May 30, 2012
The Victims' Rights Working Group co-organised a ‘Forum for victims of systemic crimes in Africa’, organised in collaboration with the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).1
The Forum took place on 13-14 April 2012 in Banjul, in the margins of the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). It brought together lawyers, experts and activists from the different sub-regions of Africa, including Algeria, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
The participants shared common challenges faced by victims in their diverse jurisdictions. These include lack of meaningful reparation; prolonged proceedings; discrepancy between law and practice; lack of political willingness to apply existing legislation; absence of victims’ voices and perspectives in the national discourse on justice; the prominence of ethnicity in some countries, in debates around issues of victimization and justice and how this undermines solidarity among victims, as well as the credibility of justice processes. Other obstacles to jutsice and redress include the lack of resources to adequately implement victims’ right to reparation, particularly in the aftermath of a conflict.
On the other hand, the participants agreed that in addressing these challenges synergies amongst civil society organisations could build momentum. Information sharing, development of joint strategies, publication of relevant materials and regular meetings could maximise and multiply efforts and experiences. For instance, the experiences and lessons learned by the Khulumani Support Group in South Africa were shared as an example of how victims' interests and rights were voiced in the transitional justice discourse in South Africa.
Building on the successes of the VRWG with regards to common positions taken collectively in relation to victims' rights before the International Criminal Court was also discussed, with the possibility of broadening the VRWG mandate to include victims' rights more generally.
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