via Transitional Justice in Zimbabwe Report | SW Radio Africa 11 July 2014
From 9 to 11 October 2013, over 64 organisations representing a cross-section of transitional justice stakeholders, converged in Johannesburg for a conference to interrogate the question of how to make Zimbabwe’s National Peace and Reconciliation Commission competent and effective. The purpose of this mail is to present the Conference Report that sums up the conference outcomes; recommendations and next steps in the transitional justice discourse in Zimbabwe.
Running under the theme; Truth Commissions: the Best Practices, the conference benefitted from the experiences of commissioners from Kenya, South Africa and Sierra Leone as well as a distinguished scholar and witness from the commission in Guatemala and outstanding academics from Germany, Northern Ireland and South Africa.
The experiences of the experts informed deliberations on what other societies have gone through in trying to deal with a legacy of gross human rights violations. A society with a violent past has the right to seek the truth. This right belongs to individuals, as well as the society as a whole. At the international level, the right to truth has been recognised as a legal basis to establish truth commissions or other similar mechanisms, due to the need of the victims, their relatives and general society to know the truth about what has taken place. A commission is able facilitate the reconciliation process; contribute to the fight against impunity as well as reinstall and strengthen democracy and the rule of law. It provides a public platform for victims to address the nation directly with their personal stories and can facilitate public debate about how to come to terms with the past.
Zimbabwe’s new Constitution provides this platform through the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission. The participants at the conference managed to contribute some important resolutions to ensure the establishment of a credible and effective commission for Zimbabwe and to set out the minimum expectations of stakeholders regarding truth, post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.
The conference also benefitted from the keynote address by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Professor Pablo de Greiff in which he emphasised the role of civil society in any truth recovery process since commissions do not start from scratch.
This report summarises the deliberations and outcomes of the conference. The outcomes of the conference have since started shaping the transitional justice discourse with some of the recommendations already in motion, like the setting up of the National Transitional Justice Working Group.
In presenting this report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) emphasises the fact that the national healing and reconciliation process should not be an elite process, and hopes to build national interest in ensuring that Zimbabwe’s National Peace and Reconciliation Commission is competent and effective. The Forum continues to invite policy-makers to ensure that the said processes have the needs of survivors at heart. Civil society has since petitioned the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders to reconsider the procedure that is currently running as it alienates the public and ignores the key benchmarks of creating an effective commission such as mechanisms for the protection of survivors in their interaction with the commission. This report further emphasises the need for broad consultation and involvement to ensure that the outcomes envisioned in the constitution are achieved.