The relationship between transitional justice and security system – or sector – reform (SSR) is understudied, yet both contribute to state-building, democratisation and peacebuilding in countries with a legacy of massive human rights abuse. The security system is fundamental in any democracy for protecting the citizens’ rights. Yet in postconflict environments it usually comprises members of the police, military, secret police, intelligence agencies, armed rebel groups and militia – the groups which are often the most responsible for serious and systemic human rights violations during conflict. Reforming the system to ensure security agents become protectors of the population and the rule of law is therefore of the utmost urgency, but the political and security context may pose serious challenges to reform.
This paper draws on research in four very different environments: Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Timor-Leste. Although effective SSR is highly context-specific, this paper argues that the EU could improve the substance of its SSR programming and implementation by drawing on lessons from these four case studies.
The focus of this paper is to offer recommendations for ways in which the EU may incorporate justice-sensitive reform initiatives within SSR programmes to address the legacy of impunity for human rights violations and the ongoing human rights violations committed by elements within the security forces. The primary focus is therefore on those sectors of the security system that are currently both abusive and engaged in reform processes – the FARDC and police (Police Nationale Congolaise, or PNC). It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine in detail the justice and penal systems, although the importance of these in addressing impunity, as well as in a holistic approach to SSR, is clear. The author interviewed stakeholders and observers from civil society, national authorities, and the international community in Kinshasa, Bunia, Goma and Brussels between November 2007 and June 2008. Follow this link to view the publication.