The fight against impunity, including transitional justice

 

The fight against impunity is a priority for Belgium. Indeed, there is a significant risk of human rights violations in States that are plagued by conflict, but also by poor governance, repressive policies, corruption or a lack of capacity in judicial and security services. Combating impunity is therefore essential for restoring or maintaining the rule of law and guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms.

International criminal courts are an important pillar in the fight against impunity. The best-known example of such a mechanism is the International Criminal Court, established by the Rome Statute, which our country has ratified.

In addition, there are international investigation mechanisms which investigate human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. These international investigative bodies have been set up by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the Secretary General or the High Commissioner for Human Rights. They establish facts on the basis of which the perpetrators of such violations can be held accountable.

Closely linked to the fight against impunity is the concept of transitional justice. This consists of the full range of processes relating to attempts by a society to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale abuses from the past, to guarantee liability and justice and to bring about reconciliation. Transitional justice is a response to the many challenges posed by States in democratic transition following a period of authoritarianism or a period of conflict, to restore the principles of the rule of law and human rights.

Transitional justice is based on 4 fundamental pillars:

  • Truth: how should a society deal with its own past? Truth and Reconciliation Commissions fit into this framework.
  • Justice: how can a society hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses to account? In the first instance, this includes criminal proceedings, but also amnesty or rehabilitation arrangements.
  • Reparation: which mechanisms offer the best guarantee of reparation for victims of human rights violations? Reparations, restitution, compensation, but also symbolic gestures such as apologies and commemorations are examples of reparational remedies.
  • Guarantees of non-recurrence: which elements can help to ensure that abuses and violations from the past are not repeated in the future? Among other things, this pillar focuses on institutional reforms contributing to the restoration of the rule of law.

Belgium actively supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, including through participation in the interactive dialogues with this independent expert.

During its presidency of the Security Council in February 2020, Belgium organised an open debate on transitional justice, placing the subject on the Security Council's agenda for the first time.

Belgium is helping to implement the EU policy framework on support to transitional justice, including through the co-organisation in September 2016 of a seminar with experts from the EU and the African Union.

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