Video message by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
15 April 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address the International Conference on National, Regional and International Mechanisms to Combat Impunity and Ensure Accountability under International Law, organized by the National Human Rights Commission of Qatar in collaboration with the European Parliament and my Office.
The vast and diverse experiences that this conference has drawn upon speak to one undeniable fact: achieving accountability and ending impunity must be a priority for the international community.
Societies that undergo conflicts or face authoritarian regimes must have their grievances addressed. In our Office, we receive first-hand accounts of men, women and children who have been subjected to the most horrific crimes: massacres, torture, sexual violence, displacement, starvation, denial of access to basic medical care and to education. We must do more to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and to protect the victims.
Victims have a right to truth, justice and reparation. To attain sustainable peace and reconciliation this is a must. While the road towards justice may be fraught with challenges, it remains indispensable for societies to truly heal. Experience has demonstrated that without justice, peace remains an illusion. Asserting accountability and countering impunity are preconditions to sustainable peace.
I would like to stress three essential aspects in tackling the issue of accountability:
First, we need to consistently consider accountability in a comprehensive manner. Criminal justice is essential to tackle the past. Families and survivors need to know what happened to their loved ones in order to heal and rebuild their lives. Institutions need to be reformed to make the state work for all communities, not just for selected ones. We faced these issues in my own country, Chile. We learnt that justice may be delayed, but cannot be denied forever.
Second, we must further reflect on the synergies between accountability and prevention. These synergies are mirrored in the Sustainable Developments Goals, including Goal 16 on peaceful, just and inclusive societies. My Office is fully engaged in supporting the implementation of this critical Goal.
Third, addressing conflict requires us to look at its root causes. These are often based on systemic inequalities and discrimination as well as social exclusion. Societies that strive to uphold human rights and the rule of law create safeguards that prevent them from descending into violence, extremism and instability.
Accountability is a key pillar of my Office’s strategy. I have put particular emphasis on strengthening justice mechanisms. The underpinning of this approach is simple: by promoting justice and remedies for past violations, we aim to prevent future occurrences of violations. Preventive action through mapping and reporting on human rights violations could effectively contribute to non-recurrence.
To conclude, I believe in the important role of National Human Rights Institutions in the Arab world and welcome my Office’s cooperation with the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions.
I would like to thank the Qatari National Human Rights Committee for hosting and organizing this event. I wish you the utmost success in this conference and look forward to reading your recommendations.