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“Transitional justice is not a ‘soft’ form of justice,” says new UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff

"Not a ‘soft’ form of justice"

11 September 2012

GENEVA (11 September 2012) – United Nations independent expert on transitional justice Pablo de Greiff today urged world governments not to see transitional justice as a special form of justice. “I call on all relevant actors to resist the tendency to think of transitional justice as a ‘soft’ form of justice,” he said.

“Transitional justice is not the name for a distinct form of justice, but of a strategy for achieving justice for redressing massive rights violations in times of transition. Redress cannot be achieved without truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence,” underscored the newly appointed Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence during the presentation of his first report* to the Human Rights Council.

“On this day in 1973, the Chilean society fell victim of a brutal dictatorship that led to systematic human rights violations, the denial of justice, and the obliteration of the rule of law,” Mr. de Greiff recalled. “Thirty nine years later, and at least in part thanks to the perseverance of so many actors, victims included, in Chile and elsewhere, domestic systems and the international community have available mechanisms to address situations of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law.

The UN expert on transitional justice explained that the four components of his new mandate – truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence – aim to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses, and can assist in providing recognition to victims, foster trust and reconciliation, and strengthen the rule of law.

On the issue of reconciliation, the Special Rapporteur observed that “experiences from the past have taught us that social reconciliation cannot be achieved independently of these components.”

“Only a comprehensive approach to the implementation of these measures can effectively respond to this task and put the victims at the center of all responses,” he underscored. “The recognition of victims as individuals and holders of rights is essential in any attempts to redress massive human rights violations and prevent their recurrence. Reconciliation cannot constitute a new burden placed on the shoulders of those who have already been victimized.”

A human rights expert from Colombia, Pablo de Greiff has extensive professional and academic expertise on transitional justice issues, including on the four measures under this mandate (justice, truth, reparations, and guarantees on non-recurrence). He has worked with different transitional justice bodies across the world and has provided advice to a number of Governments and multilateral institutions on international policy, transitional justice, and on the linkages between justice, security and development. He has also collaborated with numerous NGOs working with victims in many countries.

Mr. de Greiff has published widely on the issues pertaining to his mandate and lectured in prominent universities. He has been the Director of Research at the International Center for Transitional Justice since 2001.

The UN Human Rights Council established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence in September 2011. Mr. Pablo de Greiff was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the mandate’s first Special Rapporteur in March 2012, for a period of three years. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity.

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