Post-Conflict Justice and Victims’ Frustration

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The fate of about 1,400 Nepalese people who went missing in the war is still not known ©BBC

On 11 July 2014, Alan Doss* and David Tolbert* published a joint commentary drifting on their experience as to why efforts at post-conflict justice are so often a source of frustration for victims. The starting point of their concerns was the recent re-election of Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos and the hopes it brought along. The commentary builds on the failures of post-conflict justices where the mechanisms have proven inadequate and where frustrations prevent social reconciliation, giving examples of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Bosian and Herzegovina, the Nepalese truth commission and Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.

Doss and Tolbert also highlight that truth commissions were often established for the wrong reasons and were not considered as they should : they are not a way to avoid justice but to reinforce comprehensive rights-based policies and access to justice. A recent symposium, organized by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Center for Transitional Justice, concluded, truth commissions contribute most to peace by reasserting the rule of law, recognizing victims, and supporting institutional reform. But, in order to succeed, these commissions must be effective, independent, legitimate and adapted to a country’s particular circumstances.

The commentary was published on Project Syndicate.

*Alan Doss is Senior Political Adviser at the Kofi Annan Foundation and a former under-secretary-general at the United Nations.
*David Tolbert is President at the International Center for Transitional Justice and a former assistant secretary-general at the United Nations.