Belgium puts the issue of “transitional justice” on the agenda of the Security Council

Today, the United Nations Security Council is holding a debate on transitional justice. Belgium, which presides over the Security Council this month, is putting it on the agenda. Through this action, our country wants to step up the fight against impunity, with the ultimate goal of social reconciliation.

Transitional justice is a collective term for a whole range of processes and mechanisms by which a society tries to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale abuse. The purpose of transitional justice is to ensure accountability and justice, and ultimately, to bring about social reconciliation. The concept emerged in the 1980s and 1990s as a result of a series of democratization processes in Latin America and later South Africa. While countries previously looked back on the past with a condemnatory attitude, the new governments in these countries put the emphasis on social reconciliation. In the aftermath of the conflicts in Rwanda and the Balkans, the scope expanded further to include the restoration of the rule of law and the strengthening of human rights.

National Transitional Justice Processes

For years Belgian diplomacy has been committed to keeping the fight against impunity high on the international agenda, for example by raising awareness among international partners and organizations and by providing direct support to national, hybrid and international tribunals - such as the International Criminal Court - and other mechanisms with the same objective. This commitment is also reflected in the funding of various transitional justice projects worldwide.

It is primarily the responsibility of the national level to respond to past gross violations and abuses. Countries in transition often choose to set up a transitional justice system. These countries must be given the best possible support in this process.

Beyond criminal prosecution

Transitional justice goes beyond mere criminal prosecution. Because of the large number of violations and the fragile political context, it is important to adopt a more comprehensive approach to ensure lasting reconciliation. This is why emphasis is placed on four complementary components of transitional justice: truth-seeking, justice, reparation or compensation and, finally, guarantees of non-repetition.

In concrete terms, Belgium advocates a coherent and comprehensive approach to transitional justice, addressing the root causes of past abuses with a view to achieving a lasting peace.

Today's debate in the Security Council should provide a forum for the exchange of experiences and expertise and for concrete reflection on how the Security Council, United Nations missions and other organizations can best contribute to such an approach. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Philippe Goffin, will chair the debate, which is open to all UN member states. Michelle Bachelet (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), Francisco de Roux (President of the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition of Colombia) and Yasmin Sooka (Director of the Human Rights Foundation, Administrator of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre and Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan) will brief the Security Council.