Truth and Justice Commissions

    Human Rights Watch slams police brutality and slow reform in Tunisia
    Olfa Belhassine, correspondent in Tunis

    Human Rights Watch recently published two reports on the human rights situation in Tunisia. One concerns police brutality during a wave of protests in January 2018, and the second is part of a 2018 World Report on human rights situations. Amna Guellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch, tells in this interview about the mixed picture of human rights in Tunisia today. During popular protests this January against the rising cost of living, the authorities called activists of Fech Nestanew (“What are we waiting for?”) hooligans, and accused them of...

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    Week in Review: Reconciliation as the key to a successful transition
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.Net

    In the wide domain of “transitional justice”, reconciliation processes are the key to transition, as we see in many countries.    Mali, for example, is showing this once again through its weaknesses, as Justiceinfo’s Bamako correspondent Bokar Sangaré explains. Because the 2015 Algiers accord -- meant to reconcile the north and south and their communities -- has not been implemented, the situation is deteriorating dangerously. And it is worrying people both in Mali and the international community, especially since the country is due to hold presidential elections this year in a security...

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    South Africa: a giant of Africa

    South Africa is the continent's most industrialised economy and among its most developed, but marked by gaping inequalities rooted in years of racist white-minority rule that ended in 1994. - Apartheid - Black South Africans, around 80 percent of the population, voted for the first time only in 1994. It was a moment of jubilation after a bitter decades-long struggle against white-minority rule. British and Dutch settlers arrived at Africa's southern tip from the 17th century, first using it as a stopover on the shipping route to Asia and later claiming colonies. They imposed discriminatory laws early on, restricting non-whites to unskilled jobs and limiting land ownership and free...

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    How political violence can become criminal violence
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    According to the Gallup survey institute, the five most dangerous countries in the world in 2017 were Venezuela, South Africa, El Salvador, South Sudan and Liberia. With the exception of Venezuela, they have all been through civil war, and in South Sudan there is still war. South Africa, El Salvador and Liberia, on the other hand, all turned the page on political violence a long time ago, but criminal violence has taken its place. More awareness is needed to better understand the links between armed conflict and criminal violence.  South Africa, El Salvador and Liberia all have in common...

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    Gambia: Many Jammeh loyalists still in high posts, says human rights defender
    Maxime Domegni, West Africa correspondent

    A year after the fall of Yahya Jammeh’s bloody 22-year dictatorship, there is a wind of freedom blowing in The Gambia. But, at the same time, many Gambians are worried that the new government is trying to do “new things with old faces”. One of them is Fatou Jagne Senghor, a Gambian human rights defender who is West Africa regional director for the freedom of expression group Article 19. She spoke to JusticeInfo about her concerns, starting with how the secret service, formerly the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), is managed. JusticeInfo: What was the role of the National...

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    Week in Review: Testing times for TJ from Kosovo to Burundi
    François Sergent

    This was a bad week for transitional justice, in Kosovo, Tunisia and Burundi. In Kosovo, the authorities are trying to stop the special tribunal charged with trying war crimes committed by UCK rebels between 1998 -2000, explains Pierre Hazan. That is not surprising given that former UCK commanders including President Hashim Thaçi and his Prime Minister are now in power in Pristina. The Serbs, who feel they have been abandoned by justice in the Balkans, were the primary victims of the crimes under the jurisdiction of the new tribunal, which is officially part of the Kosovo judicial system...

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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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    No reconciliation without justice, say Gambia’s victims
    Maxime Domegni, West Africa correspondent

    As Gambia’s new authorities prepare to launch a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, victims warn that there will be no reconciliation without justice. The process leading to the appointment of 11 Commission members is expected to be complete by the end of February. These rare birds, people of moral standing who have never been involved in human rights abuses or active in a political party, should be in post by then. According to a guide released by the Justice Ministry in mid-January, five Commission members will be designated by the country’s president, five will be elected...

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    Week in Review: Hope in Guinea, disappointment in Togo, impunity in Burundi
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    Will justice be done in Guinea in the very sensitive case of the September 28, 2009 massacre of 150 people in a stadium in the capital Conakry? This looks more likely after investigations closed in December 2017 and the suspects were referred for trial, but victims are not so happy.  Firstly, Justice Minister Cheik Sacko is already saying the government does not have the money to hold this trial, which could last 8 to 10 months according to him. So he has thrown the ball into the court of donors, mainly the US and Europe, who have been calling for years for light to be shed on this massacre...

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    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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