ICTJ Lecture Asks: How Can the United States Confront Racial Injustice?

ICTJAt the end of last year, leading activists, experts, and thinkers gathered for the ninth Emilio Mignone Lecture, a discussion about whether the tools of transitional justice have a place in the US. Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, and Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, joined moderator David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) at the time, in conversation.

The lecture, titled “Reckoning with Racial Injustice in the United States,” was co-hosted by ICTJ and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University (NYU) School of Law.

Conversation began with introductions from NYU professor Meg Satterthwaite and ICTJ Executive Director Fernando Travesi. Meg Satterthwaite stressed CHRGJ’s commitment to holding the United States accountable to its human rights obligations while Fernando Travesi reflected on the increasing relevance of the tools of transitional justice in the US.

Darren Walker, Sherrilyn Ifill, and David Tolbert then opened discussion. Continue reading

Transitional Justice in Countries Emerging From Conflict: A Step Toward Sustainable Peace And Development

By David Tolbert and Roger Duthie*


Tunisian activists protest the economic reconciliation bill presented to parliament that would offer a path for corrupt Ben Ali-era officials and business people to legalize their stolen assets and secure a form of amnesty, July 15, 2016. Photo Credit: Lina Ben Mhenni

Tunisian activists protest the economic reconciliation bill presented to parliament that would offer a path for corrupt Ben Ali-era officials and business people to legalize their stolen assets and secure a form of amnesty, July 15, 2016. Photo Credit: Lina Ben Mhenni

The challenge becomes still even more daunting when a country is confronting not only conflict and governance deficits but also the legacies of massive and serious human rights violations.

“It is difficult enough for a society to emerge from poverty. But it is significantly more difficult when specific individuals and groups, often already among the poorest and most marginalised in society, have in the recent past been specifically targeted victims of atrocities and other serious violations.” 

Addressing these thorny and often intransigent issues is a critical challenge in achieving the SDGs, and transitional justice processes thus have an important role to play.

While transitional justice arose from the experiences of countries in Latin America and later South Africa, its processes have now been adopted, implemented, or followed through upon in countries around the world. The essential premise of transitional justice is that for a society to move from a condition where rights were massively violated to one where rights are generally respected, the crimes of the past and their consequences must be addressed. Through a series of measures—including but not limited to reforms, criminal justice, reparations, truth and memorialization—societies aim to build trust and ensure that such violations do not happen again. Continue reading

Sri Lanka - Expert Panel Nominated To Monitor Transitional Justice

UN Sri LankaThe Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (“TGTE”) has nominated a panel of five legal experts to monitor the design and implementation of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka, including the judicial measures to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (“Monitoring Accountability Panel” or “MAP”).

Following the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka, dated 16 September 2015, and the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,’ dated 1 October 2015, the Sri Lankan Government undertook to establish accountability mechanisms to address the crimes committed during the Sri Lankan armed conflict. These will include a special criminal court with foreign judges and prosecutors.

The MAP will provide independent monitoring, advice, and recommendations, focusing on the effectiveness of accountability measures from a victims’ perspective. It will also consider issues of fair trial and due process for suspects and accused persons. The views and recommendations of the Panel will enable victims and other stakeholders to participate more effectively in the process and thus enhance the legitimacy of the measures.

The MAP shall formulate its opinions independently - irrespective of party political considerations or the agenda of any specific group (including the TGTE) – according to the interests of fair justice, applying international standards and best practices. The initial mandate of the Panel shall run from November 2015 to December 2016.

The Members of the Monitoring Accountability Panel have been selected for their legal expertise in international criminal law and human rights, national war crimes courts, and regional criminal cases. The Panel Members (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Marie Guiraud (France)
  • Peter Haynes QC (UK)
  • Richard J Rogers (UK)
  • Heather Ryan (USA)
  • Justice Ajit Prakash Shah (India)
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC will act as a consultant to the Panel, providing additional independent advice.

Event: Pablo De Greiff to Deliver Distinguished Lecture on Transitional Justice

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)

By the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)

Date: Thursday 19 November, 17:15-19:00

Venue: KU Leuven, Faculty of Theology, Maria Theresia College, Small Aula, room 00.15

Chair: Em. Prof. Marc Bossuyt, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and University of Antwerp

Rapporteurs: Dr. Pietro Sullo (KU Leuven) & Dr. Estelle Zinsstag (KU Leuven)

17:15 Welcome Prof. Bernard Tilleman, KU Leuven

17:20 Introduction Prof. Stephan Parmentier, KU Leuven

17:30 Distinguished Lecture on Transitional Justice Prof. Pablo de Greiff, New York University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of non-repetition

18:15 Questions and Answers

18:45 Final remarks: Em. Prof. Hans Van Houtte, President Iran-United States Claims Tribunal and KU Leuven

19:00 Closing

The lecture is part of a newly established Fund on Transitional Justice at the KU Leuven with the aim to promote research and activities in this field.

