Atrocity prevention and transitional justice in times of COVID-19

Dear GAAMAC community,

The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing our (globally shared) fragilities and vulnerabilities. Inequalities have become increasingly palpable and visible around the world and the crisis has revealed the devastating consequences of decades of inadequate policies at the expense of the most vulnerable.

Some governments, also in Europe, have used this context to strengthen their authority in violation of democratic principles, undermine Rule of law or commit serious human rights violations. Furthermore, some actors and groups are disseminating stigmatising speeches, calls for violence, or inciting hatred against particular groups, sometimes with the explicit support of state actors. If not stopped in time, these individuals and groups may become tomorrow's indirect or direct perpetrators of atrocity crimes.

Prevention begins at the first warning signal. The same is true for the prevention of atrocities with the need to act today before hate speech escalates to a hate crime. No society is immune to the escalation of violence. GAAMAC’s previous newsletter focused on the prevention of hate speech and incitement, an issue that has unfortunately become a daily reality in the wake of the pandemic.

“Prevention and building a sustainable peace require that we address mass atrocity crimes, which are the legacy of violent conflicts, and that we restore the trust deficit between the State and its citizens so that the State works for all citizens, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, gender or race.” - Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, 13 February 2020

In 2020, GAAMAC will work closely with different partners to strengthen the understanding and capacities in countering hate speech and incitement. While each of us within the GAAMAC community shall remain actively engaged to disseminate the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for a Global Ceasefire, we shall also deepen our engagement with all those directly and indirectly impacted by this crisis.

This newsletter approaches current transitional justice issues in contexts where societies are dealing with the legacy of past atrocities. There is nowadays a shared understanding that transitional justice can yield tangible results only and when it contributes to generating domestic capacity for prevention, strengthening Rule of law Institutions and in particular when it addresses both structural, cultural and direct violence.

We wish everyone all the best in these challenging times. Remain safe and take good care.



UN Security Council Open Debate on “Peacebuilding and sustaining peace: Transitional Justice in conflict and post-conflict situations”

On 13 February 2020, the Security Council held its first-ever discussion on transitional justice as a thematic issue, an open debate organised by Belgium, Security Council President for the month of February. In her statement, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted the important role that guarantees of non-recurrence can play in breaking the circles of conflict, preventing future human rights violations and fostering sustainable peace.

Dealing with the past and atrocity prevention

GAAMAC Chair Mô Bleeker shares with the GAAMAC community a presentation she realised about “Prevention and dealing with the legacy of atrocities”, on the occasion of the yearly Course for advanced professionals on “Dealing with the past and conflict transformation” organised by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) of Switzerland.

Guarantees of non-recurrence and atrocity prevention

This article by GAAMAC Steering Group member WFM-IGP/ICR2P delves into the synergies between guarantees of non-recurrence and atrocity prevention by overviewing both common upstream prevention measures to reform state institutions, which should be included in a comprehensive prevention framework, and the added contributions of civil society.



Adoption of the African Union’s Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP)

This guideline was adopted in February 2019 during the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU for members states to achieve sustainable peace, justice, reconciliation, social cohesion and healing.

Taking stock of the African Union Transitional Justice Policy One Year On

GAAMAC partner Justice Access Point (JAP) and Steering Group member International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) published reflections and recommendations on the first anniversary of the official adoption of the AUTJP with a special focus on Uganda.







Strategies for Community-Led Violence Prevention and Transitional Justice in Guinea

The Global Transitional Justice Initiative (GIJTR) which has been working since 2017 with civil society organisations and survivors in Guinea to confront the country’s legacy of human rights violations and develop community-led truth, justice and reconciliation strategies to prevent violence from recurring has yielded useful lessons in terms of transitional justice and atrocity prevention. GIJTR is the flagship programme of GAAMAC partner International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC).

Broadcasting Peace: Insights and lessons from local peacebuilders in Eastern DRC

GAAMAC partner Peace Direct recently published a report on the insights and lessons of Congolese peacebuilders and how they effectively engage in atrocity prevention in a variety of ways; identifying and responding to initial signs of conflict, providing crisis assistance and leading recovery strategies.


The GAAMAC Steering Group warmly welcomes our newest partner

The Sentinel Project is a non-governmental organization dedicated to assisting communities threatened by mass atrocities worldwide, which is done through direct cooperation with the people in harm’s way and the innovative use of technology. The Sentinel Project’s efforts have included monitoring online hate speech and engaging people in countering the spread of harmful misinformation that exacerbates intercommunal conflict in places like Kenya, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and South Sudan.


It is our pleasure to introduce a new series of conversations dedicated to exploring the parallels between public health and atrocity prevention with GAAMAC Steering Group member Dr Jennifer Leaning and Mô Bleeker, GAAMAC Chair.

“Dealing with the legacy of the past can indeed become an emancipatory experience and this journey is key to prevent other atrocities in the future.”

– Mô Bleeker, GAAMAC chair, 2018

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