UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice and Reparation: All States should apply international standards for transitional justice

UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice and Reparation: All States should apply international standards for transitional justice

The ICJ welcomes the last report of Mr. Fabian Salvioli as he ends his 6-year tenure as the UN Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. The report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 14 September 2023, compiles and analyses existing international standards under the five pillars of transitional justice: truth, justice, reparation, memorialization and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Symposium on civil liability for business-related human rights abuses

Symposium on civil liability for business-related human rights abuses

As part of its work to raise awareness and deepen the understanding about the importance of civil liability for the objective of improved accountability of business-related human rights abuses and access to justice and reparations, the ICJ is partnering with the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights to organize an online symposium.

The symposium is open to practitioners, policymakers, civil society, academics, and students working on these subjects. It will feature two panel discussions on Zoom on 7 June 2021 and 14 June 2021.

Past decades saw an emerging trend towards reliance on civil liability claims to address business-related human rights abuses (e.g., Lungowe v Vedanta and Okpabi v Shell in the UK; Choc v Hudbay Minerals and Araya v Nevsun in Canada; Akpan v Shell in the Netherlands; Jabir and others v KiK Textilien in Germany).

The ICJ and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights’ symposium will discuss the wider implications of recent jurisprudence and identify the remaining gaps in the law.

The discussions will focus on a range of issues, including 1) the contours of rules on the duty of care; 2) prospects for supply chain liability under the law of civil remedies; 3) parent company liability and complicity under civil law; 4) prospects of access to justice.

Please follow the links below to register separately for each panel. The symposium will also involve a series of blogs by experts in the field to be published by Opinio Juris starting 21 June 2021.

Panel 1 ‘Duty of care and parent company liability’

Day and time: 7 June 2021 at 14.00 – 16.00 BST

To register for Panel 1, please click here

Panel 2 ‘Access to justice and civil claims for business-related human rights abuses: Challenges and opportunities’

Day and time: 14 June 2021 at 14.00 – 16.00 BST

To register for Panel 2, please click here

This symposium is co-convened by Dr Carlos Lopez and Dr Ekaterina Aristova. Please get in touch with the organisers if you have any questions. The symposium is part of the project on civil liability for human rights violations led by the Bonavero Institute and funded by the Oak Foundation.


Lebanon: establish a special, independent mechanism to probe Beirut blast

Lebanon: establish a special, independent mechanism to probe Beirut blast

The ICJ deplores the explosion at Beirut’s port district on 4 August 2020 that caused a large number of fatalities and casualties and calls for the prompt establishment of a special, independent, impartial and transparent mechanism to investigate the devastating blast with a view to ensuring accountability and redress for the victims.

 The shockwave from the blast rippled across Lebanon’s capital, killing at least 157 people and injuring some 5,000 others, according to latest figures. The death toll is expected to rise as emergency services continue to search for dozens of missing persons under the debris of destroyed buildings. The Governor of Beirut estimates that the widespread destruction caused by the explosion has left some 300,000 people without shelter after their homes were rendered uninhabitable.

“Tuesday’s explosion has immeasurably compounded the suffering of a society already reeling from political unrest, prolonged economic mismanagement and a surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Given the Lebanese legal system’s politicization and lack of independence and accountability, Lebanon should work with the United Nations to establish a special, independent mechanism to carry out the investigation in line with international law and standards with a view to establishing the facts, making recommendations for appropriate accountability measures, including criminal prosecutions if warranted, and for preventing such a catastrophe from happening again.”

According to international human rights law and standards, and specifically the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death, the probe into the explosion must be prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent.

While the Lebanese authorities have pledged to conduct a “transparent investigation” into the blast and mete out “severe punishment” to those responsible, given the Lebanese justice system’s systemic flaws and shortcomings, the persistent allegations of corruption, and a long-entrenched culture of impunity and de facto immunity of the country’s political leadership, the ICJ considers that the Lebanese authorities would not be capable of conducting such an investigation in a manner compatible with international human rights law and standards. The organization has extensively documented how improper executive influence and interference have continued to undermine the independence of the Office of the Public Prosecutor and of Lebanon’s judiciary. As a result, allegations of political corruption, chronic mismanagement and systematic abuses of power have not been investigated and have therefore gone unpunished over the years, eventually fuelling the 2019-2020 popular uprising against the government and the political system.

The ICJ has called on the Lebanese authorities to introduce and implement extensive legal and policy reforms to strengthen judicial independence and accountability in the country. None of these reforms have materialized.

