Regional Working Group on Transitional Justice

Rabat, 23-24 November 2007

At the invitation of Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center, and in partnership with the Arab Institute for Human Rights, No Peace Without Justice, and the Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, a meeting was held in Rabat on 23-24 November 2007, funded and supported by the Italian Government, through the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the European Union and the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
The Regional Working Group on transitional justice was attended by an elite of Arab human rights activists, researchers, and experts in issues of peaceful settlement of violent conflicts, national reconciliation, Transitional Justice and democratic transition. The meeting brought together participants from Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Iraq, Mauritania and Algeria, along with guests from Italy, Australia and Sierra Leone. Participants showed a high sense of confidence and responsibility.
Despite the relative recency of the concept of Transitional Justice, the final quarter of the 20th century witnessed the emergence of significant experiences, including the Moroccan experience which merits to be thoroughly studied, and from which lessons should be drawn.
Participants in the meeting announced the establishment of an Arab working group concerned with the issues of national reconciliation and Transitional Justice within the context of democratic transition; the aim being to meet the needs of many Arab countries which suffer from the effects or persistence of armed conflicts, civil wars, flagrant human rights violations, and democratic transition problems. This in addition to the heritage of old and new colonial hegemony, and the need to provide an additional mechanism that can positively and constructively contribute to programs for establishing peace, healing the wounds of past violations, fighting exclusion and punishment evasion, achieving justice in its transitional and classical forms as a prelude to national reconciliation, and establishing democratic institutions.
Participants in the meeting set the following objectives for the working group :
- Transferring international expertise, in terms of national reconciliation, Transitional Justice and democratic transition, to the Arab region;
- Qualifying Arab competent experts in all fields of Transitional Justice;
- Providing expertise to civil society forces and governments in the Arab countries in terms of strategic planning for national reconciliation processes, using Transitional Justice methods and mechanisms.
Participants in the meeting evoked a number of international and Arab documents to serve as reference documents and broad guidelines. These include the UN General Assembly Resolution on Transitional Justice adopted in 2006, international law on human rights, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998, brought into effect in 2002, and the document adopted by the Conference on Democracy and Reform in the Arab World held in Doha in May 2007.
In the Rabat Declaration, participants stressed that the conditional connection between the issues of sustainable national reconciliation and of democratic transition requires that civil society forces and governments in the Arab region deal with human rights violations from a comprehensive, non-partial perspective. They also stressed that their initiative would be placed at the disposal of governmental and non-governmental actors.
Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center announced its determination to draw, in cooperation with its partners, the final list of the working group members, to formulate its detailed work strategy, and to convene a second meeting in the closest future.
Draft Concept Note for the Regional Working Group on Transitional Justice