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Statement by Gabrielle McIntyre at the start of the 2020 hearing Public urged to respect the TRNUC’s work | 07 January 2020

Statement by Gabrielle McIntyre at the start of the 2020 hearing     Public urged to respect the TRNUC’s work

Mrs McIntyre reading her statement (Photo: Louis Toussaint)

The chairperson of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC), Gabrielle McIntyre, has reiterated the commission’s full adherence to international human rights norms and appropriate fair trial standards while calling on the public in general to respect its work and the persons appearing before the commission.

Mrs McIntyre made the announcement yesterday morning during the commission’s first hearing session for 2020 at its premises at Josephine Cafrine Building at Ile Perseverance.

Mrs McIntyre’s statement reads:

“The commission, through its investigations and determinations of complaints of allegations of human rights violations related to the Coup D’état of 1977, is to determine the truth of those allegations, create an objective public record of those violations, help bridge divisions caused by any violations, provide closure for the victims and perpetrators of the violations, determine the appropriate reparations for victims, the appropriate rehabilitation for victims and perpetrators, and whether or not to grant amnesty to persons the commission determines responsible for human rights violations.

“Ultimately, through its work, the commission's objective is to unite the people of Seychelles around a common agenda that will help them move forward in confidence and with a sense of common purpose and ensure that such violations do not recur.

“In everything it does, the Commission is to adhere fully to international human rights norms and appropriate international fair trial standards and demonstrate respect for the right to dignity of suspects, perpetrators, victims and witnesses. The Commission is required to carry out its functions in an open, impartial and transparent manner and to be accountable for its actions.

“Having set out the Commissions objectives the Commission would like to make a few comments. First, the Commission is acutely aware that attacks upon its impartiality are easily made. For example, the Commission has been accused on social media of partiality because it has heard evidence from persons supportive of the Coup D’etat and the one party state that followed and from persons who were opposed to the Coup D’etat and were alleged victims of the one-party state. The Commission has previously emphasised primarily its concern and its focus is determining the truth of allegations of human rights violations brought by complainants in relation to the Coup D’etat but it must be understood that those violations did not occur in a vacuum. They occurred in a context and the Commission needs to understand that context if it is to achieve its objective of ensuring that such violations do not recur in the future. Moreover, the Commission needs to understand the source of division between the people of Seychelles if it is going to help try and bridge the divisions caused by those violations. Accordingly, the Commission's hearing and consideration of evidence of persons holding conflicting views of the Coup D’etat of 1977 and the one-party state that followed is a necessary part of the work of the Commission. It enables the Commission to determine the truth of what occurred and why.

“lmportantly, the Commission can only achieve its ambitious objectives with the cooperation of the people of Seychelles and that includes cooperation of those persons who are following the work of the Commission and providing their commentary of that work on social media. The Commission respects the right of all persons to hold opinions about its work but it reiterates its request that all persons are respectful of the Commission and are in particular respectful of persons appearing before the Commission whether they be complainants, witnesses or alleged suspects of human rights violations. The Commission has a difficult task made even more difficult if persons with relevant information are dissuaded from coming forward because of the fear of derogatory comments on social media or a fear of being shunned by the broader community should they take responsibility for their role in human rights violations. Fear of criticism on social media is also a basis upon which more and more witnesses are requesting to be heard in closed sessions which is against the broader public interest of transparency in the work of the Commission. The Commission calls upon those persons using social media to devote their energies to supporting the work of the Commission and supporting its objective of reconciling the people in Seychelles rather than impugning its integrity and that of the persons appearing before it.

“Next the Commission would like remind all complainants that they have until February 9, 2020 to request the Commission take up their complaint. They can do that by phone, email or by visiting the premises of the Commission. “Unfortunately, the Commission has at times experienced technical issues with its email server so if you have contacted the Commission but have received no response my apologies but we may not have received your email. Please email the Commission again.

“The Commission would also like to assure all persons who are coming before it that fear retaliation that the Commission is committed to a robust system of witness protection. The Commission cooperates with the Police in this regard and it is recruiting a witness protection officer to work with the Commission to further bolster its system of witness protection. The Commission is confident that persons appearing before it can rest assured that they will receive whatever protection they need.

“Finally, the Commission wishes to remind all persons coming before it of the prohibition of making allegations against a person who has not previously been given the opportunity to respond to that allegation. The making of an allegation without previously giving the person impugned the right to respond violates the due process rights of that person. Moreover, the Commission stresses again that witnesses should only give evidence to the Commission of that which they reasonably know to be true and should refrain from making unfounded allegations, particularly when they are irrelevant to the determination of the complaint made. The making of unfounded and irrelevant allegations hinders the work of the Commission and undermines its objective of reconciling the people of Seychelles.”

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