- What is the TRNUC?
The TRNUC is the acronym for the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission, an independent and impartial body that was created by the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Act, 14 September 2018.
The TRNUC is mandated to investigate allegations of human rights violations alleged to have been committed in relation to the Coup D’état of 1977 and its objectives are to ascertain the truth with respect to complaints of alleged violations; to create an accurate and objective public record of the complaints of alleged violations; to help bridge divisions caused by any violations; to provide closure for the victims and perpetrators of the violations; to determine the appropriate reparations for victims and the appropriate rehabilitation for victims and perpetrators; and whether or not to grant amnesty to perpetrators. Through its work the Commission aims 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 and ensure that such violations do not recur.
- Who are the Commissioners?
The Commissioners are persons of recognized good standing and high moral character capable of performing their functions independently, impartially and in compliance with the highest ethical standards. The Commissioners were appointed to the Commission by the President of Seychelles upon the recommendation of the Constitutional Appointments Authority following an open and transparent recruitment process.
The Commission is made up of five national Commissioners, Mr. Michael Green, the Vice-Chair of the Commission, Dr. Marie-Therese Purvis, Mr. Jacques Koui Gbilimou, Archbishop James Wong Yin Song and Mrs. Marie-May Leon and two foreign Commissioners, Ms. Gabrielle Louise McIntyre, Chairperson (Australia) and Mr. Pierre Rosario Domingue (Mauritius).
- How will the TRNUC work?
The work of the TRNUC is driven by complaints. Once a complaint has been filed the Commission will determine whether that complaint falls within the mandate of the Commission. If a complaint is determined to fall within the mandate of the Commission the Commission will investigate that complaint to determine the truth of the allegation made.
In investigating complaints, and considering the evidence of the complainant, witnesses and alleged perpetrators the Act provides for the Commission to hold public hearings and meetings. Unless the interests of justice warrant otherwise the proceedings of the Commission will be open to the public so that the public can observe first-hand the workings of the Commission.
Once the Commission has determined through its investigations that a complaint has been established on a balance of probabilities to be true it will consider what recommendations to make with respect to restoring the victim of that complaint. The Commission may recommend compensation to the victim and rehabilitative measures where it considers it appropriate to do so. It may also grant amnesty to perpetrators
- Can the TRNUC send people to jail or fine them?
The TRNUC cannot send people to jail for human rights violations they determine were committed by them in relation to the Coup D’état of 1977. The TRNUC can however fine or imprison a person for contempt of the Commission. Contempt of the Commission includes such acts as refusing to attend the Commission after being summoned, refusing to produce any document when required to do so by the Commission or knowingly giving false or misleading evidence before the Commission. Under the Act the TRNIC can fine a person SCR 50,000 or sentence him or her to a term of imprisonment of 10 years.
- Where is the TRNUC’s Office?
From 9 August until mid-September 2019 the TRNUC is located on the ground floor of the Bel Air Complex, behind the Hot Bread Bakery on Revolution Avenue. From mid-September the TRNUC will be located on the second floor of the new building at Perseverance, near the Palace of Justice and the National Assembly.
- How do you make a complaint?
From the start of mandate on 9 August 2019, complainants have six months in which to make a complaint (until 9 February 2020). There is no set form that a complainant has to fill in to make a complaint and it is up to the complainant as to whether he or she wishes to make his or her complaint in writing, by telephone or in person. A complainant who has already filed a grievance form before the National Assembly Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Committee can request the Commission to treat that grievance form as his or her complaint before the Commission.
Once an initial complaint has been made the Commission will determine the admissibility of the complaint. To be admissible the complaint must fall within the mandate of the Commission to investigate allegations of human rights violations related to the Coup D’état of 1977. Once a complaint has been determined as admissible the complainant will be asked to swear a formal statement before the Commission. Investigations will commence upon the swearing of the formal statement.
- Can the TRNUC award damages?
The TRNUC can make recommendations to the President that compensation be paid to a person whose rights have been violated. In certain circumstances, the Commission can also order that a perpetrator directly compensates a victim for human rights violations committed against the victim by that perpetrator.
- Can I be sued for evidence I give to the TRNUC?
None of the evidence given before the Commission will be admissible in any criminal or civil proceeding so you cannot be sued for evidence you give to the TRNUC. The exception is if you knowingly give false evidence or evidence which you know to be misleading. In that circumstance, your evidence can be admissible in a prosecution for perjury.
- Who can make a complaint to the TRNUC?
Under the Act a complaint can be made by a victim, a representative of a victim or a close surviving relative of a deceased victim.
- Will the hearings be public?
