Skip to main content

Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Remarks by Ms. Flavia Pansieri, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Side-event at the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council - Experiences on the implementation of the right to Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-recurrence

15 September 2014

15 September 2014

Excellencies, colleagues, friends,

It is a great pleasure to open this side event and to welcome this very distinguished group of panellists.

In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Estela de Carlotto, President of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. Allow me to say how happy we all are that after so many years of dedicated and principled work, you have at last found your grandson. Your courage, perseverance and determination inspire human rights defenders across the globe.

The co-sponsors of this event, Argentina and Switzerland, have a wealth of insight to offer us regarding the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. Argentina has been at the forefront of the right to the truth movement, following the gross violations of human rights that the country suffered under military dictatorship. Both Argentina and Switzerland have championed resolutions and other initiatives in the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly regarding the right to the truth and transitional justice. And both countries co-sponsored the resolution establishing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

The right to the truth is the right to full and complete knowledge about events that have transpired – who participated in the human rights violations? Why did they take place? What happened to the victim and where is she or he now? Fulfilling the right to truth is key for ensuring the rights to justice, to reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.
Over the past decade, we have seen significant developments in international, regional and national law and practice in this regard:

  • In December 2005, the General Assembly adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims and an updated set of Principles on Combating Impunity was finalized in the former Commission on Human Rights. Both these sets of principles provide guidance to practitioners on how to devise better responses in situations that call for transitional justice.
  • The International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which entered into force in December 2010, enshrines the rights of victims of enforced disappearances, and related States' obligations – and its Committee on Enforced Disappearances plays an important role in assisting States in implementing the convention and clarifying its provisions.
  • The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has contributed to the development of the normative framework, including through general comments on issues such as “the Right to the Truth in Relation to Enforced Disappearances”, and “Children and Enforced Disappearances”.

In parallel, OHCHR and many other actors have built up a sizeable body of experience regarding these crucial aspects of transitional justice.

As part of our thematic work on combating impunity, OHCHR actively supports transitional justice processes in more than 25 countries worldwide, from Colombia to Tunisia, from Kosovo to Togo, and from Cote d’Ivoire to Thailand and Uganda. We assist in the design and implementation of national consultations and truth commissions; frameworks for prosecution and reparations; and institutional reform.

In addition, OHCHR has developed a series of Rule of Law Tools for Post-Conflict States to provide operational guidance to UN field presences, practitioners and civil society with regard to Truth Commissions, Prosecution Initiatives, Vetting, Maximizing the Legacy of Hybrid Courts, Reparations Programmes, Amnesties, and National Consultations. They are grounded in international human rights law and contain lessons learned and good practices.

Last month I participated in an event in Bosnia and Herzegovina where a “Declaration on the role of the State in addressing the issue of persons missing as a consequence of armed conflict and human rights abuses” was signed. I witnessed the pain of the families of missing persons and heard about the hardships they had experienced during their search for mortal remains. Discovering the bodies of loved ones – and thus finding the truth of what happened to them – is painful. But it can also provide families with closure, and the acknowledgment by society and by authorities of the injustice that was done can bring a measure of consolation.

In the case of the Grandmothers de Plaza de Mayo, there is another dimension: the search for truth may culminate in the joy of at last meeting their grandchildren, and offers the grandchildren the ability to re-establish their true identity and lost family ties.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the fundamental lessons that we have learned through our operational experience has been that victims must occupy a central place in any search for truth, justice and reparations. Transitional justice processes that take into account their rights and perspectives not only contribute to restoring their dignity. They also help to rebuild a sense of community and trust in entire societies, which in turn can prevent the recurrence of conflicts – bringing stability and long-term prosperity.

I am certain that your discussion of experiences and insights will be fascinating and useful. I look forward to hearing from all of you. Thank you.