A Noble Dream: The Tenacious Pursuit of Justice in Guatemala
    Marcie Mersky (ICTJ)

    Bring General Ríos Montt and other high-ranking members of the military to trial in the Guatemalan courts for genocide? In 1999 it was a noble dream for justice for the thousands of Mayan victims of the country’s civil war, and for the entire country, but one with little apparent possibility of ever coming true. The UN-backed Guatemalan truth commission where I worked, the Historical Clarification Commission (CEH), had just released its findings that state forces had committed genocide in at least three regions of the country. The report vindicated human rights defenders and hundreds of...

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    Week in Review: Impunity in Mexico, disappointment in Georgia
    François Sergent,

    Transitional justice can take different forms. This week several international and national NGOs called in The Hague for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes in Mexico. They accuse State authorities of “colluding” with drug cartels to commit murder, torture and enforced disappearances, especially in the northern state of Coahuila between 2009 and 2016. Organized crime, they say has become crimes against humanity and therefore falls within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The Mexico situation has been on the ICC Prosecutor’s desk for a while. It is one of the secret preliminary...

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    USA : Addressing Our Tortured History, One Monument at a Time
    David Tolbert

    The recent remarks of Mayor Mitch Landrieu ordering the removal of monuments honoring confederate leaders from New Orleans stands out as an important moment of moral clarity and civic courage for our country. The question is, how do we build on the success of the “take ‘em down” movement to tackle the deep, ongoing history of racial violence in the United States. We also need to see many more leaders on the local, state and national levels addressing the past truthfully, apologizing for the multitude of abuses committed against people of color and correcting our twisted historical...

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    Guatemala: How the Sepur Zarco Women lifted impunity for sexual violence
    Laura Cools & Brisna Caxaj, Impunity Watch

    “The verdict has been obtained, justice has been achieved; sadness is no longer”, states Demecia Yat, President of the Jalok U Collective, which gathers survivors of sexual violence and armed conflict from Sepur Zarco and surrounding communities. During the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996), in the military base of Sepur Zarco, 15 indigenous q’eqchi’ women were forced to clean the soldiers’ clothes, cook, and serve them without pay, while being subjected to physical and sexual abuse for months or sometimes years on end, receiving anti-contraceptive pills and injections to prevent...

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    Chiquita “contributed” to Colombian paramilitary crimes, ICC told
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    Human rights organizations are asking the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to include managers of Chiquita Brands International Inc. in her preliminary examination on Colombia. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard University and Colombian NGO Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo  (CAJAR) accuse the multinational of having “contributed” to crimes against humanity committed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary group. They say that from 1997 to 2004, the world leading...

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    Truth seeking in Brazil: traps and trends
    Fabio Cascardo

    Over the last years Brazil passed through an important period of reflexion regarding its authoritarian past, in a Transitional Justice process led by the National Truth Commission (CNV). The CNV was established (Law nº 12.528/2011) to investigate gross human rights violations perpetrated by the military regime from 1964 to 1988. Before the CNV, which lasted from 2012 to 2015, other important transitional justice mechanisms were created - and are still operating -, especially in the field of reparations for victims, like the Amnesty Commission, created in 2001. Although the CNV did not...

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    Colombia to set up special war crimes courts

    Colombia's senate late Monday approved a constitutional reform to set up special war crimes courts, a key component of the historic peace agreement with FARC guerrillas that ended five decades of war. The court system will be made up of three sections: a truth commission, a unit to search for missing people, and a temporary, autonomous body to try crimes committed during the armed conflict before December 1, 2016. Establishing the courts was the backbone of the peace deal Bogota reached in November with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels. President Juan Manuel Santos...

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    Dealing with hate: Can America's truth and reconciliation commissions help?
    Joshua F.J. Inwood, Pennsylvania State University

    Recent vandalism in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia illustrates the all too real problem of hate crime faced by many communities in the United States. Just this February, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that for the second year in a row the number of hate groups in the United States has been growing – up from 892 in 2015 to 900 in 2017. The report also found since the election of President Donald Trump there has been a sharp increase in hate crime incidents. These incidents beg the question: How can such racial divisions be healed? I study U.S.-based truth commissions...

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    Spanish justice catches up with Guatemalan ex-minister
    François Musseau, correspondent in Madrid

    Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Roberto Vielmann, 60, has gone on trial in Spain for the assassination of eight detainees in 2006. The trial before Spain’s highest court for cases of terrorism, genocide and crimes against humanity is expected to last two months. Vielmann could face a sentence of 160 years’ imprisonment (20 for each assassination) and payment of 300,000 Euros compensation to victims’ relatives. Vielmann obtained Spanish citizenship in 2010 and has dual nationality. Since the beginning of the trial, he has denied the allegations against him.  “I have nothing to do...

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    Scars haunt Colombian rebels as they disarm

    Jair's missing right leg reminds him of many things: the heavy price he paid for fighting in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the pain he inflicted on others. The 25-year-old guerrilla came of age in the FARC, which he believed was fighting to create a more just Colombia. Now, the Marxist rebels are gathering in disarmament camps after reaching a peace deal to end the half-century conflict. Preparing to disarm has given Jair a chance to think about how the violence has shaped his life. Six years ago, he was pursuing an enemy soldier in the country's northwest when he...

