Remembrance

    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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    Uneven remembrance of Soviet and Nazi crimes in the Baltic States

    The Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were occupied by both the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Massive crimes against opponents and minorities were committed under both regimes, but Soviet crimes tend to overshadow the Holocaust in current national remembrance. This article is co-published with theconversation.com On Gediminas Avenue, the main street of Vilnius, is an impressive white building. This is the former headquarters of the KGB, which from 1941 à 1943 also housed the Gestapo. Names are engraved on the façade along with dates of births and deaths, almost all of...

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    100 Years after Balfour Declaration, Palestinians Threaten to Sue

    Can the law correct the colonial past? That is the hope of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, who plans to sue Britain in an international court for the Balfour Declaration nearly a century ago which gave a “national home” to the Jewish people. In our troubled times, people are putting their hopes in the courts. Judges are inevitably called to decide one way or the other (guilty/ not guilty), so they appear the ultimate arbiters who can provide judgment, reason, sanctions and reparations.  Hence the temptation, including for governments, to turn to the judicial...

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    “Access and Security” for Tribunal Archives on Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia
    18.08.16
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    The  UN's Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has just published its access policy for the records it holds, some of which are classified. These records include all the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which closed at the end of 2015,  and many of the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is due to close at the end of 2017. This Access Policy “constitutes the foundation of the organization’s information security and access regime,” the MICT says in a news release on its website. Records...

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    New Peruvian law offers hope to relatives of the disappeared

    The majestic yet forbidding landscape of the Peruvian highlands hides grim secrets. The country’s Ayacucho region was the cradle of Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, which waged a total and ultimately futile war against the Peruvian state between 1980 and 2000. Many of the forgotten victims of the 20-year internal armed conflict lie buried or simply abandoned in Ayacucho’s mountain passes, old mineshafts, and makeshift hillside cemeteries. Thousands of peasant farmers and highland townsfolk were slaughtered in the internecine warfare, with state and guerrilla forces vying to outdo one...

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    Argentine anniversary puts truth-justice balance into the spotlight

    On 24 March 2016, hundreds of thousands of Argentines flooded the streets around Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the country’s bloody 1976 military coup.  The date also marked the UN Day on the Right to Truth, making it a unique invitation to reassess Argentina’s transitional justice legacy 33 years after the post-coup regime collapsed, in the aftermath of economic collapse and military defeat, after the 1983 Falklands/Malvinas war. The recent commemoration, which some say was the largest ever, was a far from sober affair.  Whistles, drumbeats, extravagant...

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    Colombia Puts Civil War Archives Online
    07.06.16
    Christine Renaudat, Bogota correspondent

    The archives of Colombia’s National Centre of Historic Remembrance (CNMH) were put online a month ago. They comprise just over 160,000 documents compiled over four years. They can be freely consulted on the website of the CNMH, which was created by the government in 2010 to shed light on the violence that has wracked this Latin America country for the last 50 years. Everything is there, or almost: the often harrowing testimonies of victims, reports from labour unions persecuted by the army of the extreme right, the tribunal sentences, the documents of certain guerrilla movements, and 8,000...

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