UN Secretary General: Transitional Justice Key to UN's Work on Rule of Law


The newly released United Nations report on strengthening the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict settings outlines progress made since issuing the landmark 2004 report, which for the first time linked the concepts of "rule of law," "justice," and "transitional justice" in a UN system-wide definition. The new UN Secretary General's report was submitted to the Security Council last week and is expected to be debated in early 2012.

The report reaffirms transitional justice as a crucial component of the UN’s broader work on the rule of law. Its findings show how impunity for past violations poses significant threats to international peace and security. A failure to bolster security institutions weakened by conflict or corruption and political interference, or to address the legacies of such conflict or violations, can leave a power vacuum readily filled by transnational organized crime networks or terrorist organizations, thus perpetuating violence, instability, and human rights abuse.

These findings underscore the need for transitional justice scholars and practitioners to prioritize close examination of the link between ending impunity and preventing the rise of these "emerging threats."

The report also notes a greater need for specialized gender-sensitive and child-focused approaches to transitional justice issues, echoing recent findings of ICTJ’s own programs and research. The findings of the 2011 World Development Report—to which ICTJ provided research and consultation—are noted, highlighting the necessity of incorporating transitional justice processes in the broader international development agenda.

For at least a decade, UN missions have operated in conjunction with transitional justice efforts, participated in the establishment of international and hybrid tribunals, and emphasized the importance of ending impunity and ensuring accountability for serious violations of human rights. Prior to the 2004 report, however, the Security Council had never used the term "transitional justice" in any report or resolution.

Since that time, it has become widely recognized that transitional justice is a key component of building just and peaceful societies. In June 2010, the Security Council requested a follow up report to examine the impact of its earlier recommendations and propose further steps necessary to promote rule of law and transitional justice in the wake of conflict. ICTJ participated in each of the roundtable consultations held earlier in 2011, and provided written input to the UN in its preparations.

Download the full report.