Africa: Time to Strengthen UN Role in Ending Impunity for Human Rights Violations - UN Experts

A group of independent United Nations rights experts today called on the Organization to adopt a more central role in the fight against impunity, and urged Member States to strengthen efforts to ensure accountability and justice for human rights violations.

"Ending impunity requires greater scrutiny, prosecution and punishment, and no other international institution is better placed than the United Nations to effectively contribute to this goal," they stressed in a statement to mark the International Day to End Impunity, observed on 23 November.

"It is time for the UN to take a more decisive role in combating impunity and focus on all dimensions of the problem, including the erosion of the rule of law and the violation of general principles of justice."

The experts recalled that States are required to hold accountable those who fail to protect and prevent, as well as those who perpetrate, violations of human rights, including the rights of women and other groups at risk.

"Fighting against impunity implies not only the obligation of States to investigate violations and take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators and the victims, but also to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations and take other necessary steps to prevent their recurrence," they added.

"Efforts to address impunity must demand transparency and accountability of all State and non-State actors, including not only paramilitary forces, mercenaries, private military companies and terrorists, but also transnational corporations," they said.

"The goal of ending impunity does not aim at revenge but at justice," the experts underscored. "It requires objectivity and non-selectivity in identifying abuses that have not been redressed."

In their statement, the 16 mandate holders noted that the fight against impunity requires Governments to ensure access to justice for all, to proactively make information available to all and to refrain from using national security, immunities or any other measures to "cloak criminal behaviour."

"Universal access to diverse and reliable information, effective domestic justice systems, the globalization of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the practical realization of the right to truth are necessary conditions to do away with impunity," they stated.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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