“The independent mechanism should have a mandate to establish the truth, provide adequate, effective and prompt redress and reparation to the victims for the harm suffered, including through the award of compensation, and by ensuring that those responsible are held to account,” Benarbia concluded.

The ICJ further calls on the international community to support the establishment of such a mechanism.

The international community should also provide humanitarian aid and facilitate its delivery within the country ensuring that it reaches first the most in need and vulnerable among the population as they struggle to access healthcare, shelter, food and water.

The Lebanese authorities must be transparent and ensure the right of each individual to receive the necessary information on the potential health risks in the aftermath of the explosion, including as result of exposure to toxic fumes. Consistent with their obligations under international human rights law and standards to guarantee the rights to life and health, the Lebanese authorities must also take all necessary measures to prevent people from suffering additional harm.

Thus far, a number of Beirut port officials have been placed under house arrest pending the Lebanese authorities’ investigation into the explosion. With respect to this, the ICJ calls on the authorities to ensure due process and fair trial guarantees to persons deprived of their liberty who may eventually be charged with criminal offences.

 Background information

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab have linked the blast to a stockpile of approximately 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in a waterfront warehouse at Beirut’s Port district for at least six years. The circumstances surrounding the ignition of the highly combustible material, however, remain unclear.

Furthermore, reports indicate that customs officials overseeing the ammonium nitrate’s storage at the warehouse contacted Lebanese officials, including members of the judiciary, on multiple occasions to alert them to the danger posed by such storage and to seek guidance on how to deal with it, but their repeated calls were ignored.

The explosion strikes Lebanon as it grapples with multiple crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and against the backdrop of an ongoing popular protest movement against rampant corruption, dysfunctional institutions and sectarian power structures, in addition to an acute State-induced socio-economic crisis that has eroded living standards and left many destitute and literally hunger-stricken. Successive governments and legislative authorities have consistently failed to effectively address these hardships and institute comprehensive and necessary reforms.


Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41 22 979 38 17; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org.


English (PDF)
Arabic (PDF)

Sri Lanka: operationalize the Office on Missing Persons and establish transitional justice mechanisms without further delay

Sri Lanka: operationalize the Office on Missing Persons and establish transitional justice mechanisms without further delay

On the one-year anniversary of the enactment of a law establishing the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the ICJ called on the Sri Lankan Government to swiftly operationalize the Office.

The ICJ also urged the Government to set up other transitional justice mechanisms it committed to in the context of a key 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution, without further delay.

On 23 August 2016, the OMP Act received the Speaker’s assent and became law. Even after one year, however, the Office has not been operationalized.

Organizations have reportedly made the claim that the President has unconstitutionally allocated the subject of the OMP to himself.

The Government’s failure to follow Constitutional provisions when setting up an important office such as the OMP, which has a permanent mandate to search and trace the whereabouts of “missing persons”, leaves the office exposed to future uncertainty- a move that affected communities can ill afford after a long and unjustifiable delay in setting up the OMP, the ICJ notes.

“The delay has already resulted in affected communities losing hope and faith in the Government’s transitional justice agenda, as is evident by continuous protests in the North,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia and Pacific Director.

The ICJ noted that in September 2015, the Government of Sri Lanka made a promise to the people of Sri Lanka and the international community, to initiate a process of reconciliation which “involves addressing the broad areas of truth seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence and for non-recurrence to become truly meaningful, the necessity of reaching a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people”.

In the context of UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1, adopted 1 October 2015, the Government of Sri Lanka made a commitment to establish four main transitional justice mechanisms, a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence, an Office on Missing Persons, an Office for Reparations and a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel, amongst numerous other reforms.

Almost two years since these promises were made, only one mechanism, the OMP, has been established by law.

In March 2017, the need for implementation of these commitments related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights were reaffirmed, and a comprehensive report, followed by a discussion on the implementation of Council resolution 30/1, is due at the Human Rights Council’s 40th session in March 2019.

The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF), a panel of 11 independent eminent persons appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, publicly released its final report on 3 January 2017.

The report already outlines structures and recommendations for the promised mechanisms based on country-wide consultations.

The ICJ called on the government of Sri Lanka to implement Task Force recommendations to deliver justice for victims of human rights abuse.

“The Government of Sri Lanka should make public its plans and drafts for the proposed mechanisms based on consultations, as well as a timeline for when it hopes to establish them, in order to stop further erosion of faith by the affected communities,” Rawski added.

In February, President Sirisena affirmed that he will prioritize Constitutional Reform over Transitional Justice-related reforms adding that there is a need to foster support for Transitional Justice amongst all communities.

