As the curtain rises on 2021, we find ourselves in a world that has profoundly changed in less than one year. Not only have the impact of COVID-19 and measures to contain the virus impeded day-to-day life, but they have also seemingly exacerbated human rights violations worldwide. However, this has subsequently drawn more interest to international accountability and justice processes. While too many atrocities remain unaddressed, new initiatives and processes have been put in place – and new alliances emerged – giving us a reason to be hopeful. I’m confident that in 2021 these positive developments will continue, strengthened by the technological advancements that have emerged as we have been collectively obliged to find new ways of working.
While multilateralism is facing challenges, there are new efforts to use the tools provided in multilateral systems for holding perpetrators of atrocities accountable. For example, the quest for justice for survivors of crimes committed against the Rohingya people is simultaneously drawing on processes before the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, as well as before national courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Under universal jurisdiction, alleged perpetrators of serious crimes against international law may be prosecuted before national courts of a state even if they are not nationals of that state and the crimes were committed elsewhere. This is based on the principle that such crimes harm the international community or international order.
Justice Rapid Response’s targeted contributions have been at the source of many of these innovative avenues, as we continue providing sustained support to a variety of mechanisms alongside our partners. With our roster of more than 700 highly specialized experts, we strive to mentor and walk alongside the partner – whether it be a national prosecution, national truth and reconciliation commission, or a survivor community organization – on its journey to make justice become reality.
Despite the significant challenges of 2020, we succeeded in deploying a record number of missions to support partners. For us, a lesson learnt from 2020 is the full extent of possibilities for online and remote work. To overcome the challenges of restrictions amid the pandemic, we quickly engaged in remote and online working methods while addressing cybersecurity challenges, integrating new processes to manage risks, enabling experts to work while not being able to travel to locations. Moreover, we ensured that our staff can work in full safety through remote, homeworking and flexible arrangements. We’re taking all these solutions onboard for 2021, with the aim of progressing even further and melding them from temporary fixes into long-term strengths.
In 2021, we will continue monitoring developments and anticipating the emerging needs for accountability and justice work globally. While engaging to understand the needs of our current and future partners, we will stay true to our vision, which states: “every investigation into the worst crimes known to humanity must be professional, impartial and prompt”. We believe that partnerships make us all stronger and more effective in achieving our goals, and to this end we look forward to working tirelessly with you, both current and new partners.
On behalf of Justice Rapid Response and its staff, I wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful 2021.
Justice Rapid Response