the URG Team

Report of the Accountability Roundtable Series

The need for greater ‘accountability’ for human rights violations and abuses is an oft-repeated refrain in the international human rights community. While few doubt the importance of strengthening international accountability mechanisms and processes, there is: a growing need to reconceptualize, and seek wider agreement on, what is meant by ‘accountability;’ to objectively assess the degree to which the international mechanisms and processes established to deliver accountability are (and are capable of) succeeding; to take stock of recent policy experiments  designed to address weaknesses in the international human rights accountability system; and to identify ways to further strengthen that system to deliver accountability for human rights abusers and justice for victims.

In August-September 2021, the Universal Rights Group (URG), in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of the United States to the UN Office in Geneva, organised a series of policy dialogues
with a cross-regional group of over 150 experts, to seek conceptual clarity and analyse emerging trends and best practices in international efforts to secure ‘accountability’ for human rights  violations. The first session, held on 24 August 2021, focused on targeted human rights sanction regimes, and provided an opportunity to share good practices and lessons learnt, and consider improved coordination of ‘Magnitsky-style’ sanction regimes.  Two additional sessions followed on 31 August and 1 September 2021 focusing on UN-mandated accountability efforts, notably  through fact-finding and other investigative mechanisms.

The present report explores definitions of accountability, the complementarity between criminal and human rights accountability, victim-centred perspectives, as well as challenges and opportunities for securing greater accountability for human rights violations. It also addresses the implications of the emergence, development, and deployment of targeted human rights sanction regimes for international accountability efforts.

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