The lecture is public and open to all without advance registration.

For more information, click here.

For All Kenyans to Be Equal, Kenyatta Must Move Beyond Words on Justice

by David Tolbert*

President Kenyatta (c) AP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (c) AP

President Obama’s historic visit to Kenya came at an important crossroads for the country. While much of the attention of the press was directed at Obama’s Kenyan roots, for many, Obama’s emphasis on justice for all Kenyans is what will be remembered. This is particularly true given that Obama’s visit came four months after President Kenyatta’s official apology to, and announcement of reparations for, the many victims of the 2008 post-election violence, as recommended by Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

The issue of justice, as well as endemic corruption and the stalled reform process in Kenya, will remain long after the cheers for the U.S. President have faded. President Kenyatta has, however, an opportunity in the wake of Obama’s historic visit to go beyond rhetoric and both deliver on his apology and the issues Obama has raised. Kenyatta and the Kenyan authorities should not miss this opportunity.

Kenyatta’s promising announcements require concrete steps and actions without further delay. His four-month old decision to establish a fund to provide relief to victims was followed and confirmed by the inclusion of the first tranche of resources-one billion shillings (almost $10 million U.S. dollars) in the new annual budget. Now is the time to design a comprehensive and gender-sensitive reparations program that starts with the most vulnerable victims. Opening space for the participation of victims and listening to their needs and demands must be the first step. Concurrently, an efficient and transparent administrative system and infrastructure for the program must be created. Continue reading

Book Launch : Evaluating Transitional Justice - Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone

Evaluating-Transitional-JusticeDemonstrating groundbreaking analysis, this is the first major study to evaluate the transitional justice programme in Sierra Leone. Rather than focusing on a single mechanism, the authors examine how the Special Court, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), local justice initiatives and reparations programme interacted.

Contributors to the book include the Prosecutor of the Special Court and one of the Commissioners from the TRC, alongside a range of experts on transitional justice, on international law and on Sierra Leone.

The authors consider the political and normative drivers of transitional justice and the lessons that the Sierra Leone programme stands to offer other post-conflict situations.

This edited volume makes a significant contribution to the field by demonstrating how contextual knowledge should be used alongside normative standards when evaluating transitional justice.

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC wrote the chapter called “Comparing Fairness and Due Process in the RUF and CDF cases: Consequences for the Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone”

If you wish to order the book, click here.

Challenging the Conventional: Can Truth Commissions Effectively Contribute to Peace?

Geneva AcademyDate: 19 June 2014, 12:30

Venue: The Graduate Institute, Auditorium Ivan Pictet, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, Switzerland.

Truth commissions created after armed conflicts have tended towards uniformity in their mandates

even though awareness of the complex challenges facing such commissions has become increasingly evident. Despite increased awareness of these issues, several truth-seeking processes have gone through near-paralyzing crises.

In the light of experience and practice, this conference re-examines assumptions about how truth commissions are established and what makes them operate effectively.


> Päivi Kairamo, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, Geneva


> Ruth McCoy, Executive Director, Kofi Annan Foundation

> David Tolbert, President, International Center for Transitional Justice


> Frank Halderman, Professor of Law, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

If you wish to register, click here.

Summer School: Transitional Justice, Conflict and Human Rights

Geneva Academy Summer School 2014Date: 7-11 July 2014

Location: Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights,
Villa Moynier - Rue de Lausanne 120B - CP 67 - 1211 Geneva 21 - Switzerland

The Antonio Cassese Initiative for Justice, Peace and Humanity and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights open their application process for the Summer School 2014.

The 2014 Antonio Cassese Summer School offers an intensive course on transitional justice principles and processes, with a special focus on post-conflict situations.

Based on both scholarly and practitioner expertise across a range of areas (including human rights, international criminal law, security reform, legal philosophy, gender politics) and country situations, the programme combines a general course on

transitional justice with complementary topic-specific lectures. The general course will be delivered by leading transitional justice scholar Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Professor of law at the University of California.

For further information about the Summer School please click here.