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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue on truth, justice and reparation, and on the prevention of genocide

AFTERNOON

GENEVA (14 September 2018) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon began a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabian Salvioli, and with the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng.  

Mr. Salvioli spoke about the broad roadmap of his mandate for the forthcoming years concerning transitional justice that included holding an open dialogue with States, institutions, regional and international organizations, treaty organs, academic sectors, and others.  He stressed the preventative dimension, which was found in formal and informal education as well as art and culture.  Historical memory was complementary to integral human rights education, which was why   he also proposed an examination of national and regional experiences and historical debates to apply to the processes of transitional justice.  A gender perspective was also important to upholding the four pillars of the mandate as was overcoming social and political factors that limited the inclusion of women in processes of transitional justice.

Mr. Dieng noted that despite the ground-breaking commitment by all States in 2005 to protect populations from atrocities, the gap between words of commitment and the experience of vulnerable populations around the world had grown.  There were worrying trends, including the spread of violent extremism and brutal conflicts as well as growing support for populist movements.  Prevention was less costly, particularly in terms of human lives.  Once in the crisis response mode, many doors to action were closed and the damage done could be irreversible.  Crises were taking place against a backdrop of retreating internationalism, diminishing respect for international law and political disunity in the Security Council.  The United Nations had to do a better job at implementing principles that guided the Organization.  Genocide and other atrocities were preventable if all worked together.

In the ensuing discussion on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, speakers welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s intention to focus on the participation of victims.  They stressed that mechanisms for transitional justice and non-recurrence had to be adapted to the specific context of each country.  Without the participation of victims, transitional justice processes lacked internal and external legitimacy; however, victims currently only played a marginal role in transitional justice.  There was a lack of women’s involvement in truth commissions and overall transitional justice processes through both formal and informal channels.  

On the prevention of genocide, speakers emphasized that it was a vital responsibility of States to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The International Criminal Court should be able to exercise its prerogatives without obstacles, in an independent and impartial manner, according to the legal framework defined by the Rome Statute.  Speakers said the world had not learned from the past, which was why efforts to implement the responsibility to protect were needed in order for impunity not to prevail.
   
Speaking in the discussion were European Union, Argentina, Togo on behalf of the African Union, France, Israel, Switzerland, Togo, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Maldives, Austria, Netherlands, Paraguay, China, Colombia, International Committee of the Red Cross, Sudan, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Chile, Belgium, Greece, South Africa, United Kingdom, Mexico, Ecuador, Poland, Botswana and Bolivia.

Azerbaijan, China, Japan and Republic of Korea spoke in a right of reply.  

The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Friday, 14 September, when it will continue its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabian Salvioli, and the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.  It will then hear the presentation of thematic reports and oral updates, a briefing by the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and the presentation of a report by the Working Group on the right to development, before it holds a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence (A/HRC/39/53). 

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on Truth and Justice and by the Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide

FABIAN SALVIOLI, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, paid tribute to the work carried out for six years by his predecessor, Pablo de Grieff, whose investigations and reports were of great use for the charge of this mandate.  The report, he continued, described a number of activities pertinent with his mandate.  He had held a number of meetings with States, including Spain, Tunisia, Guatemala, Nepal and Switzerland, as well as civil society organizations, both regional and international, and victims of human rights violations.  

The broad roadmap for the forthcoming years concerning transitional justice included holding open dialogue with States, institutions, regional and international organizations, treaty organs, academic sectors, and others.  It also included enriching the content of the four pillars with the identification of new standards and good practices of countries.  There was also an analysis of structural causes and the creation of measures that responded to those causes to guarantee the reparation of rights.  Technical assistance to States would be a priority, focused on a person-centric perspective that would contribute to robust societies and the establishment of peace.  To establish civic trust in States and institutions, accountability for the violations and abuses committed in the past was fundamental as was the fight against impunity and increased efficiency in judicial procedures.  Fighting impunity also required the participation of victims of those violations.

Turning to the subject of non-repetition, he stressed the preventative dimension, which was found in formal and informal education as well as art and culture.  Historical memory, he said, was complementary to integral human rights education on all levels.  He also proposed an examination of national and regional experiences and historical debates to apply to the processes of transitional justice.  A gender perspective was also important to upholding the four pillars of the mandate as was overcoming social and political factors that limited the inclusion of women in processes of transitional justice.  Creating a constructive path would also require the help of the media, religious agents and artists.  Of critical importance was that victims not be left out of the picture, another priority of Mr. Salvioli’s mandate.  Working in close collaboration with civil society organizations and victims would guarantee their participation and inclusion in transitional justice procedures.  The phenomenon of corruption presented a great challenge to transitional justice.  He wished to signal the negative impact that corruption had on the enjoyment to human rights and stressed that societies had the right to transparent information concerning adopted public policies, and a duty to the guarantee of respect.  

