This week the United Nations marked the International day for the right to the truth concerning gross human rights violations and for the dignity of victims. In a statement, the world body says, the right to the truth is often invoked in the context of gross violations of human rights and grave breaches of humanitarian law. The relatives of victims of summary executions, enforced disappearance, missing persons, abducted children and torture victims, require to know what happened to them. The right to the truth implies knowing the full and complete truth as to the events that transpired, their specific circumstances, and who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violations took place and the reasons for them.
According to the UN, each year on March 24, the international day for the right to the truth concerning gross human rights violations and for the dignity of victims is observed.This annual observance pays tribute to the memory of Archbishop Óscar Romero who was murdered on March 24. 1980. Archbishop Romero, now beatified, was actively engaged in denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable people in El Salvador.
The purpose of the Day is to honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice. The event also pays tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all. It is also meant to recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Romero.
On December21, 2010, the UN General Assembly proclaimed this day. In a study conducted in 2006 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the right to the truth about gross human rights violations and serious violations of human rights law was an inalienable and autonomous right. It was linked to the duty and obligation of the State to protect and guarantee human rights, to conduct effective investigations and to guarantee effective remedy and reparations.
The study affirmed that the right to the truth implies knowing the full and complete truth as to the events that transpired, their specific circumstances, and who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violations took place, and the reasons for them.
In a 2009 report on the Right to the Truth, the UNHRC’s Office identified best practices for the effective implementation of this right, in particular practices relating to archives and records concerning gross violations of human rights, and programmes on the protection of witnesses and other persons involved in trials connected with such violations.
In El Salvador, a Truth Commission was established in accordance with the Mexico Agreements of April 27, 1991 to investigate serious acts of violence that had occurred since 1980 and whose impact on society was deemed to require an urgent public knowledge of the truth. In its report of March 15, 1993, the Commission documented the facts of the assassination of Archbishop Romero by pro-government forces, the so-called “death squads”. He was shot dead by an assassin as he celebrated holy mass.
In Sri Lanka, after the devastating 30 – year war, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa met the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who came here to investigate alleged war crimes by the troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the most ruthless terrorist movements in the world. The matter went before the Geneva - based UN Human rights council where Sri Lanka is still going through ups and downs, with political twists and turns.
A wide powered Office of Missing Persons has been set up and hundreds of acres of land, had been handed back to the civilians and other comprehensive relief measures taken. On Thursday, for the first time a Buddhist conference was held in Vavuniya and the aim was to promote reconciliation through inter – religious dailogue. Significantly, presiding at the conference was the Northern Province Governer Suren Raghavan. The conference was attended by high ranking Buddhist prelates and religious leaders representing the Hindus, Christians and Muslims. They agree that dialogue was the best way to lasting reconciliation and we hope many such inter-
religious and inter-racial conferences will be held as part of finding solutions and building a just, peaceful and all-inclusive society through unity in diversity.