GENEVA (10 November 2015) – A group of UN experts today expressed their support for a draft law under discussion by the Argentine Senate which aims to establish a Truth Commission on Economic Complicity. This Commission will assess the role and responsibility of business people for violations during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.
“The creation of such a Commission represents a great opportunity to establish the truth and promote accountability for past violations committed with the complicity or active participation of the business sector,” said the experts.
“Economic factors often play a key role in situations where massive and systemic human rights violations are committed, both as incentives and as enabling conditions. However the role of economic players who contributed, benefitted or directly took part in systematic international crimes is often overlooked. This Commission offers a new approach to transitional justice processes,” they said.
“Clarifying the role played by economic actors would also contribute to realizing truth, justice, reparation, and non-recurrence,” they noted.
“The economic dimension is also crucial to understand why State authorities engage in gross violations and how they consolidate their power,” the experts said, referring to the 1978 report* by former UN human rights expert Antonio Cassese on the role played by lenders during the Pinochet dictatorship.
“The need to respect human rights and the rule of law applies to both public and private actors. It is time to ensure accountability for corporations and transnational companies directly or indirectly responsible for violations of human rights. The Nuremberg trials set up an important precedent by putting an end of impunity for white-collar crimes," the experts said.
Noting the novelty of the effort, the UN experts stressed the importance of making sure that this commission observes the highest standards, in order to avoid any risk of politicization. “Procedural and substantive human rights standards should be respected in the course of the work of this Truth Commission on Economic Complicity. Impartiality, due process, transparency should guide the commission’s work. In this regard, it is crucial to ensure that different stakeholders, including victims, civil society and academics are able to participate in the process.”
While the commission will have broad powers to collect information and evidence, and to make recommendations, it will not be entitled to make judgments on individual criminal responsibility.
“Competent judicial authorities must retain a leading role in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for serious human rights violations, including economic actors,” the human rights experts said.
The experts: Mr. Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Virginia Dandan, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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* Study on the impact of foreign Economic Aid and Assistance on Respect for Human Rights in Chile, E/CN.4/Sub.2/412 (Vol. I)
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