Newsletter - April 2015




Two NGOs honoured by Geneva’s authorities


After Kofi Annan, Albert Cohen and many other renowned laureates, Geneva’s authorities have chosen to reward two NGOs for their contribution to making Geneva a glimmer of hope in the world. TRIAL and Geneva Call were honoured to receive the "Genève reconnaissante" medal (Grateful Geneva) from the Mayor’s hands on 26 March 2015.


The two NGOs both believe in the rule of law and the importance of enforcing its compliance ubiquitously and for every person. Sami Kanaan, the Mayor of Geneva, has honoured this commitment and saluted “the fundamental role of these civil society actors in the world”.


During the ceremony, Manon Schick, Director of Amnesty international Switzerland, also paid a glowing tribute to TRIAL’s work: “One day, perpetrators will be brought to justice and the victims will be heard. We thank TRIAL for its endeavours in hastening the arrival of that day. It is a beacon of light”.


In a moving speech, Philip Grant, Director of TRIAL, thanked the local authorities on behalf of the victims: “If they were here in person, they would say that in their countries, the army, the police and the powerful: murder, rape and mutilate. They would say that a longing for justice and truth is the only hope they have”.


TRIAL’s fight against impunity is far from over. It cannot be fully attained without the support of the authorities and its partner NGOs. Together, we will strive so that victims of conflicts past and present obtain justice.




The lawyers of Bukavu, still as committed 


The TRIAL training in the DRC continues! At the end of March, the selected group of lawyers from Bukavu met for the second phase of this one year course. The aim? To acquire all the necessary tools to defend Congolese victims before regional and international tribunals.


For three days, these fervent defenders deepened their knowledge of human rights defence mechanisms. Thanks to case studies, they were able to simulate pleas on behalf of the victims of the most grievous crimes.


The training was punctuated by the presentations of Professor Nyabirungu Mwene Songa, expert in the area of international crimes in the DRC. Thanks to his contributions, the participants were provided with useful insight on ways to handle cases of international crimes in the DRC.


Experts from Protection international were also present. The fundamental question of security strategies for the protection of victims was raised. Throughout the year, these experts will train the participants on targeted themes such as data security.


The fight against impunity in the DRC promises to be relentless. The engagement and interest of all these human rights defenders is irrefutable proof of it.



The fight against sexual violence has not weakened


This month, TRIAL has brought the voice of Devi Maya (assumed name) before the United Nations Human Rights Committee. More than ten years have elapsed since she fell victim to rape and the time has come for justice to be served.


On August 2002, while the civil war raged between the Government and a Maoist insurgency, Devi Maya’s life was about to be immersed into absolute dread.


Nepalese security forces led an anti-insurgency operation in her village and civilians were the first targets of this retaliatory action. Devi was at home with her three-year-old daughter when six men forced themselves into her house. She was subjected to rape as well as other forms of unimaginable brutality and became pregnant after the abuses.


Devi Maya still suffers from the deep emotional and physical scars of the torture she underwent and her second daughter has been a victim of implacable stigmatization.


However, she did not succumb to the setbacks and drudged countless times to obtain justice from the local courts. As too many of the rapes committed during the war in Nepal remain unpunished, her efforts were in vain.


It is highly anticipated that the decision of the UN on Devi’s case could offer a glimmer of hope to the other victims still awaiting for justice.







Enforced disappearances: from bad to worse


For more than a half-century in Mexico, countless crimes of enforced disappearances have been perpetrated in a climate of untenable impunity.


Over four years ago, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) was in Mexico to make a startling assessment. In its report, it directed the Mexican authorities to amplify its efforts to fight this crime.


Today, it is time to take stock of what the authorities have actually done to extricate the country from this predicament. The outcome is, however, rather bleak, as reported by the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances in February.


TRIAL and a coalition of eight NGOs deem that although the situation was appalling four years ago, it is far worse today. In a report published last month, they drew up an appraisal and admonished the authorities, stuck at a standstill, to tackle the situation head on.


The impunity has persisted for too long and the time has clearly come to commit to a course of action.




Victims of sexual violence: no justice without compensation


Twenty years after the conflict, wartime victims of sexual violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina are still striving to obtain compensation before national courts for the hardships they suffered.


The right to compensation during criminal proceedings is defined by the law of BiH. However, it is not enforced in practice. This absence of support and recognition by the State leaves the victims with the bitter feeling of being left behind by society.


TRIAL raised awareness on this alarming situation in an inspiring report published this month. This analysis describes the many and systematic obstacles victims of sexual violence are facing in exercising their right to compensation. It also provides food for thought and invites judicial State actors to take action in serving full justice to victims.


Most important of all, the report creates a supportive environment for victims, reminding them that they are not alone in their fight for justice.


Obtaining compensation is of great importance for the victims of war crimes, especially victims of sexual violence during the conflict. Compensation, as a form of assistance in meeting the financial, physical, psychological and social needs of the victims, is one of the major steps towards personal and wartime recovery.










The authorities must no longer turn a deaf ear to injustice


For several years, the international community has pressured the Nepalese government to deal with the aftermath of the civil war. In 2011 and 2014, the UN formulated specific recommendations on this subject. It exhorted for instance Nepal to criminalise torture and enforced disappearance and investigate grave violations of human rights committed during the civil war. 


What was the outcome? Nepal has barely repositioned itself and the majority of the recommendations have remained unheeded.


TRIAL weighed in on these shortcomings in two reports published last month. 


- The first paints an alarming picture: Nepal’s criminal law is not consistent with international law. 

- The second denounces a transitional justice that deprives the victims of the conflict of any justice. 


But impunity is also rife for crimes being committed in the post-war era. The situation is particularly worrisome in the Terai, where an alarming rise in arbitrary executions have been seen over the last three months.


It is about time that Nepal adjudicates on both past and present crimes. 


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