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Burundi: Sec. Council Asks for Truth Commission

Burundi: Security Council Asks Annan to Begin Talks on Truth Commission, Special Court

New York, Jun 20 2005 3:00PM

With a peace deal starting to take hold in Burundi, the United Nations Security Council today asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to begin negotiations with the Government and consultations with all Burundian parties on how to implement his recommendations for a mixed truth commission and a special court to prosecute war crimes and human rights violations after decades of ethnic fighting.

The Council unanimously adopted the measure following last week's open briefing during which Ralph Zacklin, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, presented the report of a Secretariat mission to Burundi. That Mission recommended the establishment of a two-part reconciliation mechanism to clarify the historical truth regarding the conflict in that country, investigate the crimes committed, and bring those responsible to justice.

Forwarding the mission's report to the Council in March, the Secretary-General said in an accompanying letter that, with a substantial international component, the truth commission would have enhanced impartiality and credibility, while the mechanism of the "court within a court" was chosen with a view towards strengthening Burundi's judicial resources "and leaving behind a legacy of international standards of justice and trained judges, prosecutors, defence counsel and experienced court managers."

It notes that ethnic conflict since the country's 1962 independence have led to the empanelling of four previous investigative commissions, but all have been limited to the 1993 assassination of Burundi's first elected Hutu President, Melchior Ndadaye, and the massacres that followed.

"While cursory references were made in some reports…to the 1972 genocide of Hutus, a legal determination that the crime of genocide had been committed in Burundi was made only in respect of the 1993 massacres of Tutsis," it says. "All four commissions recognized that an inquiry into the historic truth without a measure of accountability would not suffice to eradicate impunity."

According to the mission, the experience gained in establishing parallel judicial and non-judicial accountability mechanisms in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste would be helpful in determining the relationship between the Truth Commission and the proposed judicial accountability mechanism. The expeditious establishment of a Truth Commission would ensure that, by the time a Special Chamber was established, the results of the Commission's investigations could be shared with the prosecutor of the Special Chamber.


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