Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 13, 2020


Thank you, Foreign Minister Goffin, and thank you to all of our briefers today.

However, before beginning my remarks today, I must take a moment to raise a point of profound concern for my government: this is the release yesterday by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of a database of companies operating in or connected to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. High Commissioner Bachelet, we are astonished and deeply disappointed by your decision. The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database, which was mandated by the discredited UN Human Rights Council in 2016. Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations. The United States has not provided, and will never provide, any information to the Office of the High Commissioner to support compilation of these lists. We further expresses our support for U.S. companies referenced. We call upon all UN member states to join us in rejecting this effort, which facilitates the discriminatory boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) campaign and delegitimizes Israel. Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace.

Mr. President, returning to today’s briefing: It has been nearly seven years since the Council met to discuss specifically the critical issue of transitional justice, so we very much appreciate and thank Belgium for chairing such an important, calling and chairing such an important discussion.  Security Council Resolution 2282 calls for comprehensive approaches to transitional justice, and we recognize the vital role transitional justice plays in uncovering difficult truths, acknowledging abuses, and fostering reconciliation. UN tribunals can play an integral role in this regard, and we call for more equitable burden sharing in financially supporting these courts.

Transitional justice must be tailored to local circumstances, with communities playing a central role in its design and implementation. It must incorporate the perspectives of victims and survivors, including religious or ethnic minorities, and civil society. Transitional justice is also a political process. Political leaders have a pivotal role to play in setting the tone for justice and accountability during transitions. They should develop a public record of abuses, reform security sectors responsible for abuses, and reintegrate those members of the forces into society. Transitional justice processes must be nationally owned inclusive processes that account for victims’ needs. It is imperative that women and girls’ needs are reflected in transitional justice mechanisms, which will help address the unique barriers to women’s participation in peace processes and transitional justice initiatives. This is imperative because women’s direct participation in peace negotiations increases the sustainability of peace agreements. We know the characteristics of effective transitional justice measures; our task is to ensure that they animate our pursuit of justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators. Further, when considering transitional justice strategies, we must take the country’s existing legal and institutional structures into account.

In South Sudan, the people have told us there, that there can be no peace without justice. We call on South Sudan’s leaders to implement all aspects of their peace agreement, including those related to transitional justice. The establishment of the AU Hybrid Court for South Sudan is critical to securing lasting peace in a country devastated by conflict. And this is why we contributed $4 million dollars to the African Union to help create this institution, which will uphold the rule of law, accountability, and justice. We also would like to recognize the comprehensive approach to transitional justice implemented in the Central African Republic. There, the Peacebuilding Fund supported the latest AU-led peace process, ensuring that it linked back to the inclusive, consultative process of the Bangui Forum in 2015. We were pleased that some women-led civil society groups were consulted in the peace agreement but are concerned that no women were signatories. MINUSCA has supported the vetting of security forces and a comprehensive assessment of past human-rights abuses and atrocities, all of which enabled transitional justice and Security Sector Reform efforts to proceed. UNDP has worked to build the capacity of the Central African police, justice, and corrections institutions, with funding from the U.S. Department of State—shoring up government institutions to support justice and accountability in CAR. And we have seen the creation and implementation of the Special Criminal Court. This comprehensive UN approach has supported several key components of transitional justice in CAR.

The United States is committed to supporting all efforts that ensure coherent, comprehensive, and integrated UN approaches to transitional justice. We underscore that transitional justice processes must be nationally owned, inclusive, and gender sensitive to fully account for the needs of victims. The Council and the UN can rely on the United States’ full support for transitional-justice initiatives, and together, we can ensure that the voices of survivors and victims are heard, that their needs are met, and that their dignity is honored.

Thank you, Mr. President.