) said that as a major troop- and police-contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations her country supports national accountability and transitional justice for States emerging from conflict. Underlining the need to prioritize and sequence mission mandates in line with such transitional mechanisms and with the United Nations rule of law assistance, she added that transitional justice should also receive priority in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission. Special political missions should have a transitional justice submandate, as should the new generation of United Nations country teams, she said.
ALEJANDRO GUILLERMO VERDIER (Argentina) recalled how his country emerged from a past that was scarred not by armed conflict, but by a dictatorship. Since that period ended, a broad range of efforts have addressed many concerns raised by civilians. In the area of forced disappearances, the courts handed down life sentences to the military junta that governed the country, with “truth trials” held to establish the fate of missing persons. During another round of prosecutions, 238 sentences were handed down, and another 260 cases are presently before the courts. To provide effective reparations, appropriate systems must be established, he said, highlighting several laws that address the provision of benefits to compensate for property damages. Underscoring the central role of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, he encouraged States to join the instrument.
ION JINGA (Romania), aligning himself with the European Union, recalled the democratic process his country began 30 years ago that has resulted in a successful example of transitional justice. Such a process can only succeed if rooted in a wider, holistic approach encompassing the root causes of conflict or repressive rule, individual prosecution, institutional reform and respect for human rights. Reforming institutions is key, he said, adding that further progress could be achieved if more United Nations peace operations are mandated to address transitional justice. For its part, Romania has intensified its cooperation with the United Nations justice and corrections services, including starting to submit nominations for women officers to be deployed on United Nations missions. Justice must become a reality to the most vulnerable people through criminal prosecution, he said, adding that States carry the primary responsibility in this regard. Romania supports the International Criminal Court, he said, reiterating a call for renewed attention to support national proceedings, including by mainstreaming the Rome Statute.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) noted that Council resolution 2282 (2016) stresses the primary responsibility of Governments to determine priorities and strategies for maintaining peace. Yet, current practice contravenes this spirit, with some Governments violating the United Nations Charter and working methods in an attempt to impose a unilateral vision onto United Nations frameworks. He cautioned against a historic turning point when these Government can then use legal United Nations mechanisms as tools for their “political pleasure”, linking the Organization’s principles with contentious concepts like universal jurisdiction and the responsibility to protect. Such practices are underpinned by the unethical principle that “the ends justify the means”. He said that the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 violates the United Nations Charter and working methods. Syria had not requested any technical assistance to justify its establishment. Syria’s longstanding judicial bodies have the ability to provide justice without any flagrant interference. He called for balanced policies and urged the Council to dedicate a meeting to holding Governments responsible for the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into his country.
KSHENUKA DHIRENI SENEWIRATNE (Sri Lanka) said that her country, after nearly three decades of brutal separatist terrorism, is transitioning to an era of reconciliation and sustaining the hard-won peace. It is pertinent to reiterate, she said, that action taken by the Sri Lankan security forces during the conflict was against a group designated as a terrorist organization by many countries. When seeking mechanisms of transitional justice, the various historical, cultural and religious sensitivities need to be considered. External timelines for achieving stated objectives will only seek to hinder the reconciliation process.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said that transitional justice involves the right to truth, justice and reparations and the guarantee of non-repetition through institutional reform. Whatever the mechanism used, its success will depend on consideration for the specificities of the country involved and a process that is nationally owned. The involvement of women and children is essential in order to break the generational cycle of violence. Likewise, he stressed the role of religious leaders in mediation efforts, whose important authority should be used to benefit people in a post-conflict society, and underscored the need for local dialogue to complement national dialogue.
MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands) said that the victims of massive human rights violations should remain at the centre of transitional justice processes. He cited Colombia as a good example where victims were actively involved in conflict resolution efforts, demonstrating that peace and justice are not mutually exclusive. Meaningful victim participation throughout the process is essential, he added, reminding the Council that it has important mechanisms to better understand the views of women, children and youth. He went on to stress that mental health and psychosocial support must be part and parcel of any peace and reconciliation effort from the outset. Mental wounds need to heal, yet in crisis situations, they are all too often disregarded, he said.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), associating herself with the European Union, commended the work of the International Criminal Court and emphasized Malta’s support for all efforts to end impunity, including gender-sensitive transitional justice processes. Warning against a one-size-fits-all approach, she said that cooperation between different international institutions — under the aegis of the United Nations — is key to identifying common strategies for an integrated response to post-conflict reconstruction. She added that prosecution initiatives should be based on the clear principle of combating impunity, in compliance with international fair-trial principles.
LOUISE BLAIS (Canada) said that transitional justice has no magical powers and that the painful and lengthy journey to repairing harm is a process, not an event. The centrality of the voice of victims and their families has been critical for Canada as it seeks reconciliation with its indigenous peoples. Canada is determined to bring its perspective on the victim-centred approach to its work as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, she said, welcoming Gambia’s commitment to a credible and inclusive transitional justice process as well as similar efforts in several other countries. Going forward, she added that victims need to be at the centre of United Nations efforts in Iraq, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen.
