The National, Thursday, May 19, 2011
By STEPHANIE ELIZAH
WOMEN are the silent and forgotten victims in places of recent wars and ongoing post-conflict environments.
Such environments include Bougainville, Solomon Islands and Fiji, the United Nations Human Rights Council has been told.
Human Rights defender and member of the Haku Women’s Council in Bougainville, Marilyn Havini, said this at a Pacific side event for civil society input to the UNHRC in Geneva.
The UNHRC convened from May 2-11 for a universal periodic review of four Pacific nations – Palau, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Papua New Guinea where the Bougainville case was presented.
“The Pacific side event was a space for non-governmental stakeholders to present important and current information to nations and organisations on the human rights situation in their countries and to highlight critical recommendations to be implemented as a follow up to the universal review,” Havini said.
She said Bougainville’s human rights issues highlighted at the event included:
* Lack of investigative and prosecution capacity in the island nation’s justice systems;
* A need to identify the many victims of rape during war who suffer without counselling, medical assistance and justice mechanisms;
* The existence of guns in post-conflict communities and their “hidden” threat is an ongoing source of fear and intimidation to civil society; and
* The need for forensic recovery of dead relatives lying in mass graves that prevent development in major public spaces. The recovery of the dead would help in the grieving process to heal mental stress and ease suffering.
Havini said eight recommendations were made and now needed the government implementation before the UNHRC reviewed the Pacific nations in four years.
These recommendations include :
* Women human rights defenders of the Pacific and civil society ask UN and regional peacekeeping country stakeholders to help each Pacific nation’s weapons disposal programmes and to institute mandatory trauma counselling for all former combatants;
* Request UN help for Pacific governments in conflict and post-conflict nations to establish human rights commissions and transitional justice mechanisms that will address and redress the war crimes that were committed; and
* Request expertise from UN or referred agencies that can provide forensic teams to help the people in recovering bodies from mass graves and known sites where bodies had been dumped during war and conflict.
On her return to Bougainville yesterday, Havini said the recommendations and suggestions on how the autonomous region could implement these would be presented to key non-governmental organisations and government stakeholders.