22.09.07 - BURUNDI/JUSTICE - NEXT CONSULTATION IN BURUNDI ON TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE

Bujumbura, 22 September 2007 (FH) - The general consultation on the creation of mechanisms of transitional justice and a special court in Burundi will take place shortly, affirmed to the Hirondelle agency the President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Festus Ntanyungu.
2 min 6Approximate reading time

"We are in the preparations, I can not give you the precise calendar for the moment, but the opening will take place soon", ensured Ntanyungu. The TRC is planned by the Arusha Agreement of August 2000. It should have theoretically been set up in 2001.

This agreement provides various political and legal measures, and also some relating to reconciliation. Within this framework, an international commission of inquest must inquire and establish the facts, before deciding if these facts fall under the qualification of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity. In these cases, the persons deemed responsible will appear before a Special Tribunal (ST). The TRC, as for its part, is charged with qualifying other crimes committed since 1962.

After the visit to Burundi in May of Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner Human Rights, the consultation of the population had been announced for September. This consultation was also to relate to the opportunity and existence of the ST.

Former Minister for Civil Service, Mr. Ntanyungu was named President of the TRC on 10 August. His Vice-President is Françoise Ngendahayo, former Minister for Human Rights and former collaborator of the registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

According to the President of the TRC, this delay is not due to the crisis that is taken place at the National Assembly. For Ntanyungu the reason is older. "The problems related to the operations of the TRC are not new because the Arusha Agreement provides that this mechanism was to start the first year of the transition (which started in November 2001)", he said before reminded that the process was to already be functional during the 2005 elections. "Patience is needed, these are problems that have been around for a long time but which are on the way of being solved", he insisted.

For his part, Jean Marie Ngendahayo, former Foreign Minister and former high ranking executive of the governing party now outgoing, also regrets that the government did not initiate the explanation campaign in time for "very important" aspects which aim at national reconciliation. "The authorities should have adopted a pro-active attitude a long time ago", he underlined during a discussion with the Hirondelle agency.

Since the Arusha Agreement and the ceasefire agreements that led to the 2005 democratic elections, the Burundian authorities posted a rather ambiguous attitude with respect to the existence and the workings of the two mechanisms of transitional justice, rather tending to privilege confession and forgiveness. A position different from that of the UN.

During her visit to Burundi in May, Louise Arbour raised confusion by declaring that "from the point of view of the UN, the existence of the TRC and the ST are no longer a question to discuss", but that consultations were still on going on the interaction between the two. She unambiguously affirmed that "the ST prosecutor must be independent". The genocide, the war crimes and the crimes against humanity being "imprescriptible" crimes, they are consequently "in-eligible for amnesty", she insisted.

GA/PB/MM
© Hirondelle News Agency