DE GREIFF: “MEDIDAS DE JUSTICIA TRANSICIONAL SON CLAVES PARA REFORZAR LA CREDIBILIDAD DEL ESTADO”
Ginebra, 14 de septiembre.- El Relator Especial de la ONU sobre verdad, justicia, reparación y garantías de no repetición, Pablo de Greiff, afirmó en rueda de prensa tras la culminación del debate sobre su informe al Consejo de Derechos Humanos, que “uno de los objetivos de establecer medidas de justicia transicional tiene que ver con afianzar la fiabilidad y la confianza de las instituciones del Estado” en contextos donde han ocurrido masivas violaciones a los derechos humanos.
“Todos los intentos por conseguir justicia, reparar a las víctimas, esclarecer lo que ocurrió y garantizar que no va a pasar de nuevo tienen como uno de sus objetivos enviar una señal acerca de que el Estado toma en serio el derecho de las víctimas y por lo tanto, darle credibilidad, fiabilidad, a las instituciones mismas… pero ese es un fin que las medidas pueden lograr sólo si son implementadas de cierta forma” aclaró el experto colombiano.
Como ejemplo, señaló que “un programa de reparaciones no puede ser concebido simplemente como un programa de indemnización… para que algo cuente como tal tiene estar acompañado por la voluntad de reconocer la responsabilidad por las violaciones… si al mismo tiempo está acompañado por todo tipo de trabas y limitaciones a la aceptación de la responsabilidad, obviamente la contribución que pueda hacer a la fiabilidad de las instituciones del Estado queda automáticamente socavada.”
Para de Greiff, quien fue nombrado por el Consejo de Derechos Humanos como el primer relator especial sobre este tema en 2011, las medidas de justicia transicional -verdad, justicia, reparación y garantías de no repetición-, “no pueden ser concebidas como si fueran parte de un menú del cual uno escoge lo que le gusta y lo que no lo deja por fuera… son medidas que se refuerzan unas a otras… el intento de hacer negociaciones entre las cuatro para asumir una y dejar otras de lado, de nuevo, implica que su contribución al fortalecimiento del Estado queda disminuida.
El experto de la ONU también observa un vínculo importante entre la justicia transicional y las políticas de desarrollo de un país. “En muchos contextos donde se implementan medidas de este tipo hay defícit económicos y sociales severos y por lo tanto surge la pregunta legítima acerca de si en vez de un programa de reparaciones sería mejor implementar uno de desarrollo.”
Para el relator, el desarrollo de un país ya no es simplemente concebido en términos del crecimiento de la infraestructura económica, sino también de la vigencia de cierto tipo de derechos, de la habilidad que los ciudadanos tienen para hacer reclamos; “las medidas de justicia transicional pueden jugar un papel importante en el proceso de darle vigencia a los conceptos de ciudadanía y de derechohabiente… todo esto es asunto de desarrollo y estas medidas se suponen que dan un estímulo y son una demostración de la vigencia de un Estado de Derecho… ese tiene que ser uno de los objetivos perseguidos desde la visión de desarrollo”.
El experto también se refirió al papel de las víctimas en el diseño y la implementación de los programas de justicia transicional. “Su participación es absolutamente fundamental, en parte porque son ellas las que pagaron el precio de las violaciones del pasado, en parte porque la concepción de justicia está atada a otro tipo de expectativas, justificadas, que todos tenemos acerca de cómo proceder, y quienes tuvieron esas expectativas sistemáticamente defraudadas, por supuesto tienen una voz especial en este proceso.”
Sin embargo aclara que “en tanto lo que está en juego es el establecimiento de derechos fundamentales, les atañe a todos… no está bien que éste se convierta sólo en un tema de interés de las víctimas y que la única voz que cuente sea la de este grupo en particular… aquí hay un interés social fundamental.”
In China, big companies are learning the business of human rights
September 17, 2014
IBM and Ai Weiwei, L’Oreal and Liu Xiaobo, Daimler and the Dalai Lama. In many senses these aren’t likely pairings, but suddenly it seems major international corporations and critics of the Chinese government have more in common than previously thought.
In recent weeks, the American Chamber of Commerce, the European Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S.-China Business Council have publicly expressed frustrations over the Chinese government’s targeting of particular firms, denying access to legal counsel, a lack of due process and transparency, and the seemingly arbitrary imposition of fines and other punishments. The companies suggest that laws in China are being misused or distorted in ways that burden them more than domestic firms, and that they have been subject to “intimidation tactics” and denied “full hearings.”
