Nothing threatens the future as much as the debt of the past | Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

15 Jul 2013

police being trained The Police Training and Development Unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) conducting a two-week training programme in criminal investigation at General Kaahiye Police Academy. (Credit: Tobin Jones/UN Photo)

The "complementarity" principle embedded in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court gives national criminal justice systems primacy in prosecuting serious international crimes. Whenever possible, international crimes should be tried by domestic courts, since this strengthens national ownership, legitimacy and confidence in the justice system.

Transitional  justice is not a special kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression.

I spoke recently at UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations about complementarity and the challenge for development actors (PDF) to effectively embed these efforts within transitional justice processes, rule of law assistance and the broader development framework. Holding perpetrators to account for serious violations is a complex and sensitive issue, which must be driven by the national society to be successful.

Working with partners such as Denmark, South Africa and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, we can build and capitalize on the solid policy and knowledge base already developed.

For example, UNDP and other UN agencies supported regional consultations in 2011 and 2012 in the Arab States, bringing together Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen to help national actors define priorities for transitional justice initiatives and ensure they are firmly rooted in national processes.

Also with our support, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, FYR of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Turkey and Ukraine exchanged good practices on victim support and protection, including in international crimes and complex criminal cases.

More recently, UNDP took stock of its long-standing experience on transitional justice programming  in the Latin America, analyzing country experiences in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, for other countries to benefit from through South-South cooperation.

These experiences illustrate the relevance of regional context, policy approaches and knowledge sharing, all essential to ensure the most tailored assistance to our Member States worldwide. Because transitional justice does matter, as nothing threatens the future as much as the debt of the past.

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