21 June 2005
Security Council Requests Secretary-General to Initiate Negotiations on Burundi Truth Commission, Special Chamber
Unanimously Adopts Resolution 1606 (2005)
NEW YORK, 20 June (UN Headquarters) -- Unanimously adopting resolution 1606 (2005) this afternoon, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to initiate negotiations with the Government of Burundi and consultations with all Burundian parties concerned on how to implement his recommendations regarding the creation of a mixed Truth Commission and a Special Chamber within the country’s court system, and to report back by 30 September 2005 on details, including costs, structures and time frame.
The Council took that action in the wake of an open briefing on 15 June 2005, during which Ralph Zacklin, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, presented the report of a Secretariat mission to Burundi. That mission recommended the establishment of a two-part mechanism to clarify the historical truth regarding the conflict in that country, investigate the crimes committed, and bring those responsible to justice.
The mission, led by Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, recommended that the proposed Truth Commission be set up under existing national law with a mandate to establish the historical facts of the conflict, determine its causes and nature, classify the crimes committed since independence in 1962, and identify those responsible. The Special Chamber would have the competence to prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
According to the mission, the experience gained in establishing parallel judicial and non-judicial accountability mechanisms in Sierra Leone and East Timor would be helpful in determining the relationship between the Truth Commission and the proposed judicial accountability mechanism. The expeditious establishment of a Truth Commission would ensure that, by the time a Special Chamber was established, the results of the Commission’s investigations could be shared with the prosecutor of the Special Chamber.
During the same briefing, Didace Kiganahe, Burundi’s Justice Minister, said his Government supported the mission’s recommendation, but pointed out that the distinction between the national Truth Commission and an international judicial commission of inquiry requested in July 2002 by then-President Pierre Buyoya was not clear, and that there was a clear risk of overlap. He said the national judicial structure was unable to deal with complex cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
However, the Minister said the mission’s recommendations had met the dual concerns of the political negotiators in Arusha and the people of Burundi, which was to establish the truth and then to bring to justice and punish the guilty. Furthermore, the Government also wished that, beyond establishing truth and justice, reconciliation should be placed at the heart of peace and national unity. He noted also that the reconciliation aspect of the proposed Truth Commission was not adequately emphasized and cautioned that the very credibility of the system being put in place would depend on its enjoying adequate funding during its entire operation.
The full text of resolution 1606 (2005) reads, as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Reaffirming its support for the process of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi, signed at Arusha on 28 August 2000,
“Convinced of the need, for the consolidation of peace and reconciliation in Burundi, to establish the truth, investigate the crimes, and identify and bring to justice those bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Burundi since independence, to deter future crimes of this nature, and to bring an end to the climate of impunity, in Burundi and in the region of the Great Lakes of Africa as a whole,
“Emphasizing that appropriate international assistance to Burundi is to help the Burundian people end impunity, promote reconciliation, and establish a society and government under the rule of law,
“Having taken note of the letter addressed on 24 July 2002 by the then President of the Republic of Burundi, Pierre Buyoya, to the Secretary General to request the establishment of an international judicial commission of inquiry, as provided for in the Arusha Agreement,
“Having also taken note of the report transmitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on 11 March 2005 (S/2005/158), following on the assessment mission he had dispatched to Burundi, from 16 to 24 May 2004, to consider the advisability and feasibility of establishing such a commission,
“Having heard the opinion of the Transitional Government of Burundi, presented by its Justice Minister, Didace Kiganahe, on 15 June 2005, on the recommendations contained in this report, which aim at the creation of a mixed Truth Commission and a Special Chamber within the court system of Burundi,
“Acknowledging the crucial importance of reconciliation for peace and national unity in Burundi and sharing the view that a future Truth Commission should contribute to it,
“1. Requests the Secretary-General to initiate negotiations with the Government and consultations with all Burundian parties concerned on how to implement his recommendations, and to report to the Council by 30 September 2005 on details of implementation, including costs, structures and time frame;
“2. Decides to remain seized of the question.”
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