Week in Review: Looking back in Nepal and Bosnia, ICC trying to look forward

Week in Review: Looking back in Nepal and Bosnia, ICC trying to look forward
A wife of a missing person looking for her disappeared husband
2 min 36Approximate reading time

It was once again a week of contrasts for transitional justice, notably in Cambodia, The Hague, South Sudan, Bosnia and Nepal, reflecting how paths to national reconciliation and their difficulties differ from country to country. Towards the end of the week, Colombia also got a revised, still controversial peace deal, which will this time be put to parliament, rather than directly to the people.

Nepal, which has been marking 10 years since the end of a cruel civil war and is sometimes seen as a model, continues to struggle on the path to peace, writes Ram Kumar Bhandari, founder of an association for the disappeared whose own father was “disappeared”. According to him, the transitional justice process has been manipulated by a caste-oriented political system and has not focussed sufficiently on the victims. “Civil society, human rights commission and related agencies have been advocating a judicial process and truth about the past,” he writes, “but this has been done on behalf of victims rather than with them, highlighting and reinforcing the marginalization that both facilitated violations and heightened their impact.”

On the other side of the world Bosnia-Herzegovina, more than 20 years after the Dayton accords that ended the war, is trying to give a voice, justice and reparations to victims, notably of sexual crimes, explains Adrijana Hanušić Bećirović of TRIAL International in an interview with JusticeInfo.net. TRIAL International, an NGO based in Geneva, has just published a report entitled “Compensating Survivors in Criminal Proceedings: Perspectives from the Field”. “We found that compensation ordered by a criminal court serves several positive functions,” says Bećirović, a senior legal advisor at TRIAL. “It recognizes the harms that survivors have suffered; it reaffirms societal condemnation of wartime crimes; helps deter future such offenses; it empowers survivors; it builds trust in the legal system and it finally facilitates personal rehabilitation.”

Paradoxically, this determined faith in justice could also be seen at the annual Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which took place in The Hague at the end of November. It had been expected to be tumultuous after the departure of three African member States, but, in the end, this conference allowed an open discussion of the Court’s weaknesses and strengths. “Protest against the Court by some African countries continued,” writes Stéphanie Maupas, our correspondent at the ICC, “but did not, for the moment, spread.”

This meeting was actually the occasion for rich and contrasted debates.  JusticeInfo quotes, for example, Ghana’s representative who slammed the “so-called champions of human rights, the privileged few with a Council veto” who “not only protect their protégés” but have “used international law in the interests of their dominant power”.

“The power of veto is not a privilege but a heavy responsibility,” said Sidiki Kaba, Senegalese president of the Assembly of States Parties, “and it should be waived for mass crimes.”

As the conflict continues in South Sudan, the UN once again showed itself unable to act, despite being warned there is a risk of genocide. “The United Nations Security Council failed to agree on action in the face of continuing massive abuses against civilians in South Sudan,” writes Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo’s deputy editor for Africa. “A proposal supported by Washington and its Western allies on an arms embargo was blocked by Russia.” 

Returning from a visit to South Sudan, UN advisor on genocide prevention Adama Dieng had nevertheless told the told the Security Council on November 17 that he “saw all the signs that ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians could evolve into genocide if something is not done now to stop it". 

Justice in Cambodia, where the special UN-backed court confirmed on appeal the life sentences against two still living top leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Nuon Chea, now aged 90, and Khieu Samphan, 85, had been sentenced to life in August 2014 for crimes against humanity. 

Finally, a hope for reconciliation in Colombia, where the government and FARC rebels signed a revised peace agreement after the narrow rejection of their first one in a people’s referendum in early October. JusticeInfo will be bringing you analysis in the coming days.