UN mission recommends truth commission plus special chamber in Burundi's courts

28 March 2005 – A United Nations special mission mandated to recommend measures Burundi might take to deal with perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes has recommended a non-judicial truth commission and a prosecuting special chamber within Burundi's court system.

Forwarding the mission's report to the Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in an accompanying letter that, with a substantial international component, the truth commission would have enhanced impartiality and credibility, while the mechanism of the "court within a court" was chosen with a view towards strengthening Burundi's judicial resources "and leaving behind a legacy of international standards of justice and trained judges, prosecutors, defence counsel and experienced court managers."

The proposed truth commission would be composed of five commissioners, three of them international and two of them national, instead of the "unnecessarily cumbersome" 25 members called for in Burundi's Law on the National Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, the mission's report says.

The special chamber, also of mixed national and international composition, would have the competence to prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibility for serious crimes, it says.

"Its temporal jurisdiction would be limited to specific phases of the conflict and would include, as a minimum, the events between 1972 and 1993, inclusive," the report says.

It notes that ethnic conflict since the country's 1962 independence have led to the empanelling of four previous investigative commissions, but all have been limited to the 1993 assassination of Burundi's first elected Hutu President, Melchior Ndadaye, and the massacres that followed.

"While cursory references were made in some reports…to the 1972 genocide of Hutus, a legal determination that the crime of genocide had been committed in Burundi was made only in respect of the 1993 massacres of Tutsis," it says. "All four commissions recognized that an inquiry into the historic truth without a measure of accountability would not suffice to eradicate impunity."

The mission holds the view "that the United Nations can no longer engage in establishing commissions of inquiry and disregard their recommendations without seriously undermining the credibility of the Organization in promoting justice and the rule of law.

"The mission is, therefore, of the view that a comprehensive approach to the pursuit of truth and justice in Burundi is now necessary."

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