Victims of the tensions in Solomon Islands will have their first opportunity today to give testimony on their experiences before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC.

"The outcome of the hearing is yet to be seen, but we hope and pray that it will enable those who are willing to come forward to finally move on in their lives", says Father Sam Ata, chairman of the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

During the two-day hearing, victims and witnesses from five different provinces are expected to appear before the commission, giving first-hand testimony on experiences they have had and events they have witnessed. The Solomon Islands experienced social unrest and violent civil conflict between 1998 and July 2003, during which more than 100 persons lost their lives and about 20,000 persons were displaced.

The commission's primary function is to promote national unity and reconciliation, and Fr. Ata underlines that reconciliation, and not prosecution, is the purpose of the hearings.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an independent body, comprising three national and two international commissioners. They are: Fr. Sam Ata of Solomon Islands (Chair); Ms. Sofia Macher of Peru (Deputy Chair); Mr. George Kejoa of Solomon Islands; Mrs. Carolyn Laore of Solomon Islands; and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi of Fiji.

"This hearing marks the start of a long-awaited healing process", says Mr. Knut Ostby, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. "Reconciliation can bring closure for many people who still suffer from the effects of the tensions."

Financial and technical support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been provided by a number of contributors, including the Governments of Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand; the European Commission; the International Centre for Transitional Justice; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the United Nations Development Programme.