ADAMA DIENG, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, stressed that the world was seeing worrying trends, including the spread of violent extremism and brutal conflicts, and growing support for populist movements.  Despite the ground-breaking commitment by all States in 2005 to protect populations from atrocities, the gap between words of commitment and the experiences of vulnerable populations around the world had grown.  Mr. Dieng said he had met with Rohingya refugees in the camps at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.  The campaign against Rohingya by Myanmar’s security forces had been both predictable and preventable.  In Yemen, early warnings were not translated into action and Yemen was now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with 10.4 million people at risk of famine.  The support provided by various actors to the parties of the conflict only served to escalate and prolong the conflict.  The evidence of collective failure in Syria could be seen not only in the enormity of the damage and suffering, but also in the fact it had so far lasted seven years without resolution, and the number of States that had become involved.  Prevention was less costly, particularly in terms of human lives.  Once they were in a crisis response mode, many doors to action were closed and the damage done could be irreversible.

When there were no consequences for atrocities, there was no incentive to stop.  In South Sudan, there had been no credible accountability process, despite arrangements with the African Union to establish a hybrid court to investigate crimes committed since the conflict broke out in 2013.  In the Central African Republic, Mr. Dieng urged States to support the Special Criminal Court and provide it with the resources needed.  Sri Lanka’s slow progress in implementing transitional justice mechanisms that the Government committed to in resolution 30/1 was worrying.  In the Western Balkan region, there was a renewed risk of sectarian violence because of increased identity-based polarization.  There were reports of repression against the Muslim Uyghur minority in China.  In India’s Assam state, several million Bengali Muslims were at risk of becoming stateless as a result of an ongoing Government-led citizen registration process.  Copts in Egypt remained marginalized, in Bahrain the Shia-Sunni rift was having repercussions on the wider Middle East, and sectarian tensions remained in Iraq.  In the Americas, some States had turned their back on people fleeing from Venezuela, and indigenous communities were calling for protection, including in Ecuador and Brazil.  On the positive side, the peace process in Colombia was on track but there were challenges concerning transitional justice.  Mr. Dieng concluded that today’s crises were taking place against a backdrop of retreating internationalism, diminishing respect for international law, and political disunity in the Security Council.  The United Nations had to do a better job at implementing principles that guided the Organization.  Genocide and other atrocities were preventable if everyone worked together.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union welcomed the focus in the report of the Special Rapporteur on victim participation and gender, and asked how he planned to integrate the views of civil society.  About the prevention of genocide, the European Union asked the Special Adviser for his opinion on the role of accountability as a deterrent for the future commission of mass atrocity crimes.  Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, shared the need for a comprehensive approach to transitional justice, and stressed the need to adapt each process to repair violations of human rights to their particular context.  It also noted the importance of studying the structural causes leading to conflicts in order to understand how to implement processes related to transitional justice without creating or intensifying stigmatization and discrimination.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, shared the Special Rapporteur's conclusion that various forms of transitional justice, including those based on local and traditional values, could contribute to prevent some obvious violations of human rights.  The African Group congratulated the Special Adviser for his commitment to cooperation with regional and sub-regional organizations, and in particular for his consistent cooperation with the African Union.
 
France reasserted its initiative of encouraging the permanent Member States of the Security Council to commit not to use their veto right in the case of mass atrocities.  France stated that the International Criminal Court should be able to exercise its prerogatives without obstacles, in an independent and impartial manner, according to the legal framework defined by the Rome Statute.  Israel said that among the results of World War II and the Holocaust had actually been the creation of the United Nations and the adoption of key human rights conventions, so that all States could work together to prevent other genocides from ever happening again.  Israel stated that it was a shared responsibility to educate from an early age about the lessons of history, of World War II and the Holocaust, in order to combat incitement of hatred.  Switzerland shared the Special Rapporteur's view according to which the fight against impunity was integral to transitional justice, and asked him for recommendations to end the crisis in which the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala was currently in.  Switzerland also asked the Special Adviser to elaborate about the preventive potential of the Human Rights Council, and specifically about the links to be made between the three pillars of the United Nations to improve the prevention of human rights violations.

Togo stressed that mechanisms for transitional justice and non-recurrence had to be adapted to the specific context of each country.  On the prevention of genocide, it was a vital responsibility of States to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  Egypt called on the Special Rapporteur to take into account the institutional capacity building of countries, national legislation on victim reparation, and the participation of civil society, and agreed that transitional justice was crucial in post conflict situations.  Republic of Korea welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s intention to focus on the participation of victims as a cross-cutting issue that would transcend both his country-related and thematic work.  It noted that the previous efforts to resolve the issue of “comfort women” had clearly lacked a victim-centred approach.  