In effect, the government’s tactics against human rights activists have now migrated to the private sector. The government’s propensity for punishing voices it finds problematic is hardly news to human rights activists in China – they have long paid a high price to promote justice, transparency, and accountability. In recent weeks, Gao Zhisheng, long known for his legal activism, was finally released from another Kafka-esque prison stint, and he appears to have been badly tortured and remains under constant surveillance.
Dozens of members of the New Citizens Movement, a group dedicated to promoting civic values, have been detained and nine were given harsh prison terms on vague charges of disturbing public order. Cao Shunli died in prison after being baselessly detained for her efforts to engage a United Nations human rights mechanism – the human rights community’s closest analogue to the World Trade Organization. Guo Feixiong was tried this week and will likely be given a harsh sentence for peacefully promoting the idea that officials should publicly disclose their assets.
Often international companies and human rights defenders faced similar problems. A number of journalists, including Gao Yu and Shi Tao, were prosecuted on the grounds of violating China’s notoriously opaque state secrets laws. Fears of violating those same laws have led to penalties against the Chinese subsidiaries of major international accounting firms, who cite them in refusing to open their books to audits.
Firms ranging from Microsoft to Mercedes – like the Chinese legal aid organizations Gongmeng and Yirenping – have been raided on questionable grounds, and the January, 2013, blocking of GitHub, a major Web-based hosting service, affected wholly commercial coders and on-line government critics alike. A well-known lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, and Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator working for GlaxoSmithKline, both face vague charges of “illegally obtaining personal information.”
While foreign investment has surged into China, the business community has for the most part remained publicly bullish, even while grumbling privately about corruption and the difficulties of doing business. They didn’t see the parallels between the treatment of activists and their own treatment and, in some circumstances, they criticized activists when they called for greater freedoms. In other instances, companies such as Apple and Foxconn have themselves been accused by watchdog groups of labor abuses in China.
It’s hard to deny the common interests of both communities. An independent, professional legal system in China should be able to both enforce contracts and protect peaceful speech; a truly free press can report accurate, timely information to hold diverse interests accountable. The ability of people to share their ideas freely is essential for a competitive business environment and a less abusive, opaque political system.
As some of the world’s biggest, best-known firms – with far greater leverage against the government than individual activists – begin to voice their concerns, there are opportunities for change. Companies should adopt sound business practices in China, including on human rights, and report on them regularly. Firms should reach out to human rights groups to compare government tactics and to understand common problems with the Chinese legal system so they can push for the types of reforms that would benefit both groups.
When problems that affect companies and activists alike arise, companies should speak up about the negative consequences for both communities. These activists continue to do the toughest work pressing for long-term change, and in that sense supporting them is a wise investment for companies.
Simply speaking publicly about legal abuses against someone being persecuted can have an impact on how laws are applied and for people at risk. If the roughly 3,000 businesses represented by these American and European associations each spoke up about such cases – and there are plenty to go around – it might open up an important new front to curtail the problematic practices that hurt business and human rights.
Europe: National Courts Extend Reach of Justice
(The Hague) – Governments wanting to limit impunity for the most serious international crimes should look to the examples of three European countries showing leadership in this area, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Specialized war crimes units composed of police, prosecutors, and immigration officials have the means to bring those responsible for atrocity crimes worldwide to justice and to ensure that war criminals don’t find safe haven when they flee their own country.
The 109-page report, “The Long Arm of Justice: Lessons from Specialized War Crimes Units in France, Germany, and the Netherlands,” examines the inner workings of war crimes units in the three countries and highlights key lessons learned. Since justice is often elusive where the crimes occurred, national courts in these three states and elsewhere are more frequently applying the longstanding principle of “universal jurisdiction” to prosecute suspects accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, regardless of where the crimes were committed and the victim’s and accused’s nationality.
“Universal jurisdiction is an essential safety net for victims who have nowhere else to turn,” said Leslie Haskell, international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Specialized war crimes units are the driving force of these cases – sending a powerful message to human rights abusers that impunity for crimes along with a ticket to a comfortable exile are becoming relics of the past.”
