Week in Review: The importance of remembrance
    François Sergent,

    This week, examined the significance of a memorial to the Armenian genocide recently inaugurated in a Geneva park. “Despite opposition from Ankara, the “Streetlights of Memory” were inaugurated in Geneva after 10 years of judicial and diplomatic battles,” explains our Geneva correspondent Frédéric Burnand. “The work of artist Melik Ohanian pays tribute to the Armenians massacred over a century ago in Turkey and also to the many Swiss who mobilized to help them as soon as the massacres started. This is a message that still resonates today.” “It is a good thing that Geneva...

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    An Armenian genocide memorial in Geneva to shine light on past and present
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    After long years the “Streetlights of Memory”, a work by French artist Melik Ohanian, found a home in Geneva on April 13. It first needed the Geneva parliament in 1998 and then the Swiss parliament in 2003 to recognize the Armenian genocide. It then required the determination of those defending remembrance, the City of Geneva and especially the Municipal Fund for Contemporary Art (FMAC) to get a monument selected that evokes the Armenian genocide and the evil that man can inflict on man. Finally, the promoters of the monument had to overcome the reservations of several parties, often linked...

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    Long-delayed, disputed Armenian memorial unveiled in Geneva

    A memorial series of street lamps commemorating the 1915-1917 Armenian genocide has been officially unveiled in Geneva. Turkish groups said that the initiative is a mistake. “Streetlights of memory” was unveiled on Friday in the presence of various members of the Armenian community, including current Armenian ambassador to Switzerland Charles Aznavour, and the artist behind the work Mélik Ohanian. No representative of the federal administration attended, a fact that could be ascribed to the ongoing diplomatic tensions around the 1915-1917 genocide, for which Turkey continues to deny...

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    Mali should have helped fund rebuilding of Timbuktu heritage, says local archaeologist
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    In 2012, Jihadist groups seized northern Mali. They occupied the town of Timbuktu, intellectual capital of the Sahara and crossroads of different cultures and religions. The Jihadists methodically destroyed the unique cultural heritage of this City of 333 Saints.  Fifteen of the town’s 16 mausoleums and the gate of the Sidi Yahia mosque, considered sacred by the inhabitants, were hacked and destroyed by groups linked to Al-Qaeda including Ansar Dine, in the name of fighting "idolatry". Some 4,200 manuscripts of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies and Research (IHERI-AB) were...

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    Week in Review: Amnesia in Poland, violence in Venezuela and the Philippines
    François Sergent,

    Poland’s adoption of a controversial law on the history of the Holocaust marked the transitional justice week. Once again, a country is trying to impose its vision of history through law and close all debate on its past. The text provides for prison sentences of up to three years for anyone who talks of “Polish death camps” or “attributes responsibility or co-responsibility of the Polish State in Nazi crimes”.  Historically, the extermination camps in Poland during the Second World War were German and the work of the Nazis without collaboration of the Warsaw government, unlike other...

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    Poland tries to rewrite Holocaust history
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    After putting pressure on the judicial system and the media, Poland’s authorities are now clamping down on how the country’s Second World War history is told. This authoritarian trend is worrying the European Union. January 27 marked the commemoration of 73 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The day before, Poland’s Senate adopted by 57 votes to 23 against plus two  abstentions a law under which people who mention “Polish death camps” or attribute any responsibility of the Polish State in Nazi crimes can be sentenced to up to three years in jail. On February 6, Polish President...

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    Opinion: Klaus Barbie and Burundi’s Truth Commission
    Louis-Marie Nindorera, Burundian consultant on transitional justice

    January 27 was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy years on and thousands of miles from where it happened, this day for prevention of crimes against humanity also has resonance in Burundi. Louis-Marie Nindorera is a Burundian transitional justice expert. To mark this year’s international day, he penned these memories for Yaga, a collective of Burundian bloggers. It was 20 years ago, in 1994. I was driving in the north of Bujumbura in my Peugeot 205, taking a two-year-old girl to see the heights and plains of the Burundian capital, as had become my habit. A few weeks earlier my...

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    Week in Review: Gambia, Mali, Tunisia and Iraq
    François Sergent

    Transitional justice is moving forward in Gambia with the setting up of a Truth Commission.  The Commission’s task will be no less than to “mend the tissue of Gambian society, torn apart by 22 years of iron-fisted rule under ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh”, as our West Africa correspondent Maxime Domegni writes. The victims and their families expect much of this Commission, but they warn there will be no reconciliation without justice. “I often hear people talking about reconciliation, but there can be no talk of reconciliation without truth and justice for our loved ones who were killed,” says...

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    Kosovo's 'Rambo', Serbia's arch-antagonist, set to be PM

    A hero at home but considered a war criminal by Belgrade, Ramush Haradinaj is set to become Kosovo's prime minister just a few months after fighting against extradition to Serbia. If parliament approves his appointment as expected, this controversial former insurgent -- nicknamed "Rambo" by his comrades -- will have the job of relaunching crucial negotiations with his Serbian adversaries. The talks to "normalise" relations between Belgrade and Pristina, brokered by the European Union, have come to a standstill in recent months. Haradinaj has opposed the dialogue, calling for Belgrade...

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    Ukraine: Unbearable uncertainty for families of the missing

    For more than three years, eastern Ukraine has suffered conflict. Amid the world’s many other humanitarian crises, in Syria, or in Yemen for example, it can be easy to forget Ukraine. But the UN estimates that 10,000 people have lost their lives here since 2014. Thousands of families are grieving, and many, like Yuliia and Olha, have been condemned to wait for years to find out exactly what happened to their loved ones. “These are our fathers,” says Yuliia, taking a framed photograph off the shelf. “This one is Olha’s father, Serhii Uzakov, and this one here is my father, Volodymyr Bondarenko.” The two men disappeared almost three years ago. “It was November 27th 2014,” remembers...

