Remembrance

    Week in Review: Central African Republic, Geneva, Tunisia and the environment
    23.04.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    History resonates with time, and the crimes of the past cannot be erased from memory as if with the stroke of a pen. And so this week in the Central African Republic (CAR), courageous NGOs said no to amnesty and impunity.  According to a statement by the Network of Central African NGOs for Human Rights Promotion (RONGDH), such an amnesty has already been suggested to President Faustin-Archange Touadéra by the African Union. This is quite simply “a macabre and doomed proposal”, according to lawyer Mathias Mourouba, RONGDH deputy national coordinator, as quoted on April 18 by the Network of...

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    Turkish obstruction keeps Geneva’s Armenian genocide memorial in public eye
    19.04.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    The irony is that Turkey, by blocking for years the construction of a memorial in Geneva to the Armenian genocide, has made this monument more alive than if it had been built, if only because of the passions it arouses.  Austrian writer and philosopher Robert Musil talked in one of his works about the paradox of building monuments. Although they are erected in the public space to be seen, they tend to disappear from conscious view and condemned to the ocean of forgetfulness. “Nothing in the world is less visible than monuments,” he wrote. “There is no doubt they are erected to be seen and...

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    Week in Review: US strikes in Syria, while Rwanda remembers the genocide
    09.04.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    International justice saw a new failure this week on Syria. The UN Security Council was unable to agree a Resolution after the “chemical weapons” massacre at Khan Cheikhoun which left dozens dead and injured, including children. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it a war crime, saying that “international humanitarian law has been violated”. Nevertheless opposition from Russia, backer of the Syrian regime, and China prevented a Resolution condemning this massacre blamed on the Syrian air force. This blockage in the UN Security Council has also stopped any moves to refer Syria to...

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    Rwandan genocide commemoration pays tribute to “upright” Hutus
    06.04.17
    Emmanuel Sehene Ruvugiro in Kigali

    On Friday April 7 Rwanda will be commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the genocide perpetrated against Tutsis in 1994. In the run-up to these commemorations genocide survivors, including a considerable number of young students, have been criss-crossing the one thousand hills of their little country bringing assistance to other, less fortunate survivors and also making gestures of recognition towards Hutus who saved their lives.  Her name is Roza Mukarurinda. This Hutu countrywoman from the village of Kinazi in southern Rwanda had neither weapons nor money at the height of the genocide in...

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    New Church doctrine of repentance and forgiveness gains ground in Rwanda
    03.04.17
    Emmanuel Sehene Ruvugiro in Nyamata (eastern Rwanda)

    People in Rwanda excommunicated from the Church because of their participation in the 1994 genocide are now being allowed back to Communion in some Catholic parishes. This rehabilitation, which would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, is part of a special programme of spiritual re-education. At first, however, the priests who initiated it faced a lot of opposition, including from some in their hierarchy. Genocide survivor Claudette Mukamanzi, wearing a purple scarf that hardly hides the scar of a gash on her neck, has just embraced her “killer”, Jean-Claude Ntambara....

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    Week in Review: Focus on victims at the International Criminal Court
    27.03.17
    François Sergent (JusticeInfo.net)

    Reparations are one of the four pillars of transitional justice (along with truth, justice and the guarantee of non-repetition), and this week the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered for the first time that some small individual compensation be given to victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). ICC judges decided that 297 direct victims of a 2003 massacre in a Congolese village should each get a “symbolic” 250 dollars. The judges also decided that convicted Congolese militiaman Germain Katanga, who was sentenced in 2014 to 12 years in jail for complicity in war crimes and...

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    Pope begs God's forgiveness for Church sins in Rwanda genocide
    20.03.17
    AFP

    Pope Francis on Monday begged for God's forgiveness for "the sins and failings of the Church and its members" implicated in the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed around 800,000 people. The pontiff "conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi," the Vatican said in a statement after a meeting between Francis and the Rwanda President Paul Kagame. "He implored anew God's forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence,...

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    Week in Review: Can we agree on History?
    16.01.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    The way that history is written emerged as a focus of the transitional justice week, be it in Tunisia, Palestine, Israel or Rwanda. Transitional justice is not just about judicial mechanisms, trials and convictions. Reconciliation also requires acceptance of a common history of a divided past. Rwanda is perhaps the only country emerging from genocide where victims and killers have found themselves living together (again). Our Rwanda correspondent Emmanuel Sehene Ruvugiro reported from Gisenyi and the so-called “Red Commune”, which was the site of massacres in 1994. It was called red after...

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    One man’s struggle for a Palestinian museum in Israel
    16.01.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    Said Abu Shakra is a man of convictions and rarely hesitates to realize them. One of his goals is that visitors coming from Tel Aviv do not stop on the road to Haifa just to get some hummus, but that they get lost in the town of Umm-el-Fahem before arriving at his art gallery. He hopes they will ask their way in the winding streets of this town populated by 50,000 Arabs and so overcome their apprehension of being in hostile territory, even if this municipality is officially part of Israel. Said Abu Shakra explains how the fact of getting lost can be a way for Jews and Arab Israelis to meet...

