Secretary-General's Message on International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims (24 March 2016)

This annual observance pays tribute to the memory of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered on 24 March 1980. Monsignor Romero was actively engaged in denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable individuals in El Salvador.

Across the world, every victim has the right to know the truth about violations that affected her or him.  But the truth also has to be told for the benefit of all people and communities as a vital safeguard against the recurrence of violations.  The right to the truth is closely linked to the right to justice.

To advance this effort, the UN supports fact-finding missions, commissions of inquiry, mapping exercises, and truth commissions, which document human rights violations and make recommendations to ensure accountability, reconciliation, and other reforms.

Throughout the world, from Colombia to Tunisia, from Mali to Sri Lanka, from Nepal to South Sudan, the United Nations has advocated for inclusive and genuine consultations with victims and affected groups, especially women, girls and those who are far too often excluded and marginalized.  Their meaningful participation must be ensured in all relevant stages of transitional justice processes, and their specific needs must be fully recognized in any reparation measures. 

Securing the testimonies of victims and witnesses is also essential to ensuring the rights to know the truth and to justice.  Appropriate mechanisms for the protection of victims and witnesses, including their physical and psychological integrity, privacy, and dignity, must be put in place.

Moreover, the preservation of archives and other documentation relating to human rights violations is crucial for ensuring undistorted historical record and preservation of memory.

On this day, I urge States to adopt measures to promote truth, justice and reparations for victims, which is so crucial to ensuring that gross human rights violations are not repeated. Let us all do more to protect human rights and human dignity.