LANG YABOU (Gambia) said that his country emerged from the clutches of a brutal dictatorship, through the dark days of political impasse on to a restored vibrant democracy. “Our story is one that should be shared,” he said, recounting that the Government first embarked on a national consultation aimed at gaining people’s support for an inclusive nationally led and owned process. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission was set up, followed by the Constitutional Review Commission, which engaged with people in the country while also reaching out to the diaspora. The Government also set up the National Human Rights Commission and its reporting obligations are met under various human rights instruments. The Office of the National Security Adviser now leads implementation of security-sector reforms. None of these elements are achievable without timely international assistance, he said, thanking the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Fund for their support.
ROBERT KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said that, in the aftermath of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, his country had to seek truth and justice to move forward after one of the most disturbing moments in its history. The process was not about reprisal, but about healing, educating and building relationships, he said. “Rwanda has learned that transitional justice and development contribute to transformations which bring sustained and meaningful improvement to people’s lives,” he said, recalling that the Government responded to the genocide swiftly be accepting responsibility and establishing traditional Gacaca courts to hear the cases of thousands of accused people awaiting trial. They provided a means for victims to learn the truth about the deaths of their family members and gave perpetrators the opportunity to confess their crimes, show remorse and ask for forgiveness in front of their communities. Today, the dividends of that process are evident in Rwanda, a country with a growing economy and a dignified standard of life. Against that backdrop, he urged other countries struggling with similar challenges to embrace and support such home-grown initiatives as the Gacaca courts.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said transitional justice is essential in establishing stability in societies and, in his country, can only be realized when crimes in the past and atrocities committed by Da’esh and Al-Qaida are prosecuted. Citing findings of mass graves in Da’esh-controlled areas, he said the severity of the terrorist groups’ violations pose a range of obstacles to ensuring that justice is served. For its part, Iraq is attempting to render justice to victims of the former dictatorship through transparent, public trials of former senior officials alongside a special court to deal with crimes against humanity. The Government also aims at providing compensation to victims, programmes for young people and special sites reserved for political prisoners. In addition, new laws allow civil society organizations to strengthen the transitional justice process, from collecting evidence to carrying out surveys about how the public feels about related initiatives. Iraq wants to ensure that these atrocities are never repeated and is doing so with awareness-raising campaigns about ongoing transitional justice processes. However, circumstances outside the country affect these initiatives, as was the case when the international community assumed Iraq was under occupation. Still, through its 2005 Constitution, Iraq continues to work towards making progress while facing such challenges as terrorism and corruption.
MARIA DE JESUS DOS REIS FERREIRA (Angola) said that the unresolved dilemmas of the past — including humanitarian intervention and peacemaking — have now been joined by such emerging issues as peacebuilding, State reconstruction and the promotion of democracy. Transitional justice is one concept that has significantly evolved from a mass atrocity standard operating response to a core component of peacebuilding. Recalling the Angolan civil war which raged from 1974 to 2002 — the longest-lasting conflict in Africa — he said that roads, agriculture and bridges were destroyed while much of the population had no memory of what life was like in peacetime. Following the war, Angola has worked to rebuild its society through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and an expanding system of transitional justice. Such mechanisms must operate from a peacebuilding and reconciliation perspective and take into account the multiple justice needs of the local population and others impacted by violence, he said.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, stressed that transitional justice takes time. In his country, the process began in the early 1990s — during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia — and continues a quarter of a century later. Croatia was a strong supporter of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and while it did not deliver as much as was hoped, the court demonstrated that crimes will not go unpunished. Learning from those experiences, the International Criminal Court was established, and Croatia’s own judicial system has made significant advances in its ability and willingness to deal with war crimes. “If in the heat of the moment some mistakes are made, we must be brave enough to acknowledge and correct them,” he said, noting that it may take a long time for some victims — including those of sexual violence, among others — to speak up. Against that backdrop, he called for victim-centred approaches and restitution mechanisms that are tailored to the needs of victims.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said that transitional justice has gained importance amid nearly six years of foreign aggression, the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol, and parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Highlighting Ukraine’s actions to achieve justice, including at the International Criminal Court, and its 2015 proposal to deploy United Nations peacekeepers with a transitional justice mandate, he said the Commission on Legal Reform was established in 2019, with a working group tasked with drafting a transitional justice model for Crimea and Donbas, amending so-called discriminatory legislation regarding the residents of temporarily occupied territories, and drafting the de-occupation strategy for Crimea and Donbas. The working group is partnering with human rights groups and international experts to draft a concept for State policy to protect human rights in the context of international armed conflict. He expressed hope that Ukraine’s efforts will provide an historic example of transitional justice during conflict.
The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to comments by Georgia’s delegate, said the circumstances in South Ossetia and Abkhazia were tragic and coincided with the Saakashvili Government’s attack on peacekeepers who were there under an international mandate. Thus far, Georgia has not taken responsibility nor apologized to civilians in South Ossetia, rather laying its guilt on others. Ukraine’s delegate meanwhile hides the fact that it continues its war against people in Donbas, violating the Minsk agreements, and attempts to violate citizens’ rights in Crimea to a referendum. She urged both delegates not to consider questions that are not on the Council’s agenda.