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    Post-Charlottesville: Should we write off the past?
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    The French revolutionaries dreamed of writing off the past. But it is not so easy to throw the legacy of time past into the dustbin of history when it directly affects the present and future. This is the drama that played out recently in Charlottesville.  Through the fate of General Lee’s statue, what was at stake in Charlottesville was not what happened in the War of Secession (1861-1865), but rather the way Americans see themselves at a crucial turning point. For the first time, Americans citizens are contemplating the fact that in two decades Whites will be in the minority in the US....

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    Malian Jihadist ordered to pay 2.7 million Euros in reparations to Timbuktu victims
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) handed down on Thursday August 17 their reparations order for the victims of Ahmed Al Mahdi. Al Mahdi, who has been convicted by the Court, pleaded guilty to war crimes for the destruction of nine mausoleums and the main gate of the Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu during the occupation of northern Mali in 2012 by Jihadists of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and Ansar Eddine.  As well as telling of the crimes committed in Timbuktu in 2012, Al-Mahdi’s case before the ICC was especially about punishing those who destroy cultural heritage. ...

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    Week in Review: The thorny issue of reparations
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    There is no justice without reparations. That is all the more true when it comes to international crimes. But the mechanisms of reparation are still problematic, whether at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or in national transitional justice systems like in Côte d’Ivoire. More than three years ago, the ICC sentenced former Congolese militiaman Germain Katanga to 12 years in jail for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes linked to the February 24, 2003 massacre in the village of Bogoro, in Ituri. On March 24, 2017, the judges evaluated at 3.75 million dollars (3.2M...

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    Togo “purification” leaves bitter taste for many
    Maxime Domegni, West Africa correspondent

    In Togo, the transitional justice process put in place by the authorities seems to be dividing people more than it is reconciling them. And it was amid controversy that the High Commission for Reconciliation and National Unity (HCRRUN) organized so-called “purification” ceremonies in the country from July 3 to 9. A week of so-called purification in Togo ended on Sunday July 9 with a Christian service in the capital Lomé attended by the Prime Minister, members of the government, national institutions and the High Commission for Reconciliation and National Unity (HCRRUN). As on preceding days...

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    Geneva conference on Kosovo: a judicial and a humanitarian approach to find the 1658 missing persons
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor

    In contexts of political violence, one of the worst forms of psychological torture is not to know what happened to loved ones. And it gets worse with time. Has that person been taken by the army or an armed group? Have they been assassinated? Will they ever be found alive, or at least their remains, if victim of an extrajudicial killing? “For the past 18 years, every day that goes by is agony for us,” wrote the families of Serb and Kosovar disappeared people in a joint appeal on June 21. Under pressure from them, a UN roundtable was held in Geneva last Thursday and Friday with all the...

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    Families of 1,658 Kosovo disappeared still searching for their loved ones
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    A two-day conference this week in Geneva aims to relaunch the process of identifying 1,658 people who disappeared during the war in Kosovo (1998-1999). On the eve of the conference, families of Serb and Kosovar victims together urged local and international authorities to rise above obstacles and lack of political will. “We the mothers, fathers, spouses, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons and other relatives of the disappeared (…) will not rest until the fate of the last missing person has been clarified,” says the joint appeal signed on June 21 by Serb and Albanian families of people who...

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    USA : Addressing Our Tortured History, One Monument at a Time
    David Tolbert

    The recent remarks of Mayor Mitch Landrieu ordering the removal of monuments honoring confederate leaders from New Orleans stands out as an important moment of moral clarity and civic courage for our country. The question is, how do we build on the success of the “take ‘em down” movement to tackle the deep, ongoing history of racial violence in the United States. We also need to see many more leaders on the local, state and national levels addressing the past truthfully, apologizing for the multitude of abuses committed against people of color and correcting our twisted historical...

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    Week in Review: “Dealing with the past is defining the present”
    François Sergent,

    The way history is remembered was a theme emerging this week not only in Tunisia and Germany but also France, in the grip of presidential elections.  Remembrance and the past were one of the numerous subjects of debate between the two second-round French presidential candidates. “The country’s 20th century history, including the Algerian War and the Second World War, brought some of the fiercest clashes between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron,” writes JusticeInfo editorial advisor Pierre Hazan. “Doesn’t France also need a Truth Commission to better deal with its colonial past?”  And...

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    Offering New Insights on Memory and Memorialization for Uganda
    Lino Owor Ogora

    From November 25, to December 9, 2016, I was privileged to join a select group of 25 participants who attended a two-week seminar on truth, justice and remembrance in Berlin, Germany. I was the only Ugandan in the group, and one of five Africans, a factor which I felt highlighted the significance of my presence there.   I arrived in Berlin on a chilly Thursday evening on November 24, 2016. I was eager to get my first glimpse of the city, given that it was my first visit to Germany. Prior to this, all I knew about Germany was what we had been taught in European history regarding the first and second world wars. In Uganda Berlin was especially famous for the Berlin Conference of 1884...

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    Building justice for Syria
    Radwan Ziadeh Senior Analyst Arab Center Washington D.C

    Syria became the place where the most serious war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated, even one day the former secretary general Ban Ki-Moon described of what happened in Aleppo as "synonym for hell." The challenges face the international human rights, and justice communities are vast, where the impunity became the new culture and circle of violence turned to be the only reality. The UN commission of Inquiry documented the patterns of the crimes in Syria, and concluded that there is an "everyday war crimes and crimes against Humanity."   The widespread and the brutality of such crimes requires a response from the international community beyond condemnations and...

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