ICTJ Forum: March 2013

3/6/2013

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Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister and The National Alliance (TNA) presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta (R) waves to supporters flanked by his running mate William Ruto (L) before adressing the crowd at a rally on March 2, 2013 in Nairobi on the last day of campaigning, 48 hours ahead of presidential, gubernatorial and senatorial elections. SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images


The latest episode of ICTJ Forum features ICTJ's Paul Seils and Eduardo Gonzalez, who join host and Communications Director Refik Hodzic for a discussion of transitional justice news and developments.

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The Forum begins with a looks at the current elections in Kenya, where presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, have both been indicted by the International Criminal Court for their alleged role in the post-election violence five years ago, which left more than 1,000 people dead. If the Kenyatta/Ruto ticket win the election as predicted, Paul Seils questions whether they will continue cooperating with the ICC.

Kenya went to the polls still waiting for the results of an official inquiry into the violence of 2007-2008: Kenya’s Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission was established to shed light on the sudden escalation of targeted ethnic violence. The release of report has been delayed until after the elections, due mostly, according to Gonzalez, the significant problems with the commission’s internal operations.

He remarks that the situation in Kenya is regrettable, because the commission was established to look at an incident of electoral violence, and would have likely made an important contribution to Kenya’s current election.

Seils echoes Gonzalez’s sentiment of Kenya being a possible missed opportunity for truth and reconciliation, and notes that generally, the panorama for transitional justice in Kenya is “uniformly bleak.”

“The allegations of the corruption of the judiciary in Kenya have been very, very profound,” says Seils. “This is a significant move.”

The discussion then moves to breaking news in Tunisia, where the recent murder of the leading opposition politician Chokri Belaid has led to the dissolution of the Tunisian government. Seils says he has been surprised to see the fragility of the situation in Tunisia.

“Tunisia is not a country with a history of political assassinations, much less violence and killings,” says Seils. “I think most people had hoped that the foundations were stronger than they appeared to be. On the other hand, it would be premature to say that the whole thing had collapsed.”

The sharp political divisions between various groups in Tunisia raise many questions on how an official truth commission will work to mend existing rifts.

Gonzalez says he remains confident that a truth commission will be established, but that it must find creative ways to actually propitiate a dialogue and a debate that is constructive.

“Hopefully, when the truth commission is established, it may become a factor, not of further division and polarization,” says Gonzalez.

In conclusion, the discussion turns to Syria, where horrific levels of violence have killed more than 60,000 people.

On February 18, 2013, the UN Commission of Inquiry reported that widespread crimes against humanity and war crimes were being committed in Syria and recommended that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the ICC.

“I think the biggest issue in Syria at the moment is that no one has any idea what’s going to happen,” says Seils. “No one has any idea what the balance of power is going to be if and when the Assad regime falls.”

In considering what role transitional justice will come to play in the Syrian context, Gonzalez expresses skepticism that transitional justice can be an instrument for peacemaking.

“I think that transitional justice can consolidate an ongoing peace process that exists actually in the terrain, and that transitional justice, if implemented properly, can enhance the quality of the peace,” says Gonazalez. “But I don’t think that transitional justice instruments in themselves are going to provide per se the incentives for the parties to actually stop the conflict.”


Correction: An earlier version of this article mentioned more than 100 judges in Kenya had been removed through a judicial vetting process. As of March 15, 2013, 14 judges in Kenya have been removed following the vetting. The vetting of 351 magistrates who were in office in August 2010 is still ongoing.


The ICTJ Forum is a monthly podcast to complement the World Report, and seeks to explore how transitional justice is linked to news around the world. We invite you to send your feedback to us at communications@ictj.org. To receive the ICTJ forum in your inbox each month, sign up for ICTJ's newsletter here.