National courts in countries where crimes have been committed may be unable to provide justice due to the destruction of judicial infrastructure, inadequate laws, and resources. States may also be unwilling to pursue justice where senior government officials are implicated in the crimes. International criminal tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, may be able to provide redress but cannot meet the full demands of justice due to restrictions on their jurisdiction and limited resources. Universal jurisdiction, powered by these specialized units, has therefore become an important backstop to bring to justice those responsible for grave international crimes.
Based on interviews with prosecutors, investigative judges, police investigators, immigration officials, defense and victims’ lawyers, government officials, human rights activists, academics, and trial observers in each of the three countries, the report assesses the war crimes units’ successes and continued challenges. The Netherlands has the most longstanding and robust war crimes unit, which can serve as a good model for governments considering the creation of similar entities, Human Rights Watch said. The report also discusses trials in each country, including the recent completion of first trials by war crimes units in France and Germany.
France has the largest number of cases pending, with more than two dozen targeting Rwandan nationals accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide. It also has ground-breaking investigations into two French companies that sold surveillance equipment to Libya and Syria that was allegedly used to monitor government opponents, leading to their arrest and torture.
Investigating grave international crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction is particularly challenging because the crimes occurred abroad and often on a large-scale many years before. The evidence may be scattered across various countries. Two of the most significant achievements of specialized war crimes units have been innovative investigative techniques and the ability of police and prosecutors to carry out investigations abroad, including in countries where crimes have been committed.
“Investigating and prosecuting génocidaires and war criminals from faraway countries can be daunting for police and prosecutors used to handling domestic crimes,” Haskell said. “Concentrating expertise in specialized war crimes units that bring together the necessary staff, experience, and resources is key to overcoming these challenges.”
Police and prosecutors in the war crimes units have learned to address the many practical difficulties of these cases, including finding credible victims and witnesses, using interpreters and other experts, and securing cooperation from foreign judicial authorities. Human Rights Watch found that war crimes unit staff have improved their investigative techniques through trial and error, gaining valuable experience that can be put to use in future cases.
Human Rights Watch also identified areas in which improvements are needed, including avoiding unnecessary reliance on foreign authorities during investigations abroad and strengthening protection for victims and witnesses. Since documentary and forensic evidence is often hard to find, much of the evidence in these cases is testimony from victims and witnesses, many of whom still live in the country where the crimes occurred. They and their families often face serious risks by cooperating with judicial processes. Police and prosecutors in the three countries said that witness protection has been a major concern in nearly all cases.
In Germany, prosecutors have initiated broad preliminary investigations into crimes in several conflict countries, including Syria, even without suspects in their sights. These “structural investigations” are aimed at gathering information about crimes and identifying potential victims and witnesses in Germany who may be useful for future accountability efforts in the country or elsewhere. Since late 2013, the German immigration service has asked Syrian asylum seekers to complete a form stating whether they have witnessed any war crimes and whether they can name those responsible.
“Specialized war crimes units have learned that it’s easier to collect evidence soon after crimes have been committed than years later, and Syria provides the perfect opportunity to put this lesson into practice,” Haskell said. “National authorities should authorize gathering all evidence of grave international crimes available in their country, including from refugees, so that it may be used later for criminal prosecutions.”
Political will is a necessary prerequisite to establishing war crimes units. It is also essential to their success given the political sensitivities and diplomatic tensions often raised by these cases, especially if high-ranking foreign officials are the subject of investigations.
In the Netherlands, strong political support for fighting impunity has led to the creation of a special unit within the immigration service to screen asylum seekers arriving in the country to ensure that those suspected of committing grave international crimes abroad do not obtain refugee status in the country. If immigration officials suspect a person has committed a grave international crime, they alert prosecutors and share relevant information so that criminal investigations can be considered.
Cooperation between these units is another key element of the war crimes units’ success. The European Union has created a network that brings together representatives from most of the EU’s 28 member states and a few observer states twice a year to discuss legal and practical issues around their work and to share information on specific cases. The initiative has had impressive results and has inspired a similar effort by the African Union and other cooperation mechanisms within the EU.
“The EU Genocide Network has significantly strengthened international cooperation and could do even more if Brussels-based institutions provide stronger political backing and additional resources,” Haskell said. “EU countries have the potential to be at forefront of universal jurisdiction and to lead efforts to ensure accountability for appalling crimes being committed in Syria, the Central African Republic, and other conflict zones.”