The mandate of the Commission
Is to investigate complaints of alleged human rights violations committed in relation to the 1977 Coup. The purpose is to establish the truth about alleged violations ; to try and bridge divisions caused by such violations and to recommend compensation and reparations to victims and determine whether or not to grant amnesty to perpetrators. The ultimate aim is to bring closure to victims and perpetrators and to unite the people of the Seychelles around a common agenda going forward. Basically its about reconciling people through acknowledging and accepting responsibility for the past.
The objectives of the Commission
Through its investigation of complaints the Commission seeks to ascertain the truth with respect to complaints of alleged violations; create an accurate and objective public record of the complaints; 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 perpetrators. Ultimately, the Commission aims to unite the people of the Seychelles around a common agenda that will help them move forward in confidence and with a sense of common purpose and ensure that human rights violations do not recur.
Powers of the Commission
To facilitate the implementation of its mandate the Commission is granted the same powers as the Supreme Court of the Seychelles. For example, the Commission has the power to summons any person it wishes to hear and to compel their testimony, it has the power to enter any property and seize evidence from that property and, regardless of any other law of the Seychelles, it has the power to access any public or private archive and to make copies of relevant documents. Failure to cooperate with the Commission, other than in assertion of the right against self-incrimination, may render a person liable to the sanctions set out in Section 13 of the Act, which include a term of imprisonment of ten years.
The granting of these extensive powers to the Commission allows it to carry out its investigations in an independent manner but also places a responsibility on the Commission to ensure that in the exercise of these power it abides by international human right standards. To ensure that it does so, and for the purpose of transparency in investigations, the Commission’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence set out in detail when and how the Commission may exercise its powers and include provisions which allow their exercise to be challenged as unjustified or unlawful.
Provision and determination of amnesty
As the objectives of the Commission include ascertaining the truth, to create an accurate and objective record of violations, and 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, the Act provides for the granting of amnesty to perpetrators, from prosecution, as a means of encouraging those persons to come forward and to tell the truth about the violations alleged against them.
The Commission is aware that the grant of amnesty to a perpetrator of human rights violations is a particularly sensitive matter and an approach that may not be supported by all Seychellois. In that regard, the Commission will be sensitive to the need to explain fully any decision to grant amnesty and the views of the direct victim of violations or their family members will be given due consideration in any determination of amnesty. In essence, the grant of amnesty is the price the people of the Seychelles are asked to pay to finally have the truth and hopefully there-after, closure. In this respect, the Commission appreciates that victims are being asked to put the interest of the Seychelles as a nation before their sense of personal grievance – a difficult ask.
The Rules of Procedure and Evidence grant a perpetrator 24 months from the start of the Commissions mandate in which to petition for amnesty and a perpetrator can come forward prior to or after being named by a complainant. The Commission is hopeful that perpetrators do come forward, prior to being named, and that they embrace the opportunity being given to them to provide closure to victims and to contribute to the ability of the Seychelles nation to move forward as one people. In this regard, perpetrators must be willing to put their interests aside and to embrace the broader interests of the Seychelles community by taking responsibility for the harms that they have caused.
To qualify for a grant of amnesty a perpetrator must provide a full and frank disclosure of his or her responsibility for violations and provide a sincere apology to victims for those violations. Where the Commission is satisfied that a perpetrator has given a full and frank account, and that the apology is sincere, it shall grant that person an amnesty for the violations disclosed. The Commission’s determination that an amnesty should be granted does not impact on any decision of the Commission to order reparations or remedies for victims, or rehabilitative measures for a victim and or the perpetrator.
Where the Commission is not satisfied that an amnesty should be granted it may refer the matter to the prosecutorial authorities. However, none of the evidence received before the Commission in relation to that perpetrator will be admissible in any civil or criminal prosecution against that perpetrator.
An amnesty hearing may be conducted in private if, after consulting with the parties concerned, the Commission is of the opinion that (a) it is in the interests of justice; (b) there is a likelihood that harm may ensue to any person; or (c) reconciliation between the parties may not be achieved by the proceedings being conducted in public.
To balance the grant of amnesty to the perpetrator with the suffering caused to the victim the Commission may order that perpetrator provide direct compensation to the victim. Where that perpetrator is deceased, the Commission may make a compensation order against the family of the deceased perpetrator if the family has benefited from assets of the perpetrator that the Commission determines are closely related to the violation incurred by the victim. In addition, where it considers appropriate, the Commission may order rehabilitative measures for both perpetrators and victims. The aim of any such order is to bring closure to both parties and to restore their place in society.
In other circumstances, the Commission is mandated to make recommendations with respect to appropriate reparations, remedies and rehabilitative measures for victims and perpetrators to the President.
The Commission has given considerable thought to how compensation to victims should be determined when that compensation is to be recommended as payable by the State. The Commission is aware that of the 315 complaints filed before the National Assembly Truth and Reconciliation Committee, 58% were seeking compensation, and that its recommendations will place a burden upon the tax payer in the Seychelles. While the Commission will consider each case on its merits and ensure fairness to the victim, it will also take account of what is a reasonable burden to be placed upon the tax payer in all the circumstances before it. The Commission may also recommend community-based reparations, including the establishment of places of memorial as a means of permanently acknowledging the suffering of victims and paying tribute to them.