Truth and Justice Commissions

    Nepal's TJ commissions need political will, not just more time
    Ram Kumar Bhandari

    On January 5, 2018, Nepal’s cabinet decided to extend the tenure of the country’s two transitional justice (TJ) bodies for another year. But this was done without consulting primary stakeholders and without evaluating the work of the commissions over the last three years. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were set up in February 2015 with an initial two- year mandate and a one-year extension to complete the assigned tasks. However, in three years both commissions failed to deliver satisfactory results. They...

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    Week in Review: African dictators cling to power, as Tunisia protests austerity again
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.Net

    On, French jurist Didier Niewiadowski looks at what he calls “exception for insecurity”, a pretext used by African dictators to postpone elections indefinitely. The best example, he writes, is Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo who, according to Niewiadowski, is “using the exception for insecurity with cynicism and provocation”. “His mandate expired definitively on December 19, 2016,” the writer explains, “but despite mediation by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo and the accords of December 31, 2016, the presidential election did not take place in...

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    For Muslims across Myanmar, citizenship rights a legal fiction

    In Myanmar, members of the Muslim community are facing long delays in citizenship applications unless they acquiesce to officials’ suggestions that they be labelled “Bengali”. Ma Hnin Hlaing, a bright, young Bamar Muslim, cannot become a Myanmar citizen unless she agrees to be called “Bengali”. She finds the label offensive, but without citizenship she cannot complete the business law degree she began in 2014. If she cannot graduate she cannot become a lawyer, her chosen profession. Immigration officials insist she cannot be both Bamar and Muslim and must register as Bengali. She...

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    Tepid response to Myanmar-Bangladesh repatriation agreement

    Bangladesh and Myanmar say they will start repatriating refugees in two months, amid continued global pressure about the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, in a move that humanitarian groups have called “premature” as refugees continue to cross the border. According to the United Nations, more than 620,000 people – overwhelmingly Muslims who identify as Rohingya – have crossed the border since August after a military crackdown that Washington last week said constitutes “ethnic cleansing”. After lengthy discussions, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Mr AH...

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    Week in Review: Victims still waiting for justice in Gambia, Sri Lanka and Laos
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.Net

    This week took a closer look at transitional justice issues affecting Gambia, where civil society is campaigning to bring ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh to justice, and Sri Lanka, where the government is dragging its feet on promises of justice for victims of the civil war. We also looked at human rights in a forgotten country, Laos. In Gambia Baba Hydara, son of journalist Deyda Hydara who was one of the suspected victims of Jammeh’s 25-year dictatorship, explained his fight to get justice. The journalist was assassinated on December 16, 2004, with Jammeh’s death squad widely...

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    “Many options” to bring Jammeh to justice, says murdered Gambian journalist’s son
    Maxime Domegni, West Africa correspondent

    Baba Hydara is the son of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara, who was assassinated in 2004. The former regime of President Yahya Jammeh is widely suspected of being behind his murder. Baba Hydara has been fighting ever since to get justice for his father, who was one of the many victims of the Jammeh regime that ruled Gambia with an iron fist for nearly a quarter of a century. So it is natural that he is part of the new “Jammeh2Justice” coalition, which wants Jammeh tried for his crimes. The former dictator finally stepped down in January 2017 after being beaten in elections by current...

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    Myanmar ‘ready to begin repatriation process’ despite disagreements

    Myanmar's government says it is ready to begin scrutinising refugees who have fled to Bangladesh in the wake of recent violence in northern Rakhine State – the first step on the path to potential repatriation. Speaking to reporters in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday, government spokesperson U Zaw Htay said Myanmar is planning to begin the repatriation process as soon as possible. However, in a sign of the tense state of relations between the neighbouring countries, Zaw Htay also accused Dhaka of dragging its feet on repatriation. He said the government is concerned that Bangladesh has not agreed...

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    Myanmar: Karen rebels urge nonviolent solution to Rakhine crisis on ceasefire anniversary
    Sean Gleeson, Frontier

    One of Myanmar’s leading non-state armed groups has urged the government to find a “politically dignified and nonviolent” resolution to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, warning that failure to do so could jeopardise the government’s peace process. On Sunday, the second anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the Karen National Union released a statement reaffirming its commitment to ending Myanmar’s decades-long history of civil conflict through political dialogue. However, it went on to criticise the northern Rakhine security crackdown that began in August, noting the...

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    Persecuted Egyptian activist wins human rights award
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    Egyptian Mohamed Zaree on Tuesday received in Geneva the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The award honours his commitment despite personal risk. It also serves as a protest against the Egyptian President, whose repressive tactics know no bounds according to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), of which Zaree is Egypt Country Director.   Mohamed Zaree was unable to travel to Geneva to receive the Martin Ennals Award because of a travel ban as he faces judicial investigations and the prospect of a possible 30-year prison sentence. His “crime” is a...

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    Liberian war victims to testify in US “Jungle Jabbah” case
    Julia Crawford, JusticeInfo

    The trial has begun in the United States of Liberian national Mohammed Jabbateh (“Jungle Jabbah”), a Pennsylvania resident suspected of war crimes. The former ULIMO rebel commander is charged with two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury. Now that the jury has been selected, war crimes victims from Liberia are expected to start testifying before the Pennsylvania court. Alain Werner, a lawyer and co-founder of Swiss NGO Civitas Maxima, has been working for many years to help Liberian war victims get justice, and his organization is following this case closely. He...

