Presented by Märt Volmer, Undersecretary for European Affairs
Estonia thanks the Kingdom of Belgium for organising today’s open debate and the briefers for their interventions.
If we intend transitional justice mechanisms to truly heal grief-stricken communities, the measures taken need to be comprehensive, coherent, locally owned and based on international law.
Based on our own national experience, in order overcome the harmful legacy of mass atrocity crimes, it is vital to build strong institutions capable of preserving rule of law and ensuring human rights for all.
After regaining independence in 1991, Estonia re-established rule of law and reinstated democratic institutions in conformity with international legal standards and obligations, at the same time bringing to justice perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the occupation by the repressive regime.
Estonia has been active in sharing the experience and lessons learned, including by providing capacity-building in the Eastern Partnership region of Europe and programmes relating to good governance, in particular e-governance, in all regions of the world.
Estonia has further assisted women to gain livelihood, and to provide children with education opportunities in various conflict and post-conflict situations through development cooperation initiatives. Today, we can hardly imagine a community being whole without the empowerment and full and equal pariticipation of women in all stages of rebuilding of societies. We also have to ensure the engagement of children in justice and reconciliation processes.
If we want communities to be peaceful and resilient, it is critical to acknowledge past violations and to have redress to victims.
No one can remain above the law. If authorities are unable or unwilling to fulfill their primary responsibility of bringing perpetrators of the most serious crimes to justice, and there is no other international accountability mechanism set up, it is the International Criminal Court, as a complimentary judicial institution, that assists states in bringing about justice for past crimes. Estonia welcomes recent reports of Sudan’s commitment to cooperate with the ICC and readiness to hand over all five suspects to the ICC to face charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. This would constitute a significant step in the pursuit of justice since the UN Security Council’s first ever referral of a situation to the ICC in March 15 years ago.
As the road to justice may be long and winding, it is also vital to collect and preserve evidence of atrocities already during conflicts and ensure their usefulness for possible future justice mechanisms. In this regard, Estonia strongly supports international independent fact-finding and evidence preservation efforts, including in Syria and Myanmar.
We acknowledge the role of the United Nations in enhancing the sustainability of transitional justice processes. In a post-conflict situation, the UN should be able to provide a smooth transition from humanitarian relief to reconciliation (from OCHA to the UNDP). We further welcome consolidation of accountability efforts with regard to country situations, so that all transitional justice mechanisms would be able to work cohesively. At the same time, all UN activities need to systematically incorporate rule of law aspects. We appreciate the work of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) as the lead entity of the UN on transitional justice issues.
I would like to conclude by calling on transitional justice measures to be better examined and utilised also in the area of prevention of mass atrocity crimes. We underline the role of the Security Council in upholding and promoting transitional justice by responding decisively to early warning signs of grave violations of international law, including that of humanitarian law and human rights law, in order to prevent and mitigate human suffering. We look forward to a more consistent UN record on concrete action in the field of atrocity prevention.