The linkages between the two reform processes are many and one process cannot be seen independent of the other.

There is, however, very little progress on either front or a broad-based campaign to garner support for transitional justice, the ICJ said.

Two years into its tenure, the Government of Sri Lanka must take stock of its commitments and forge ahead with its reform agenda before the increasingly negative perception of the Government compromises the change it pledged and incumbency fatigue sets in, the ICJ added.

“The Government must act, and act now, to stop the disconnect between the hopes of affected communities and the lack of substantive progress of the transitional justice agenda from growing further, and deliver on its commitments before the opportunity for progressive reform is lost for good,” Rawski added.


Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), e: frederick.rawski(a)icj.org

Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, ICJ’s National Legal Advisor (Sri Lanka), e: thyagi.ruwanpathirana(a)icj.org

Atrocity conviction of Chad’s ex-dictator Hissène Habré upheld

Atrocity conviction of Chad’s ex-dictator Hissène Habré upheld

An appeals court’s confirmation of the conviction for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture of Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, is a vindication of the decades-long campaign waged by his survivors, the ICJ and two human rights groups supporting the victims said today.

Habré’s May 2016 conviction was upheld by the appeals chamber of the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system on April 27, 2017.

The appeals court also confirmed the life sentence handed down by the trial court and ordered Habré to pay over 82 billion CFA francs (approximately 123 million euros) to his victims.

“This is a crowning victory for Hissène Habré’s victims, who for 26 years never gave up fighting to bring him to justice” said the ICJ Commissioner Reed Brody, who has worked with the survivors since 1999.

“His life sentence is a wake-up call to tyrants everywhere that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims,” he added.

The appeals court also upheld the decision to order compensation to Habré’s victims and said that a trust fund created by the African Union (AU) should be tasked with searching for and recovering Habré’s assets.

A summary of the decision was read out in court by chief judge Ougadeye Wafi, a judge of the Supreme court of Mail, who shared the bench with two senior Senegalese judges.

Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, was not in court for the judgment. He did not recognize the chambers’ authority and sat silently throughout the trial.

His court-appointed lawyers filed the appeal on his behalf.

Hissène Habré fled to Senegal in 1990 after being deposed by the current Chadian president, Idriss Déby Itno. Although Habré was first arrested and indicted in Senegal in 2000, it took a long campaign by his victims before the Extraordinary African Chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the AU in February 2013 to prosecute crimes under international law committed in Chad during Habré’s rule.

“I have been fighting for this day since I walked out of prison more than 26 years ago,” said Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died of mistreatment and disease in Habré’s prisons, and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH). “Today I finally feel free.”

Habré’s trial was the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights atrocities.

“At long last, after so many years of fighting, so many years of setbacks, we have achieved what we set out to do,” said Jacqueline Moudeina of Chad, the victims’ chief lawyer and president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (ATPDH).

The appeals court said that while it accepted the credibility of the witness Khadidja Hassan Zidane who stated that Habré personally raped her on four occasions, it could not convict Habré of personal having committed rape because the charge was not included in the individual indictment.

In the ruling upheld today, the trial court awarded each survivor of rape and sexual slavery 20 million CFA francs (approximately 30,489 Euros, US$32,702), each survivor of torture and arbitrary detention and each mistreated former prisoner of war 15 million CFA francs (22,867 Euros, US$24,526), and family members of victims 10 million CFA francs (15,244 Euros, US$16,350).

It said that 7,396 victims were eligible for reparations and that 3,489 others who had not produced sufficient proof could apply to the trust fund.

The court has already frozen some assets belonging to Habré including a house in an upscale Dakar neighborhood believed to be worth about 680,000 Euros as well as some small bank accounts. Habré is thought to have much more extensive assets.

“Money will never bring back my friends,” said Clément Abaïfouta, who as a prisoner was forced to bury other detainees in mass graves, and is now president of the AVRCHH. “But money is important to heal the wounds, to take victims out of poverty, and to show that we have rights that must be recognized.”

“With this verdict, we can now try to locate and seize Habré’s assets and make sure the victims are compensated,” said lawyer Moudeina.


Reed Brody, ICJ Commissioner, t: +221-76-618-79-10 (in Dakar) or +1-917-388-6745 ; e: reedbrody(a)gmail.com

The full text of the press release can be downloaded in English and in French below:

Chad-HisseneHabre Conviction Upheld-News-Press Releases-2017-ENG (English, PDF)

Tchad-Hissene Habre peine confirmee-News-Press Releases-2017-FRE (Français, PDF)

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