The hearings of the Commission will be public unless the interests of justice warrant the Commission holding closed hearings, there is a likelihood that harm may ensue to any person by a public hearing, or reconciliation between the parties may not be achieved by conducting the proceedings in public. In each of these circumstances the hearing will be closed to the public.
- Can I make a complaint or give evidence in private?
When you make a complaint, you can request that your complaint be treated as confidential and provide the reasons for your request. You can also give your evidence in private or closed session when the interests of justice support you doing so. However, if you name an alleged suspect in your complaint that suspect will have a right to answer to those allegations so your complaint will be shared with that suspect. Where the interests of justice require, the Commission can order that suspect to maintain the confidentiality of your complaint to the extent that it does not infringe upon that suspect’s right of reply.
- What is a perpetrator?
A perpetrator means a person who the Commission has found to have committed any violation and includes a person who has given an order, or materially assisted someone, to commit a violation.
- If I make a complaint does it have to be in front of the perpetrator?
You do not have to make a complaint in front of the person you are alleging is the perpetrator of human rights violations against you. However, to protect the rights of the person accused that person must be told of the allegations you have made and be given the opportunity to answer to those allegations and to defend against them.
- Do I have to face the perpetrator at any time?
If you choose not to face a person determined to be a perpetrator by the Commission then you will not be forced to do so. However, one of the objectives of the Commission is to help bridge divisions caused by any violations and to provide closure for the victims and perpetrators of the violations. The Commission considers that bridging divisions and providing closure may not be achieved without direct communication between the perpetrator and the victim so it will try and provide the conditions under which you will feel comfortable in facing a perpetrator. It will not, however, force you to do so if you are not comfortable under any conditions.
- If I am named as a perpetrator what are my rights?
When a complainant names a person as a perpetrator the Commission will treat that person as a suspect. It is only once the Commission is satisfied as to the truth of the allegation made will it consider that person a perpetrator.
As a suspect, you have the right to be informed of the allegation made against you and you have the right to answer that allegation and to defend against it. You also have the right not to answer an allegation on the grounds that to do so will incriminate you in an offence. You have the right to put questions to the complainant through the Commissioners. You have the right to be represented by legal Counsel in accordance with the laws of Seychelles and the right to challenge any subsequent determination of the Commission that you are a perpetrator. You may also be granted a right to be heard on the Commission’s investigations that led to that determination.
Once the Commission has determined that you are a perpetrator you have the right to petition the Commission for the grant of amnesty.
- Can anyone be represented by a lawyer?
Any person identified as a suspect, or determined to be a perpetrator, has the right to be represented by Counsel as provided by the law of Seychelles.
- If I have done something and I want to come forward what do I do?
If you have done something and you wish to come forward you can write to the Commission, telephone or come in person to discuss your circumstances. Upon hearing what you have to say the Commission will determine whether your circumstance falls within the mandate of the Commission. If your circumstances do fall within the Commission’s mandate the Commission will advise you of your right to petition for amnesty and explain the steps to be followed in that process.
- If a perpetrator refuses to testify what happens?
The Commission may summons a person to testify but any person, including a perpetrator, has a right to refuse to answer questions on the basis that to do so would incriminate him or her. If a perpetrator refuses to testify before the Commission on the assertion of that right the Commission must respect that refusal. However, a perpetrator who fails to cooperate with the Commission may be referred to the prosecutorial authorities by the Commission.
- What authority does the TRNUC have?
For the purpose of effectively exercising its functions and powers the Commission is vested with all the powers and rights of the Supreme Court. The Commission may visit any establishment or place, enter on land or premises to gather information or inspect property; it can access any public or private archives regardless of restrictions contained in the laws of Seychelles and make copies of any documents found therein; it can summons any witness or suspect, examine him or her on oath, and compel the production of any document or article. A spouse of a suspect may be compelled to testify against the suspect. The Commission can seek assistance from relevant authorities, including the Police and the Judiciary, and can, in consultation with the appropriate government authorities, obtain permission from a foreign country to receive evidence from, or gather information in, that country.
- Can the TRNUC provide security?
The TRNUC can seek the assistance of the Police to provide security to any witness or other person who has a reasonable basis to believe that he or she is at risk.
- In what language will the TRNUC work?
The working language of the Commission is English but a suspect or perpetrator has the right to use his or her own language and other persons appearing before the Commission who do not have sufficient knowledge of English may use their own language.
- Will there be interpreters?
There will be interpreters who will translate into English and/or Creole as need be.
- Will the TRNUC pay people who give evidence?
The TRNUC will not pay people who give evidence.