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    Rwanda’s “Red Commune”, a killing field of the genocide
    12.01.17
    Emmanuel Sehene Ruvugiro in Gisenyi, northwest Rwanda

    At the time of the 1994 genocide, Gisenyi prefecture in northwest Rwanda was, like other prefectures, divided into communes. But the “Red Commune” does not appear on administrative maps of the time. It is not in fact an administrative entity but a cemetery where Tutsis were brought in 1994 to be killed and thrown into mass graves, or buried alive.  Seen from afar this place looks today like a big patch of waste ground. It covers some three hectares. Despite the overgrown grass, you can see as you approach the headstones that have been erected on some graves. According to the epitaphs, the...

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    Rewriting Tunisia’s history to preserve dissident memories
    10.01.17
    Olfa Belhassine

    A third survey by the Transitional Justice Barometer research body aims for reform of Tunisia’s history teaching manuals. History and memory are a central concern of victims in Tunisia, according to a survey by the Transitional Justice Barometer. There is a persistent feeling that the authorities have forgotten or are even deliberately denying historical events related to dissidence that have taken place in the contemporary period. Six years after the revolution, only small changes have been made to history textbooks in schools. The Transitional Justice Barometer is a social science...

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    Week in Review: Spotlight on genocide
    09.01.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    In this first week of the year, we were reminded of a “genocide” that has been largely forgotten, even if historians consider it the first such mass crime of the 20th century. This is the genocide of Hereros and Namas in Namibia between 1904 and 1908 by soldiers of the Second Reich when Namibia was a German colony. While Germany has said it is ready to recognize its responsibility, descendants of the decimated Namibian communities concerned filed a class action suit before a court in New York demanding reparations. The term genocide, which was officially recognized in 1948, did not exist...

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    Germany set to atone for genocide in Namibia
    05.01.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    A century after losing its South-West Africa colony, now Namibia, Germany is debating how to close one of the darkest chapters of its colonial period: the extermination of over 80% of Hereros, which was the first genocide of the 20th century. Anyone going to the Namibian capital Windhoek a few decades ago would find themselves on Kaiser Avenue or Heinrich Goeringstrasse, another of the city’s main streets named after the first High Commissioner who headed this German colony from 1885 to 1900. Namibia gained independence in 1990, but one of the darkest parts of German colonial history...

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    Rwandan State takes charge of genocide memorials
    23.12.16
    Emmanuel Sehene Ruvugiro, Kigali

    Maintaining and protecting sites where lie the victims is key to preserving the memory of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. Under a law passed in May this year, that responsibility falls to the Rwandan State, which has also asked UNESCO to register some sites as world cultural heritage.  With its flowering hedge, the genocide memorial cemetery in Nyamure looks more like a traditional Rwandan enclosure. From a distance, you would hardly think that in these 50 square metres scattered with flowers lie the remains of more than 20,000 Tutsis massacred on this hill near the border with...

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    Kony’s killers – are child soldiers accountable when they become men?
    06.12.16
    Samuel Okiror

    The trial of Dominic Ongwen, a senior member of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army, opens on Tuesday before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Many horrors will be recounted, but the case also throws up deep ethical questions: is a child, brutalised and turned into a killer, fully responsible for his or her actions? If the abuses of government forces aren’t also being investigated, at what point does it become victor’s justice? Abducted by the LRA at the age of 10, Ongwen became a protégé of rebel leader Joseph Kony and was forced to witness and carry out acts of extreme...

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    Nuanced Memory in Rwanda and Uganda : Responsibilities of justice practitioners
    06.12.16
    Samantha Lakin (M.A.)

    The international community has established memorialization as a key transitional justice mechanism that holds symbolic value for societies recovering from conflict. As such, memorial efforts can help victims feel a sense of validation by the post-conflict community by recognizing and symbolically redressing the harms they suffered (Hamber et al. 2010). According to a key report about violence in Northern Uganda published by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), “memorials are intended to preserve memories of people or events. Many are designed to promote a specific...

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    ‘Death opens the eyes of the living’
    30.11.16
    Marcela Aguila Rubín

    Secret mass graves in Mexico, daily bombings and a mounting death toll in Syria, 30,000 “disappeared” people in Argentina. What does the fight for truth and justice mean in terrible contexts like these where impunity persists? A Swiss research project hopes to provide an answer. “What does ‘right to the truth’ actually mean when criminal proceedings are not possible due to amnesty laws, state denial, systematic disappearances of bodies or the deaths of those responsible?” ponders Sévane Garibian, a law professor at Geneva and Neuchâtel universities.She is leading a project...

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    Bosnia: "Compensation empowers war crimes survivors", says TRIAL
    22.11.16
    Basma Elmahdy

    Bringing justice to female survivors of wartime rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a main concern in the field of international justice. “Over 20 years after the end of the conflict, wartime victims are still paying a high price for the harm they suffered”, says Adrijana Hanušić Bećirović, a senior legal adviser at Trial International organization.  Whilst a three and a half year war was ended by the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, sexual violence victims feel neglected by the lack of effective enforcement of compensation awards. Swiss NGO TRIAL International, based in Geneva since...

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    Nation-to-Nation Reconciliation in Canada
    14.11.16
    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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    “Who can put a price on a lost youth?” asks Congolese child soldiers’ lawyer
    14.10.16
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) this week held its first ever hearings on reparations, for the victims of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga. The former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) was found guilty of having used children under 15 to fight a war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002 and 2003. But more than four years after Lubanga’s sentencing to 14 years in jail, his victims are still waiting for reparations. Lawyer Luc Walleyn, defending the interests of ex-child soldiers, did not mince his words as he spoke of his clients’ “frustration”.  “The...

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