Criteria for the use and operation of truth commissions

The ICJ calls on members of the Human Rights Council, collectively and individually, to ensure that the establishment of truth commissions fully complies with the internationally recognized right of victims and society to know the truth.

Ahead of the 24th session of the Human Rights Council (9 to 27 September 2013), the ICJ today submitted a written statement to the UN identifying seven minimum criteria that must be adhered to for truth commissions to serve as effective mechanisms that contribute to the respect of the right to truth. Focusing on core aspects of four of these criteria, the ICJ explained that:

1. Truth commissions must be given a mandate that reflects the relevant material, personal, temporal and territorial aspects of the conflict or situation.

2. Safeguards of independence must be in place such that the selection of commissioners is undertaken through a non-discriminatory, inclusive, transparent process involving public consultation; ensuring appointment of a representative body based on candidates’ expertise, integrity, moral authority and demonstrated commitment to human rights and the rule of law; and allowing for removal in the case of incapacity, death, conflict of interest or misconduct.

3. Explicit procedures must be in place to give effect to victims’ rights to access to effective remedies and reparation, including appropriate compensation, restitution, rehabilitation and measures of satisfaction.

4. The operation of truth commissions must be in compliance with the State’s obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish acts involving gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, excluding the possibility of granting amnesties or other measures that result in impunity for individuals responsible for serious crimes under international law.

HRC24-TruthCommissions-LegalSubmission-2013 (download full written statement in PDF)

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