- Will hearsay evidence be accepted?
The Commission is not bound by any rules of evidence so hearsay evidence will be accepted. However, as it is second hand evidence the Commissioners will exercise caution in the assessment of the reliability and credibility of that evidence.
- What standard of proof will the TRNUC accept?
The TRNUC must be satisfied to the balance of probabilities that a fact is true. In other words, it must find it more likely than not.
- Will the TRNUC help me to prepare my complaint?
The staff of the TRNUC will help you to prepare your initiating complaint and support you through the process of providing a sworn statement and throughout the process of the determination of your complaint.
- Is there any hope of finding the perpetrators of any crimes?
If complainants and witnesses come forward and provide their evidence to the Commission then there is hope of finding the perpetrators of crimes. Not all perpetrators may be found, some may be deceased, but there is hope provided people with relevant information are prepared to come forward.
- What if nobody comes forward?
If nobody comes forward then the Commission will not be able to implement its mandate. The Commission's work turns upon the willingness of complainants to bring their complaints to it so that they can be investigated and perpetrators identified.
- What will happen if the victim does not agree to an amnesty?
An amnesty is the offer being made in return for full and frank disclosure of participation in human rights violations by a perpetrator. It can only be granted where that disclosure is accompanied by a sincere apology from the perpetrator to the victim. The goal of the process is to lead both perpetrator and victim on the road to reconciliation, closure and moving forward in national unity. If a victim does not agree to an amnesty then there can be no process of reconciliation between the perpetrator and the victim. The Commission will have to consider very carefully the circumstances of the perpetrator and the victim in determining where the balance of meeting the objectives of the Commission lies. Whether that balance will necessitate a refusal of a grant of amnesty, or a grant of amnesty against the wishes of the victim of the violations will turn upon the particular circumstances before it.
- What assurance is there that the government will know the TRNUC’s recommendations on reparations?
The TRNUC is to report to the President every six months on its work and its final report is due on 9 August 2022. The President is to make public the final report of the Commission, which shall include findings, decisions and recommendations of the Commission with a view to achieving justice and national unity, and within one month of receiving it he must lay a copy before the National Assembly so the government will know the TRNUC’s recommendations on reparations.
The Commission intends, provided it is consistent with its overall objectives, to make its six month reports public and to draw specific attention to its recommendations, particularly reparations, to promote their efficient implementation.
- What form of reparations are available?
In determining the forms of reparations that will be recommended the Commission will seek the guidance of complainants and victims as to what would be meaningful to them. Obviously, monetary compensation will be recommended but other forms of recognition such as the establishment of memorials, memory centres or other methods of acknowledgment of suffering will very much be shaped and informed by the views of those who appear before the Commission seeking redress.
- Is there any assurance that there will be no recriminations?
There is no assurance that there will be no recriminations but the Commission will provide all necessary protection and support to any person, victim or perpetrator who has a reasonable basis to fear recriminations and will do all within its power to secure his or her well-being, including through the provision of security and, where appropriate, protective measures.
- Is the Commission confident that it can succeed?
The Commission has taken all measures within its power to secure its success. It is confident that it has the tools to succeed. Whether it will succeed will depend upon the willingness of others to allow it to do so.
- What guarantees are there that persons giving evidence will not be physically harmed?
There is no guarantee that people giving evidence will not be physically harmed but should there be any indication that a person may be at risk for the giving of evidence the Commission will implement appropriate protective measures to prevent that person being harmed.
- How is the TRNUC different from the Human Rights Commission?
The TRNUC and the Human Rights Commission while both concerned with human rights have completely different mandates. The TRNUC is mandated to investigate allegations of past human rights violations that occurred in relation to the Coup D’état of 1977, to determine the truth of allegations of violations and to try and bridge divisions caused by past injustices by recommending compensation for victims and granting amnesty to perpetrators who petition for amnesty. The focus of the mandate of the TRNUC is on those human rights violations that are related to the Coup D’état of 1977. It does not have a general mandate to protect human rights; that mandate is with the Human Rights Commission.
The Human Rights Commission is the guardian of human rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Seychelles and is mandated to engage in mediation, conciliation and negotiation in relation to claims of infringements of the human rights guaranteed to all citizens of Seychelles by Chapter III of the Constitution. The Human Rights Commission is mandated to investigate, detect and make recommendations to the Government with respect to the protection of human rights within public organisations and institutions and can assist complainants whose human rights have been infringed to institute proceedings in a competent court, or initiate proceedings itself on behalf of a person or a group or class of persons, including proceedings related to the constitutionality of a law or the provisions of a law.