23.07.08 - BURUNDI/JUSTICE - REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS WARNS AGAINST

Bujumbura, 23 July 2008 (FH) - Ismail Diallo, who represented in Burundi the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an interview to the Hirondelle Agency, warned before his departure against disguised national consultations.

Question: You leave behind a large work in progress in regards to transitional justice in Burundi, national consultations will soon start, are you optimistic?

ID: When will they start? I belonged to the tripartite steering committee, but this is no longer the case; by the way, it is to be rebuilt.

2 min 31Approximate reading time

The two people designated by the United Nations are about to leave. Me, I am leaving and the other leaves at the end of July. New people will come, I hope that this committee is reconstituted as soon as possible and that the national consultations take place. But, it will be necessary that we make sure that the national consultations, which were decided by mutual agreement by the government and the United Nations, are held in credibility and transparency. It must not become a disguised referendum by which it will be asked to the population or to representatives of the population if it wants or not the creation of the mechanisms of transitional justice, namely the TRC and the Special Tribunal; that is not its mission. The mechanisms of transitional justice were requested by Arusha, by the government and were decided by the United Nations Security Council. It is, thus, a question of explaining to the population what will be the TRC and the Special Tribunal. Let us be methodical, let us respect the people, let us respect the individuals, let us respect history. Let us reach for the truth, let us pass on to justice and let it lead to reconciliation.

Question: It is said: “to delay justice is to deny justice”. Do you agree?

ID: It is true, it is to deny justice. Others will say to you that it is false by saying that who wants peace prepares for war. But as far as I am concerned, I share the opinion that the people who estimate that truth and justice are not useful are those who think that they are not likely to be able to handle the truth and to face justice. These people, it must be understood that they do not want truth or justice. If such people have the power to impose their views, history will judge, (…) impunity cannot last anywhere and does not serve anybody, not even oneself. I find it vain and pretentious to believe that we try to command everything, because the master of all is time. Nobody commands everything, we can have this believe but it is in vain, it is futile. One can want to lengthen one’s life, but one cannot live forever; one can be powerful, but there is stronger and more powerful than oneself. Thus, wisdom would like us to accept truth and justice. But truth and justice themselves only have reasons to exist but to mend wounds, only to go forwards to reconciliation. It is not simply to punish but to repair.

Question: Will the government and the United Nations come to an agreement on the relationship between the TRC and the Special Tribunal?

ID: The Special Tribunal and the prosecutor will use the TRC report, but it will not be their only resource. The prosecutor has the independence to search for information or investigate as he sees fit, to whom he will want. The discussions stumbled on this question; the question is still being examined between the United Nations and the government. But it is also there where the Burundian civil society, even if it is rather active, for me, it is not necessarily pro-active. The debate must be held and to say to the government and the United Nations, listen, that, according to us, must be this way. The prosecutor cannot work uniquely on the basis of the TRC report, it is obvious. If it is the case, it is not worthwhile to have a Special Tribunal.

EM/PB/MM