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Let the victims speak: A voice from Peru on the Commissions on Truth and Disappearances

Jun 13, 2014

from the article by Eduardo González Cueva:

On April 24, seven and a half years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Parliament voted to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission of Investigation on Disappeared Persons (CIDP).

Given the long wait, some expected victims’ organizations and human rights groups to be ecstatic; but in fact, the opposite is true. They have strongly rejected the bill because—they claim—it will allow the commission to recommend amnesties for perpetrators of gross human rights violations.

Some government leaders have defended the bill and urged the public to move on to other elements of the national agenda, like negotiating the new constitution. They can’t deny that the commission may recommend amnesties, but they say such a step would only happen with the victims’ consent.

The debate is extremely important for Nepal because it affects the quality of the peace process and the democratic system the country has vowed to build.

As a Peruvian human rights activist and a former staff member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission created in my country, the questions raised in Nepal touch a deep nerve. Peru suffered a 20-year armed conflict that left more than 69,000 people dead, including approximately 15,000 victims who were forcibly disappeared.

Why is the truth so important after so devastating of a conflict? Why do victims care so much about justice? Wouldn’t it be better to let bygones be bygones? These questions, which I’ve heard from Nepalese colleagues and friends, are quite similar to ones I heard in Peru and other countries when the time for the truth came. Allow me to offer three reasons.

First: prevention. Truth is important to identify the reasons why a country was torn apart in an explosion of violence. Society needs to examine the motivations of the fighters, the social conditions, and the strategies that led citizens of the same country to fight each other. If this inquiry is not conducted, what guarantees are there that the violence won’t be repeated?

Second: healing. Victims often experience deep trauma, some are left with torn bodies, others are left impoverished. Worst of all, most see themselves humiliated and stigmatized. Victims need a chance to be heard with care and respect by the top authorities and their fellow citizens, to be able to believe again that their country is indeed a home for all.

Third: rule of law. Peace cannot be built on the basis of violence; democracy cannot be built over authoritarian imposition; law cannot be built on the denial of rights. The victims have a universally recognized right to know what happened and the reasons and the responsibilities for the facts.

Read the full article.

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