As human rights violations are being committed daily in Sudan, there is a need for immediate action to enhance the capabilities of existing monitoring mechanisms. To address this, the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) together with the Wayamo Foundation and the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) co-hosted a public symposium on transitional justice and international criminal law on May 19, 2023 in Nairobi. The event was opened by Zainab Bangura, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON).
The symposium focused on transitional justice approaches and mechanisms that have been used in recent years, including truth commissions and reparations schemes, as well as the domestication of relevant international criminal laws so that justice and accountability can be served closer to victims and survivors. The discussions also covered the current situation in Sudan and explored the tools available to document international crimes and human rights violations for future accountability purposes.
Welcoming the 80 participants from around the world, including members of the Sudanese diaspora, GSMC's Interim Dean, Prof Nancy Booker noted the integral role the media plays in shaping public discourse, promoting accountability and fostering reconciliation.
“The media plays an important role in transitional justice – the whole range of processes and mechanisms that societies employ to address violations of human rights during transitions. Journalists have a huge responsibility to report effectively on human rights violations and we have partnered with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) to develop a curriculum on human rights reporting for use in universities and colleges across the country," she said.
Bettina Ambach, Director of the Wayamo Foundation, pointed to the urgency of the topics at hand. "We have to think about the different existing transitional justice tools and what they have to offer to address serious violations of human rights – from truth commissions, war crimes tribunals, reparation schemes, evidence-gathering mechanisms, to security sector reform and amnesties," she said. "In Sudan, everything changed on 15 April, when the armed conflict between the two generals broke out. What we have been and will be discussing here in Nairobi is not merely academic: it matters to people, right now, on the ground in Sudan who are caught within a spiral of violence."
Fatiha Serour is the Chairperson of the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA), a group of senior African experts on international criminal law and human rights, including political figures, members of international and domestic tribunals, and human rights advocates.
“Courts are extremely important, however, relying only on formal justice mechanisms such as domestic and international courts is not sufficient for situations such as Sudan, Syria, Palestine, etc." she said. "Those who have been violated — whether that is sexual violence or other forms of abuse — are not always able to access a court to testify about human rights violations and seek justice. That's why we need transitional justice with its multi-dimensional potential for serving victims and survivors."
The conference brought together high-level regional and international experts as well as transitional justice and international criminal law advocates from Kenya in a forum for respectful and spirited discussion and debate.