Maldives noted that the concept of justice included criminal justice, remarked on the lack of women’s involvement in truth commissions and overall transitional justice processes through formal and informal channels, and suggested that the Special Rapporteur explore that topic.  Tunisia concurred that there was a link between a balanced and equitable society and transitional justice.  Tunisia was committed to implement all guarantees for the rule of law and transitional justice.  Russian Federation stated that it was essential for the Special Rapporteur to stay within the limits of the mandate and avoid duplication with other mandates.  On the prevention of genocide, there was a reliable international legal framework and Russia called for strict compliance with that instrument and avoidance of random interpretation.  

Austria agreed that transitional justice was hard to establish in conflict or early post-conflict situations with weak State structures and civil society in its infancy.  Without the participation of victims, transitional justice processes lacked internal and external legitimacy.  Victims today only played a peripheral role in transitional justice.  Netherlands said that following the genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia some 13 years ago, everyone had supported the responsibility to protect vision.  The world had not learned from the past, which was why efforts to implement the responsibility to protect were needed in order for impunity not to prevail.  Paraguay informed that it had allocated budgetary resources for identifying those disappeared during the dictatorship.  Paraguay supported the inclusion of the responsibility to protect as an issue before the General Assembly.

China said that the principle of national sovereignty had to be respected while combatting impunity.  Genocide was a crime under international law and China strongly condemned it.  The international community had to step up efforts to prevent genocide.  Colombia agreed that transitional justice had to aim to build inclusive and peaceful societies.  The seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was the right time to lobby for its universal ratification.  International Committee of the Red Cross welcomed the ambitious agenda set up by the Special Rapporteur, particularly in areas of gender and the role of non-State actors.  Cases of missing persons had a damaging and long-lasting impact on families, communities and societies, especially if they were not properly addressed.

Sudan said that it had organized a wide-ranging dialogue in 2014, which had given way to an in-depth debate for a new constitution, leading to free elections.  Sudan reasserted the need for a common understanding about the respect for diversity and transparency in judicial institutions.  Venezuela reasserted its commitment to defend all the rights of victims of violence, and for these violations of human rights not to be repeated, especially with the creation in 2013 of the Commission for Justice and Truth to investigate cases of torture and disappearances in Venezuela between 1958 and 1998.  It voiced its concern that the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people continued with impunity.  Iran stressed the importance of the contribution of education to the process of the prevention of atrocities and genocide.  Iran shared the view that in order to render an appropriate analysis of transitional processes, presenting a genuine and precise definition of the right to truth and justice was crucial.
Iraq stated the importance of establishing legal legitimacy in the domain of transitional justice that people expected and aspired to.  Strengthening the legal system in place in Iraq was a priority in order to ensure the rule of law, despite its current economic difficulties.  Chile welcomed the Special Rapporteur's decision to consider transitional justice as multidimensional, and as going beyond criminal justice.  It pointed out the importance of sharing practical experiences between States in relation to transitional justice.

Belgium asked how the Special Rapporteur planned to carry out his mandate when there was a lack of consensus regarding a country’s history.  Belgium underlined the importance of his mandate, which served as an early warning mechanism to prevent mass atrocities.  Greece said that ensuring victims’ access to remedies and reparations remained of paramount importance.  Greece commended the Special Rapporteur’s goal of increasing possibilities for sharing experiences at domestic or regional levels pertaining to transitional justice measures.  South Africa said that their constitutional order was the main transformative vehicle for addressing the root causes of apartheid.  South Africa added its concern at the re-emergence of certain risk factors in certain parts of the world and asked if educational programmes to prevent atrocity crimes were effective.  United Kingdom stressed that States had the primary responsibility to protect their populations from mass atrocities.  The United Kingdom supported efforts to address root causes of conflict through various governmental means.

Remarks by the Mandate Holders

FABIAN SALVIOLI, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, noted that victims of atrocities should not be re-victimized, reminding that often mainstream methods of transitional justice were traumatizing for victims.  He advocated for the facilitation of mechanisms that restored the trust of victims in institutions.  Cultural diversities and contexts should also be respected when coming up with appropriate transitional justice processes.  Nevertheless, the principle of non-discrimination should prevail.  There could not be peace unless there was justice, criminal justice included, because it broke the cycle of violence.  As for building trust for reconciliation, Mr. Salvioli clarified that it concerned the reconciliation of the society with the State.  Trust in the State was lost when there was a massive loss of life.  The participation of women in transitional justice processes continued to be low.  Reacting to some delegations’ comments, the Special Rapporteur said that his mandate obviously touched on some other mandates.  The Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were crucial in underpinning the rule of law and justice.  On the importance of searching for missing persons, that was a priority within transitional justice, Mr. Salvioli underlined.  Education could build on the work of truth commissions and courts.  Corruption was a phenomenon that deeply impacted human rights and, as such, should be combatted.  

ADAMA DIENG, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, thanked the delegations, particularly the African Group, chaired by Togo, that recalled efforts made to strengthen early warning mechanisms and prevention of conflicts.  Africa was home to many conflicts, but it also knew how to resolve them.  The example was The Gambia with the energetic involvement of the Economic Community of West African States.  When the Secretary-General started his term, his first call was concerning hope for Africa.  As for the implementation of goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, this could be done through building accountable and inclusive societies where justice would be achieved.  Today, they had to make every effort to foster inclusive societies, not only in the Americas but also in South Asia.  Exclusion and discrimination were felt in many parts of the world and the root causes had to be addressed.  

Concerning accountability, a point which was raised by Belgium and the European Union, every effort had to be made to bring perpetrators to account as this would assist victims.  Switzerland had long supported issues of dealing with the past.  Dealing with the past included dealing with present as well as dealing with the future.  In the Central African Republic, resources had to be provided to the Special Criminal Court.  In Guatemala, when the former President and Chief of Intelligence were brought to justice, this was an example of dealing with the past.  As raised by the delegation of South Africa, education was crucial in preventing crimes, which was why hope was expressed that many delegates would attend the Global Forum in Yerevan where education would be explored in more detail.  It was commendable that Slovenia had translated the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.  The International Criminal Court should be used as the institution of last resort, when national justice systems were unable to prosecute.  In Guinea, the national judiciary had started trials for atrocities committed.  However, in most cases national judicial systems could not provide guarantee of a fair trial or sufficient human rights standards, so more work needed to be done in that area.  The Universal Periodic Review had to be used for the Council to provide the right recommendations to States and provide necessary assistance where needed.

Interactive Dialogue

Mexico said that the complex situation of genocide and the horror it entailed required the international community to reflect on the dangers of indifference.  As a member of the Latin American Network for the Prevention of Genocide and Massive Atrocities, Mexico was committed to shouldering efforts to avoid non-repetition.  Concerning genocide, Ecuador had put in place directorates for international and humanitarian law.  They had made great efforts to maintain a culture of peace, but maintained that peacebuilding involved the generation of economic, social and political contexts.  Poland called for the universal ratification of the Genocide Convention and urged States that had yet to do so to make it a matter of highest priority.  They continued to say that institutional measures aimed at genocide prevention should be wide-ranging to deter perpetrators of the most heinous crimes.

Botswana said a system-wide policy on anti-corruption was a key element in strengthening governance in institutions and building trust between the State and its populace.  Botswana also commended the focus on the fight against impunity.  Bolivia said it had made efforts to establish a commission of truth to provide clarity around events such as forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention and sexual violence.  Access to confidential documents had been granted to provide transparency.

Right of Reply

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said that Armenia continued to mislead the Council.  While the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia was preaching about democracy, it was Armenia that was striving to expel the non-Armenian population and establish itself as a mono-ethnic State.  The Council was urged not to turn a blind eye on human rights abuses.  Concerning the right to self-determination, it was null, according to Helsinki Final Act.  The presence of Armenian armed forces on Azerbaijan territory was a major impediment to lasting peace in the region.  The statement of the Foreign Minister that Nagorno-Karabakh still belonged to Armenia showed that Armenia was in a wrong forest under a wrong tree.

China, speaking in a right of reply, said that non-governmental organizations had made unfounded claims concerning the situation of minorities in China.  Development in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities was being accelerated by the Chinese Government in order to realize economic and social rights, including in Tibet.  The gross domestic product of the autonomous region of Tibet was growing and some 500,000 people had been lifted from poverty.  The so-called discriminatory policy there was unfounded.  The province of Xinjiang also enjoyed stability and ethnic groups there lived in harmony.  China urged relevant organizations to remove their tainted glasses and refrain from making slanderous and false accusations.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Republic of Korea’s statement about the issue of comfort women, reminded that after long negotiations with the Republic of Korea, the two parties had come to an agreement that the issue had been irreversibly resolved.  The Government of Japan recognized that the comfort women issue was an issue affecting the honour and dignity of many that had been severely injured.  Since the 1990s, the Government had actively taken measures to recover the honour of former comfort women and provide relief to them.  

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, clarified that the issue of the comfort women was not just a bilateral issue, but a wider human rights issue on sexual violence in conflict.  The resolution of this issue required genuine efforts to restore the honour and dignity of the victims, to heal their scars and to draw lessons from the painful history so as to prevent its recurrence.  

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, stated that the Government of Japan was continuously implementing its agreed commitments and that it was ready to make the current century an era in which women’s rights were not infringed upon.

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For use of the information media; not an official record