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    Lawmakers in Colombia pass FARC amnesty law

    Colombia's Congress on Wednesday passed a law granting amnesty to Marxist FARC rebels as part of the country's peace deal, a development the government hailed as "historic." "Thanks to the Congress which in a historic vote approved the amnesty law, first step toward consolidating peace," President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter. The measure grants special legal treatment, amnesty and pardons to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) accused of political and related crimes. The Senate passed the bill 69-0, after the House of Representatives approved it...

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    Week in Review: A difficult path to truth and remembrance
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo

    This week showed some of the different faces of transitional justice. In Colombia, a new peace accord was finally ratified, whilst Tunisia continued public hearings of former regime victims, and debate continued in Rwanda over the role of the Catholic Church in the 1994 genocide. After signing the Colombian peace accord, President Juan Manuel Santos and the main rebel movement FARC now have six months to implement it. Justice and impunity are central issues in the process.  “The revised accord details the way transitional justice is to work,” explains JusticeInfo’s Bogota correspondent...

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    Peace and justice for Colombia?
    Christine Renaudat, correspondent in Bogota,

    In Colombia, FARC rebels and the government last week signed a revised peace deal to end half a decade of civil war. But the opposition says changes are only cosmetic, and it is not clear how justice will be applied to certain sections of the army. “Unanimity is not possible”, chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle had already warned. The peace agreement, narrowly rejected by voters on October 2 and signed in revised form on November 24, continues to divide Colombians. After studying its 310 pages, the opposition gave its verdict. The changes, according to opposition leader and...

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    Afghan and US crimes top ICC Prosecutor’s report on preliminary probes
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has just released an annual report on her preliminary examinations. For the moment , Fatou Bensouda has not announced that she is opening any new investigation or closing any case, but she is expected to announce a decision “in the very near future” with regard to preliminary examinations under way on Afghanistan and the Gaza flotilla. The report, published on the eve of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, also describes progress in the eight other situations under examination: Gabon, Burundi, Palestine, Ukraine, Iraq, Guinea, Nigeria...

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    Nation-to-Nation Reconciliation in Canada
    Michele Krech

    For over a century, Indigenous children in Canada were separated from their families, communities and cultures to attend government-funded, church-run residential schools, in a concerted effort to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.  The long history and ongoing legacy of the Indian Residential School System (IRSS) went largely unacknowledged until a formal truth-seeking process was undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) between 2009 and 2015. While the Commission’s formal truth-seeking process is now complete, the journey towards its ultimate...

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    This week in review: from Donald Trump to Libya, Tunisia and Burkina Faso
    Pierre Hazan

      The week was marked by a big event, likely to have big consequences: the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. What will be the attitude of the next US administration, which takes office on January 20, on human rights? What will be its position on torture, the closure of Guantanamo or the International Criminal Court (ICC)? During his two terms, President Barack Obama took a resolutely opposite stance from the Bush administration on all these issues and expressed firm commitment to multilateralism. Will Donald Trump choose the path of isolationism, and a...

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    US: Trump Should Govern With Respect for Rights

    (Washington, DC) – United States President-elect Donald Trump should abandon campaign rhetoric that seemed to reject many of the United States’ core human rights obligations and put rights at the heart of his administration’s domestic and foreign policy agendas, Human Rights Watch said today. Official results gave Trump the necessary electoral college votes to win.  “Now that he has secured victory, President-elect Trump should move from the headline-grabbing rhetoric of hatred and govern with respect for all who live in the United States,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human...

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    What prospects for peace in Colombia after the referendum?
    Julia Crawford, Justice Info

    The world was expecting an end to half a century of conflict in Colombia, but on October 2 the Colombian people voted “no” to a peace accord signed on September 26 by President Juan Manual Santos and the leader of the Marxist Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombian jurist Maria Teresa Garrido, who now lives in Switzerland, thinks there is still hope for peace, given the expressed determination of the peace signatories and the fact that the accord was rejected by only a narrow margin (50.2% against and 49.8% in favour). The agreement provides for transitional justice...

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    Colombia peace justice

    Derek Congram joins Justice in Conflict, as our symposium on peace and justice in Colombia after the referendum continues. Derek is an anthropologist and archaeologist based at the Munk School of Global Affairs. He specializes in medico-legal, human rights, and humanitarian investigations and has worked at United Nations, International Criminal Court, International Committee of the Red Cross, among others. In the run-up to the Colombian plebiscite on the peace deal between the government and the FARC, Ian Vásquez, of the CATO Institute published an opinion piece in a number of Latin...

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    The Way Forward: What the ‘No’ Vote Means for Peace in Colombia
    Mark Kersten

    Sophie Haspeslagh joins JiC for this first installment in our symposium on Peace and Justice in Colombia. Sophie is conducting research the engagement of armed groups and the effects of proscription on peace processes at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has been working on Colombia as a researcher and peace practitioner for over a decade with the International Crisis Group, ABColombia and Conciliation Resources. Sophie has previously published at JiC on the importance of finding balance on transitional justice in Colombia.  On October 2nd, the peace deal in Colombia...

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