A right to truth, victims, and the ICC
Journal: Torture – Asian and Global Perspectives (Asian Human Rights Commission)
The right of victims and their families has been widely recognised by regional and international bodies, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which entered into force in December 2010, affirms the right to truth in the specific context of forced disappearance. The right to truth was initially developed as an aspect of human rights law. In this context its point is to impose a duty on the state authorities to hold a full and independent inquiry into well-grounded allegations of human rights abuses. The first cases in which the right was expressly invoked involved missing persons and those subjected to enforced disappearance. Since then its application has been broadened to encompass other serious violations of human rights law, including torture and extrajudicial killings. These developments raise the question whether the right to truth should have a broader remit. In particular, does it have an effective place in international criminal justice, specifically the functioning of the International Criminal Court? This is a very different context from human rights. There is no state to be put under a duty to investigate and there is a criminal trial to be conducted which must be fair and focused on particular defendants and particular offences.
This article seeks to clarify the issues that arise when the possibility of an effective right to truth in the context of a criminal procedure is considered. It is based upon an empirical study into stakeholder attitudes towards the right to the truth at the ICC that was conducted in 2012-2013. After outlining the nature of the right, the article will summarise some of the findings of this study.
Preferred by: Melanie Klinkner