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Justice essential UN efforts in wartorn countries

Justice essential to UN efforts in war-torn countries, Annan tells Security Council

Saying there were no easy answers to the contradictory pressures of justice and reconciliation in restoring stability to conflict-shattered countries, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for more resources and greater effort as the world body seeks to enhance the rule of law in its peace operations.

“There cannot be real peace without justice,” Mr. Annan told a ministerial meeting of the Security Council on the role of the United Nations in justice and the rule of law, stressing that people lose faith in the peace process in the face of impunity for past grievous crimes and without a restoration of justice in rebuilding shattered societies.

He said Liberia – where the UN will embark on a new mission to bring peace to a country that has been devastated by 12 years of civil war, murder, rape and excesses by both adult and child soldiers – would be a test case for the world body in this area.

“Ending the climate of impunity is vital to restoring public confidence and building international support to implement peace agreements,” he said, but noted that there was also a need to achieve national reconciliation.

“There should be no amnesties for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of international human rights,” he added. “Yet the relentless pursuit of justice may sometimes be an obstacle to peace. If we insist at all times and in all places on punishing those who are guilty of extreme violations of human rights, it may be difficult or even impossible to stop the bloodshed and save innocent civilians. If we always and everywhere insist on uncompromising standards of justice, a delicate peace may not survive.”

Mr. Annan mentioned various mechanisms, including the establishment of truth and reconciliation commissions, to respond to the dilemma.

But he also said: “We have learned that the rule of law delayed is lasting peace denied, and that justice is the handmaiden of true peace. Implementing these lessons is a tremendous challenge.”

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