Participation of Survivors and Families of Victims is Key for Justice

Experts on transitional justice and representatives of victims of gross human rights violations from the former Yugoslavia and across the world agreed conclusively today that civil society groups play an indispensable role providing justice for victims.The conclusions came on the final day of a three-day conference on International Models of Transitional Justice in Sarajevo, from December 8 – 10, organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and brining together experts and victims representatives from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The conference was timed so that the concluding day would take place on December 10, the International Day of Human Rights.

While conflicts and gross violations of human rights around the world differed in many ways, participants at the conference shared their experiences and found much in common. “The pain of all the victims is something they share, suffering is a common experience, and the pain of family members is the same,” said Tajib Pasic of the Union of Bosniak Associations of Captured and Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the conclusion of the conference.

“It is clear that victims and their families have so much in common,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff, “And although there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to providing justice for victims, the sharing of experiences here has given everyone food for thought in considering mechanisms for transitional justice. Solidarity between representatives of victims is a key for moving forward the process of justice.”

Participants agreed it was important to establish mechanisms to find the truth about conflicts and gross violations of human rights, but insisted that victims’ groups and representatives of families of victims must be consulted in all aspects of the establishment and composition of any truth-seeking body.

Among other conclusions agreed to at the conference was a recommendation that reparations, including financial compensation, should be paid to victims and their families for violations of rights, and that governments should be responsible for finding the means to compensate victims. Participants also called for measures to ensure that persons who had been implicated in war crimes, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights should be prevented from holding public positions. They also supported the proposed United Nations International Convention For the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearances.

“We must work towards transforming situations of impunity, cruelty and inhumanity to justice, truth and tolerance,” said Patricio Rice of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared. “We have learned so much from the family members here and we have seen their dignity, their tremendous efforts to overcome all obstacles, their soul searching, and their courage in working together. All of these efforts contribute to achieving the goal that such crimes must never happen again.”