Global Policy Forum

Annan Recommends Dual Inquiries on Genocide

Integrated Regional Information Networks
March 29, 2005

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended the establishment of two panels - a non-judicial "truth commission" and a special chamber within Burundi's court system - to bring to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the country since its independence from Belgium in 1962. In a letter to the UN Security Council, dated 11 March but made available to the media on Monday, Annan said his proposal would avoid having two identical commissions, but would include "a mixed composition of both national and international components".

His letter accompanied a report compiled by an assessment mission that visited Burundi in May 2004. Annan said the mission's report also took into account facts and events that post-dated its visit, "to the extent of their relevancy to its final recommendations". He added, "Given a mandate to consider the advisability and feasibility of establishing an international judicial commission of inquiry for Burundi, the mission is convinced of the necessity of establishing a commission, though not necessarily in the shape and form requested by the government of Burundi."

Burundi had previously requested a single, judicial, truth commission. Annan said the recommendation was nonetheless based on the recently enacted law that provided for a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Burundi, as specified in the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. Burundi's transitional government was set up under the Arusha agreement of 28 August 2000.

He said that the mission took into account not only the Arusha agreement, but also the needs and expectations of Burundians, the capacity of the Burundian administration of justice, established UN principles and practice, and the practicality and feasibility of any proposed mechanism. A truth commission with a substantial international component would enhance its objectivity, impartiality and credibility, Annan said. A sense of national ownership would be provided by the participation of Burundians in the process of clarifying historical truth and pursuing national reconciliation.

In recommending a special chamber within Burundi's legal system, Annan said that the mission opted for a "court within a court". This would leave behind a legacy of international standards of justice, as well as trained judges, prosecutors, defence counsel and experienced court managers. He said three UN commissions of inquiry had been established in the last decade at the request of the Burundian government, to investigate the assassination of Burundian President Melchior Ndadaye in 1993 and the massacres that followed.

"No legal or practical effect, however, has been given to any of their recommendations, and no action has been taken by any of the United Nations organs," Annan said. "The mission concludes that the United Nations can no longer engage in establishing commissions of inquiry and disregard their recommendations without seriously undermining the credibility of the organisation in promoting justice and the rule of law. I fully concur with this conclusion," he added.

If the Council approved the report and instructed him to negotiate its practical implementation, Annan said he would initiate negotiations with the Burundian government. National actors and members of civil society would be consulted to ensure that the views and wishes of the people of Burundi were taken into account, he added.




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