Laura Davis

Archive
Human Rights

The EU has become increasingly engaged in peace processes, which is welcome. This engagement has often been through the European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs), and has tended to be ad hoc. In this Security Policy Brief for Egmont, the Royal Institute for Foreign Affairs  I argue that the External Action Service (EAS) should address the role the EU could and should play early on in peace processes. It is not a role that can develop organically anymore; it is time for strategic decision-making. Ten years on, the review of the Gothenburg programme on conflict prevention has been shelved, and the direction of the so-called ‘horizontal’ issues – like peace mediation – in the EAS are still under consideration.. This presents an ideal opportunity to assess what EU diplomats should be contributing to peace processes, and for making the necessary support available to them. After all, interventions of this kind affect not only the EU’s external action and its intended beneficiaries, but also the Union’s identity on the world stage.

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What do they think? Photo of IDPs in Ivory Coast by Sunset Parkerpix

What is the ideal transitional justice scenario in Ivory Coast? the Belgian newspaper De Morgen asked me this week in an interview published on Thursday. It is always impossible to predict these types of questions, but there are some trends we can see from other places, which might help the Ivoriens build peace – in the aftermath of so much violence.

Attention at the moment is focussed on prosecuting former President Laurent Gbabgo, his wife and senior aides. Ideally these trials should take place in Ivory Coast, but in many post-conflict situations, the justice system is unable to guarantee fair trials. If this is the case, the International Criminal Court could step in.  But the ICC is a court of last resort – and there are disadvantages to pursuing alleged human rights violators through it. In DR Congo, for example, the Court is often portrayed as ‘foreign justice’. And when trials take place in The Hague, so far from where the violations have occurred it is difficult for the victims and affected communities to access proceedings.

Between national trials and the ICC, there are other options. In the past, the UN has set up ‘hybrid’ courts, like the Special Court for Sierra Leone and ad hoc tribunals, like the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda (ICTR) and for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). But although these courts have made invaluable contributions to combatting impunity for the worst crimes, they are expensive, and slow.  There is little appetite amongst the donors for funding more such courts in the future.  But there are alternatives, such as providing international support for trials within national systems – as in Bosnia. A ‘mixed’ court along these lines is currently in development in DR Congo.

For justice to prevail, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture.  The President of the UN Human Rights Council has appointed an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations committed in Ivory Coast, identify those responsible, and bring them to justice.  If the Commission identifies perpetrators who have been loyal to President Ouattara, they must also be prosecuted. The International Community should support the Commission in its work, ensure it has the access it needs in Ivory Coast to conduct a thorough investigation, and follow up on its recommendations.

And justice is not limited to prosecutions. There have been President Outtara has promised to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ivory Coast, which could be a useful complement to (but not a replacement for ) criminal prosecutions.  Where truth commissions have been most successful, there have been widespread popular consultations to determine their purpose, mandate and composition.  At best, truth commissions can contribute to building a peaceful society; at worst they can be a whitewash and leave the roots of the conflict unaddressed.

Finally,  a lesson we can learn from countries like Afghanistan and DRC is that failing to reform public institutions – and particularly the armed forces, police and judiciary – and remove those responsible for human rights violations from public service stores up more problems for later. Fair vetting processes, which remove human rights abusers, install discipline and civilian oversight can make a vital contribution to democracy-building.

Prosecutions alone can’t deliver justice; but combined with truth-seeking , vetting and reform of the public institutions and reparations for victims, they may be able to help address the root causes of the conflict and prevent its recurrence. The Commission of Inquiry is potentially a good start in this direction; engaging the Ivoriens, especially the marginalised, will be crucial in making any of these processes succeed.

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The European Union is increasingly involved in mediating peace deals around the world, and has strong commitments to international justice and human rights. Including justice provisions for the victims of a conflict in the peace agreement may make an important contribution to a durable peace. In this paper published by the Initiative forPeacebuilding, I analyse EU capacities for promoting justice for human rights violations in peacemaking, identify gaps and recommend ways to fill these gaps. I argue that a comprehensive EU approach to transitional justice would make the EU a more credible mediator, and should also improve the impact of post-conflict peace- and democracy-building interventions.

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This report Difficult Peace, Limited Justice: Ten Years of Peacemaking in the DRC, co-authored with Priscilla Hayner and published by the International Center for Transitional Justice, reviews the efforts to address justice during ten years of varied peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It takes a close look at the dynamics of peace talks and the resulting accords — including those of Sun City, Ituri, Nairobi, and Goma. Based on extensive interviews of those most closely involved from the national and international communities, it provides an essential backdrop to the current efforts to end fighting in Eastern Congo.

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In Congo over the past decade, demands for justice have been largely unmet in peace negotiations: impunity for the worst crimes is entrenched, and the root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed. As the European Union, often through the European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs), is engaging in more peace negotiations around the world, this paper (published by the Initiative for Peacebuilding in 2010) analyses the EUSR’s role in peace deals in Congo and the EU’s policy framework for promoting justice in peacemaking. I offer recommendations for how the EU could strengthen its role in promoting justice and human rights in peace agreements, in the DRC and elsewhere.

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The Congolese security system is incapable of defending the state and the state’s authority, and poses a serious threat to the population, particularly to women and children. Impunity within the security system allows serious human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence, to go unchecked.

In this paper,  published by the Initiative for Peacebuilding, I argue that the EU should seek to incorporate justice-sensitive initiatives within SSR programmes, and encourage the prosecution of human rights violators. Only by tackling the culture of impunity and empowering the population to hold the security system to account, can it become a protector of Congolese citizens’ rights rather than a principal abuser.

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