Transitional justice is key to preventing human rights violations, says UN expert

Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff. UN Photo/Violaine Martin

11 September 2012 – The full observance of transitional justice is essential in preventing the reoccurrence of human rights violations around the world, a United Nations independent expert said today.

In a statement marking the presentation of his first report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN’s new Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, also urged world governments to see the practice of transitional justice – which specifically tackles past human rights violations – as a strategy for redressing massive rights violations in times of transition.

“Redress cannot be achieved without truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence,” Mr. De Greiff said, adding that the four elements of his mandate would effectively place victims at the centre of all efforts to address their grievances.

“The recognition of victims as individuals and holders of rights is essential in any attempts to redress massive human rights violations and prevent their recurrence,” he added.

Made up of 47 Member States elected by the General Assembly, the Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

Recalling the legacy of human rights abuses in Chile, Mr. de Greiff noted that the four components of his mandate had already helped provide recognition to victims, foster trust and reconciliation and strengthen the rule of law.

On 11 September 1973, a military coup led by Chilean General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Salvador Allende, following an aerial bombardment of the presidential palace. General Pinochet subsequently became President of the country, which he ruled until 1990, and during which numerous human rights violations were perpetrated against opposition supporters.

“Thirty-nine years later, and at least in part thanks to the perseverance of so many actors, victims included, in Chile and elsewhere, domestic systems and the international community have available mechanisms to address situations of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said Mr. de Greiff.

A human rights expert from Colombia, Pablo de Greiff’s background includes extensive professional and academic expertise on transitional justice issues, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It added that he has worked with multiple transitional justice bodies and collaborated with numerous non-governmental organizations working with human rights across the globe.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Mr. de Greiff, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.


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