On World Day, UN chief urges States to promote right to truth and justice

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) and his wife, Yoo Soon-taek (right), arrive at the Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport, El Salvador. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

24 March 2016 – Observing International Day for the right to the truth, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged States to adopt measures to promote truth, justice and reparations for victims, which is so crucial to ensuring that gross human rights violations are not repeated.

This annual observance of International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims pays tribute to the memory of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered on 24 March 1980. He was actively engaged in denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable individuals in El Salvador.

“Across the world, every victim has the right to know the truth about violations that affected her or him,” Mr. Ban said in a message on the Day. “But the truth also has to be told for the benefit of all people and communities as a vital safeguard against the recurrence of violations. The right to the truth is closely linked to the right to justice.”

To advance this effort, the UN supports fact-finding missions, commissions of inquiry, mapping exercises, and truth commissions, which document human rights violations and make recommendations to ensure accountability, reconciliation, and other reforms, he said, noting that from Colombia to Tunisia, from Mali to Sri Lanka, from Nepal to South Sudan, the UN has advocated for inclusive and genuine consultations with victims and affected groups, especially women, girls and those who are far too often excluded and marginalized.

“Their meaningful participation must be ensured in all relevant stages of transitional justice processes, and their specific needs must be fully recognized in any reparation measures,” he said.

He also stressed the need to secure the testimonies of victims and witnesses to ensure the rights to know the truth and to justice. Appropriate mechanisms for the protection of victims and witnesses, including their physical and psychological integrity, privacy, and dignity, must be put in place.

Moreover, the preservation of archives and other documentation relating to human rights violations is crucial for ensuring undistorted historical record and preservation of memory, he added.

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