Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation, Guarantees of Non-recurrence

28 October 2013

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation, Guarantees of Non-recurrence

28 October 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice,


Reparation, Guarantees of Non-recurrence


Justice and human rights aspirations, as witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa movements, ought to be captured by the ongoing discussions about the post-2015 global development agenda, a United Nations human rights expert said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“ Tunisia, for example, was the object of praise on the part of the international community for being a fast achiever of the original Millennium Development Goals,” said Pablo de Greiff, the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.  “But, just a few weeks after the latest international report praising Tunisia, people were out on the street claiming the necessity of fundamental and basic change.  I think it would be a shame if the new development agenda suffers from the same sort of lack.”

In his report to the Third Committee (see Press Release GA/SHC/4078), he suggested applying the “ Tunisia test” to the new post-2015 framework.  Goals and indicators established should not foster the appearance of a development success story in societies where development was “self-evidently undermined by large-scale deficits in security, justice and rights”.

Massive human rights violations, if left unaddressed could seriously hamper development, he explained.  They could cause a downward shift in people’s expectations, which in turn would weaken their willingness to initiate actions as rights-bearers.  They could also erode social trust, a factor that was positively correlated with growth, as well as undermine human capacities.

He noted that, although there had been progress in development theories that recognized the interconnections between justice, security and development, practice lagged far behind.  In certain countries, those were believed to be independent aims that should be sequenced, with security coming first, development second, and justice afterwards.  Describing such a notion of sequence as suspicious and simpleminded, he stressed that work in the three areas should take place in tandem with one another.

At the same time, Mr. de Greiff underscored that his argument was not a “reductionist” one that tried to say the only important thing for development was to pay attention to justice.  Despite the important contributions that justice measures could make, they could not bear the full weight of making up for the security and developmental deficits of countries emerging from repression or conflict.  Other measures functionally designed to achieve social, political and economic transformations were needed.

Responding to questions about the issue of reparation in specific countries, including Pakistan, Haiti and Sri Lanka, he said he would refrain from making reference to particular discussions that were ongoing.  However, he would like to stress that reparation played an important role in the set of measures under his mandate.  Among the four measures, it was the one that was deliberately designed to provide some direct benefits to the victims of grave human rights violations.

He emphasized that there was always a question about how to distinguish reparation from other measures, with which it usually coexisted and with which it could be easily conflicted, particularly in regard to development programmes.  Therefore, he was calling for greater coordination between transitional justice measures — including reparations — and development programmes, without giving in to the temptation on the part of Governments, including some of those mentioned in the questions, to reduce justice to development.

One of the critical distinctions between reparation programmes and development programmes, he noted, was that the former presupposed an explicit acknowledgement of responsibilities.  Reparation programmes were not simply compensatory ones. They were programmes that rested upon the affirmation of a norm that had been broken, and upon the explicit assertion of a legal and moral obligation to redress victims precisely because their rights had been violated.

He also added that currently most reparation programmes had taken the form of administrative rather than judicial reparations.  Part of the reason was that the latter worked on the basis of tough evidential standards whereas the former did not.  There were peculiarities about administrative reparation programmes, both advantages and disadvantages, which needed to be taken into account.

Asked about the use of technological tools in preventing massive human rights violations, Mr. de Greiff said that, among the four pillars of his mandate, “guarantees of non-recurrence” was the least developed area, to which he wanted to pay particular attention.  One issue that constantly worried him was that most of the work regarding prevention focused on institutional reforms.  While there were very good reasons for such a focus, such measures should be complemented by efforts aimed at strengthening the role of civil society.  In that regard, there were very few more effective measures other than the use of technological tools to increase the connectivity of members of civil society.

In response to whether reparation programmes could possibly hamper the ability of Governments making investment in other areas, including development, he said that was an important factor for consideration.  That was why he had stressed earlier that he was not making a reductionist argument that only justice mattered for development.  What he called for was more space for justice and rights-related considerations in development discussions.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.