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    Week in Review: Transitional justice under pressure in Tunisia and Myanmar
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo

    The difficulties of transitional justice were illustrated this week in countries as diverse as Tunisia, Burundi, Myanmar and Nepal. In Tunisia,  a JusticeInfo investigation showed how abuses by the President of the Truth and Dignity Commission, Sihem Bensedrine, has herself weakened an already weak and vulnerable institution. Bensedrine, nicknamed Araïssa (the boss) is accused of “squandering public funds and recruiting staff in an anarchic and opaque way, so as to set up a parallel administration totally subservient to her orders”, writes our correspondent Olfa Belhassine. Sihem Bensedrine...

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    Outrage at Suu Kyi over Rohingya crisis is “exaggerated”, says expert
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    The crisis that has been taking place in Myanmar since August – an attack by Muslim rebels, bloody clampdown by the army and flight to Bangladesh of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya people – has provoked outrage across the world and denial from Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Syi, who is the country’s de facto leader. But Matthias Huber, a Swiss expert on Myanmar, says the world is being too hard on Suu Kyi. The United Nations announced on Wednesday it was preparing a humanitarian aid plan in case all the Rohingyas of Myanmar (also known as Burma) flee to Bangladesh to escape the...

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    In Nepal Transitional justice in crisis
    Ram Kumar Bhandari

    How can Truth Commissions function properly in a place like Nepal where alleged perpetrators set the agenda and control the commissioners in a situation of continuing insecurity where both victims and witnesses cannot speak out openly? The situation now, 11 years since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), is more complex and dangerous than the end of conflict in 2006. Security forces (both Nepal Army and Nepal Police) are becoming more powerful, and have almost destroyed evidence about past violations held in government offices. They intervene in every process, including blocking...

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    The Rakhine crisis in Myanmar and the government’s options
    Sithu Aung Myint, Frontier

    The Myanmar government’s policy options for troubled Rakhine state are a choice between an army strategy focused on the 1982 Citizenship Law or implementing recommendations in the final report by the Annan commission. The coordinated attacks by extremists on 30 police posts and a Tatmadaw (army) camp in northern Rakhine in the early hours of August 25 came as no surprise to many political observers and conflict analysts. The attacks, which initially claimed the lives of 10 policemen, a soldier and two government officials, and also left dozens of extremists dead, followed a disturbing rise...

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    Burundi government remains intransigent, says UN
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    Despite numerous mediation attempts, Burundi’s government and President do not intend to talk to the opposition, and repression is continuing. The authorities are showing the same intransigence with regard to the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which has not been able to go to the country or hold talks with Bujumbura. Fatsah Ouguergouz, president of the Commission, gives this worrying assessment ahead of the final report which he is due to present to the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in mid-September. How hard it is to give up power, even when the Constitution...

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    Lawyer who felled Habré to pursue Gambian Yahya Jammeh
    Pierre Hazan

    Human rights lawyer Reed Brody became known for working with the victims of General Augusto Pinochet of Chile and Haitian ex-dictator Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier. More recently, Brody was counsel for victims of former Chadian dictator, Hissène Habré, who, after an interminable struggle, was sentenced by a special African court in Senegal to life in prison. Now, returning to Human Rights Watch after a  one-year absence, Brody is lending his support to the victims of Gambia’s ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh.  Jammeh ruled with an iron fist for 22 years before stepping down under popular...

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    Annan 's Commission calls on Myanmar to end Rohingya repression

    Myanmar must scrap restrictions on movement and citizenship for its Rohingya minority if it wants to avoid fuelling extremism and bring peace to Rakhine state, a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan said Thursday. Rights groups hailed the report as a milestone for the persecuted Rohingya community because the government of Aung San Suu Kyi has previously vowed to abide by its findings. The western state, one of the country's poorest, has long been a sectarian tinderbox and mainly Buddhist Myanmar has faced growing international condemnation for its treatment of the Muslim...

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    Week in Review: The high price of impunity in Syria and CAR
    François Sergent,

    This week was marked by the resignation of Swiss war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte from the UN commission investigating crimes in Syria. “This commission does absolutely nothing," explained Del Ponte, accusing UN Security Council members of “not wanting to establish justice”. Russia, ally of Damascus has ever since the commission’s creation six years ago vetoed referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Damascus has never authorized the Commission, which has produced numerous reports, to go to Syria. “Believe me, I have never seen such horrible crimes as are being...

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    Syria and the lessons to be learned from Carla Del Ponte’s resignation
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    Criminals like to commit their crimes in the dark. It is on this assumption that justice must be seen to be done if it is to help prevent crime. And so metaphorically, good triumphs over evil and light over darkness. In international public life this conviction has often produced a will to expose publicly the atrocities committed by war criminals, so as to shame them and dissuade others from associating with them. This "naming and shaming" approach was the reason United Nations Commissions of Inquiry were set up and is the preferred method of human rights organizations, convinced that...

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    Guilt and denial at Tunisia’s Truth Commission hearings
    Olfa Belhassine, correspondent in Tunis

    Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission launched its public hearings on November 17, 2016 to shed light on nearly 60 years of human rights abuses. With 10 of the 20 planned hearings now having taken place, we look at the Commission’s half-way record. In Tunisia, the hearings’ official launch in a luxury club belonging to former First Lady Leyla Trabelsi Ben Ali sought to prove wrong the accusations of Commission inertia by leaders of Nida Tounes, current President Beji Caied Essebsi’s party, whilst most local media and politico-financial circles remained loyal to former president Ben Ali....

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