Rule of Law and Justice

Photo: UN Women/Pathumporn Thongking

The legacy of conflict-related violence endures long after a peace agreement is signed. Re-establishing the rule of law is foundational to women’s security, protection of rights, and, ultimately, an equitable peace. Transitional justice is an integral part of peacebuilding, post-conflict recovery and societal reconstruction. Transitional justice initiatives may include a range of mechanisms and efforts that provide redress to victims for human rights abuses they have suffered during conflict. Encompassing prosecutions, truth-seeking, memorialization, reparations, judicial sector reforms, national consultations and local accountability mechanisms, it lays foundations for an inclusive society based on the rule of law and contributes to reconciliation. They are also a means to deliver accountability in situations of mass human rights violations, identify the rights of victims, and encourage civic trust[1]. Transitional justice approaches and mechanisms are applied mostly in countries undergoing or that have undergone transition in the context of internal conflict, state repression or external conflict.

Transitions provide opportunities to further gender justice, in particular through the implementation of a gender-sensitive transitional justice agenda. However, incorporating a gendered perspective in the design and implementation of these transitional and transformative justice mechanisms to deal with past human rights abuses remains an ongoing challenge. Timor-Leste’s 2002 Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation received only 21 per cent of statements from women victims. In addition to ensuring that women’s voices are heard, core principles of gender justice in the post-conflict period must also not allow for impunity and must ensure accountability for crimes committed during the conflict against women and girls, including in cases of sexual violence[2].

UN Women’s Role

UN Women delivers technical and financial support to various transitional justice initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. UN Women’s engagement in transitional justice activities recognizes that justice for conflict-related violations, equal access to justice and application of the rule of law is critical. Transitional justice processes can be leveraged not simply to secure justice for individual human rights violations, but also to address the context of inequality and injustice that gives rise to conflict, transforming the structures of inequality that underpin this violence[3]. In line with this commitment, UN Women has supported the Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka.

UN Women supports core processes including prosecutions, institutional reform and reparations. In Timor-Leste, UN Women supported truth-seeking initiatives, including by helping NGOs to document the experiences of women survivors, and supporting Truth Commission staff to respond appropriately to the specific needs of women,. In 2012 UN Women supported truth commission processes in the Solomon Islands by conducting gender assessments, providing technical support for official staff and civil society, and engaging in outreach activities for women via radio programmes. In Cambodia, UN Women’s transitional justice initiatives have included supporting the facilitation of dialogues with survivors of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge.