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 Newsletter - March 2015

 

NEPAL

 

Transitional justice: two controversial commissions 

 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances (CIED) have finally been given full shape, with the appointment in February of Surya Kiran Gurung and Lokendra Malik as their respective chairpersons.

 

The commissions are part of a transitional justice process designed to drive post-war recovery and national reconciliation. However, while their task is a noble one, skepticism on their ability to implement it remains palpable.

 

Civil society has expressed discontent over the appointment of the Commissioners, highlighting their lack of human rights experience. Concerns were also voiced as to whether they were truly independent. Furthermore, the victims of the conflict have felt sidelined from the whole process and fear that the commissions will overlook their plight for justice.

 

Worse still, the TRC Act passed in April 2014 contains an amnesty provision for perpetrators of grave war crimes and the Government has not yet criminalized torture and enforced disappearances.

 

The degree to which the commissions will provide accountability is yet to be seen. However, the current state of the process does not bode well for truth, justice and wartime recovery.

 

SWITZERLAND

 

Universal Jurisdiction Report soon to be launched

 

United in their struggle against impunity, TRIAL, REDRESS and ECCHR will release next month their first joint yearly report on universal jurisdiction. This publication will offer human rights defenders a thorough presentation of the cases of universal jurisdiction that occurred globally in 2014.

 

Some perpetrators of grave crimes take refuge in other countries, hoping to elude the verdicts of national courts that are supposed to judge them.

 

The principle of universal jurisdiction serves as a barrier to this phenomenon of impunity. It enables States to pursue and judge suspects of international crimes who are currently on their territory, irrespective of the place where the crimes were committed and of the assailants’ or victims’ nationalities.

 

Universal jurisdiction is carving out its place in international criminal law as an authentic tool for international justice. Through the different cases presented, this publication will show readers the large possibilities this principle offers in the fight against impunity.

 

 

BURUNDI

 

A first step towards fighting impunity?

 

Boniface Ntikarahera worked as a night watchman at a hospital in Bujumbura. In 2010, he was violently beaten by security agents presumably acting upon orders of the city's former Mayor. He fell unconscious only to awake in a police cell, where he was detained for several days in abysmal conditions.

 

Given the passive attitude of the judicial authorities, TRIAL lodged a complaint on his behalf before the UN Committee Against Torture. In May 2014, the UN body condemned Burundi and requested that the authorities launch an inquiry in order to penalize the perpetrators and compensate the victim.

 

The case finally came full circle, landing squarely before Burundi’s authorities. Boniface Ntikarahera was finally heard by the Court and a medical evaluation was carried out to establish the extent of the torture. The former Mayor was also cross-examined in Court and witnesses will soon follow suit.

 

In spite of the heightened tensions caused by the forthcoming elections, advances in this investigation have been significant in the fight against impunity in Burundi. 

 

Although justice and reparation still need to be served, Boniface Ntikarahera’s case represents an encouraging step in the right direction.

 

 

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

 

Justice can no longer wait

 

During their recent press conference in Sarajevo, TRIAL, MyRight and Justice Network joined forces to remind Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) of its international obligations. The NGO's message was clear: BiH must implement the recom-mendations of the UN and put an end to the state of impunity in the aftermath of the conflict.

 

The UN made these recommendations a few months ago, during the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of BiH. On this occasion, it admonished the country to shed light on the numerous violations committed during the conflict and to guarantee that victims would have real access to justice.

 

The UN had already made these recommendations in 2010. However, four years and a cycle later, the situation is still dire: BiH has done nothing to counter its chilling legacy of war and the victims - including women subjected to sexual violence - have been silenced and marginalized.

 

BH is expected to make public this month which UPR recommendations it has accepted. TRIAL is closely monitoring the process  and will continue to advocate in favour of conflict-era victims in the country.

MEXICO

 

Enforced disappearances: an untenable situation

 

Since the beginning of its “dirty war”, Mexico has become infamous for the unrelenting disappearances which take place on its territory in a climate of acute impunity. It is on this bleak record of human rights violations that the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) focused its attention last month when examining Mexico.

 

TRIAL and its partners submitted a report to the CED for this examination, showcasing the inadequacies of Mexico’s laws on enforced disappearances, as well as the many shortcomings that the authorities were guilty of.

 

The abduction of 43 Mexican students last September aroused the ire of the international community and although the examination conducted by the CED was scheduled a while ago, it was this crisis that led to renewed interest on the subject of enforced disappearances in Mexico.

 

In its observations, the CED mirrored the concerns raised by TRIAL. The Committee particularly called on Mexico to equip itself with the necessary judicial mechanisms to bring an end to this scourge and the ensuing situation of impunity.

 

While Mexico has been summoned to react, TRIAL will continue to monitor the process and will not hesitate to sound the alarm should Mexico deviate from its international obligations.

 

MORE NEWS

 

TRIAL in the Top 500

 

The Global Journal’s 2015 edition of the Top 500 NGOs is out. This year again, TRIAL ranks among the world’s best NGOs.

 

Burundi celebrates Bob Rugurika’s release

 

Bob Rugurika, Director of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) has been released. Arrested for having challenged Burundian authorities, his detention for over a month raised serious concerns about the state of freedom of speech in Burundi. Thousands of Burundians took up the streets to celebrate news of his release.

 

Colonel Kumar Lama on trial in the UK

 

The trial of Colonel Kumar Lama resumed this month in the UK with further hearings. Suspected of torture during the Nepalese civil war, he was arrested in London in 2013. Kumar Lama risks life imprisonment for the alleged crimes.   

 

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