International experts reject amnesty for human rights abuses

Perpetrators of grave human rights violations must be pursued and punished under all circumstances, a meeting of international experts in Geneva has concluded.

The violations – political assassinations, disappearances, detention and torture – are extremely serious. But the situation is aggravated by the continuing impunity for those who order and carry out these crimes, the experts said.

The four-day “International Meeting Concerning Impunity”, which ended late Thursday, was sponsored by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de I’Homme and the ICJ under the auspices of the United Nations. Some 60 experts participated in the session including victims of the crimes, jurists, historians and legislators from every region of the world.

The meeting expressed concern at the particularly serious abuses perpetrated with impunity, whether they be war crimes, crimes against humanity or flagrant violations of human rights. Cambodia is one of the most notorious cases of crimes against humanity.

When it is not possible to have a full and complete justice – such as for the sake of peace or the transition to democracy – at least a minimum level should be upheld. No self-amnesty should be allowed, as was attempted in Argentina, Chile, Thailand and Zaire. And the rights of the victims should be respected: their right to know the truth, to receive compensation and if necessary to undergo rehabilitation. The element of rehabilitation is especially relevant to Eastern European countries.

However, the experts noted that impunity results less from the absence of laws than from insufficient mechanisms to apply the laws. As a result, impunity has turned into a universal phenomenon which has thus led to new violations.

The experts said that national solutions should not hinder full respect for international commitments concerning the duty of the state to prosecute and judge those responsible for the most serious violations of human rights.

States should ratify and abide by the treaties now in force, particularly the Geneva Conventions. In addition, international action is necessary to raise the consciousness of political leaders and the public.

The meeting urged the states, non-governmental organizations and inter-governmental organizations to:

  • Assure that the Security Council initiative which set up an impartial panel of experts to investigate the violations of the Geneva Conventions, as well as all other violations of international humanitarian law, committed in the former Yugoslavia (Resolution 780) reaches a conclusion without delay so that this experience can be a first step in establishing an International Penal Court.
  • Propose that the International Conference of Human Rights, meeting in June 1993 in Vienna, consider this issue in order to finally break the cycle of impunity.


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