Started by Marijana Toma a month ago

Several discussants in the previous topic argued that establishment of RECOM would benefit different groups that are vitally important for the success or failure of the process of reconciliation in the region. While many are praising the transformative power of RECOM for victims, as being the institution that would provide justice, there were those who claimed the RECOM can fill in the gaps that remained after unsatisfactory achievements of the war crimes trials, but there were those who also argued that RECOM does not possess enough power to successfully challenge nationalists understanding of collectiveness.

Beside these groups, what are the real benefits of establishment of RECOM, if any, for those that choose not to participate in the process, the silent majority in the societies eager to close the book of the past and move on into the future, without remembering the violence experienced in the 1990s?

Terry Savage

Comment by Terry Savage

RECOM ensures that any attempt at transitional justice retains the core commitment to truth recovery. This is crucial in an era in which transitional justice has become increasingly commodified into a smorgasbord of options. One risk is that these options override that aspect of transitional justice which consistently proves most uncomfortable for governments: truth recovery. When truth is not retained as the sine qua non of all other Transitional Justice projects, the result is catastrophic:

  • Prosecutions may become selective, such that a formerly warring group now reformed as a political party actively blocks investigations into crimes committed by its own members while moreover motivating – in the name of Rule of Law – for prosecution of its opponents. Examples of selective prosecutions abound from throughout globe – with the Sisi regime in Egypt,the Erddogan regime in Turkey,the International Criminal Tribunal in Bangladesh, to cite but a few.
  • Public institutions may be staffed with party loyalists instead of technically capable citizens committed to earning public trust, daily, through impartial discharge of their duties. This problem becomes particularly conspicuous, and consequential, when the institution concerned has a human rights mandate. The integrity of national human rights institutions and transitional justice mechanisms, and their very ability to fulfil their mandates, derives from the trust they are able to draw from victims and from the broader public. This necessarily involves figures selected through public consultation and widely respected for their impartiality and universal application of human rights – across partisan boundaries. One example of worst practices in this regard may suffice: the disastrous truth and reconciliation commission established in DR Congo as part of the agreement that marked the end of hostilities between multiple belligerents, the Accord global et inclusive. The eight parties to the Congo’s peace accord each had representation in all transitional institutions, of which the truth commission was one. In the two years of its existence not one victim walked through its doors to offer testimony.
  • The concept of “reparations” may be altered to mean distribution of funds to war veterans,martyrs’ families and other partisans of one side to the conflict or another – in short, to entrench systems of patronage among party faithful impacted by the conflict, as recompense for their suffering and to ensure their continuing loyalty. Reparations is, however, a juridical concept with a specific – and very different – meaning: it pertains specifically to the obligations owed by a State to victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law – in other words, to those who have suffered gross violations of their basic human rights (GVHRs), through acts perpetrated by State agents(acts of commission) or enabled as a direct result of failures of State agents to fulfil their responsibilities (acts of omission). Making the term refer to measures for tackling conflict related anguish in general rather than the specific suffering of victims of GVHRs enables the State to avoid its obligations vis-à-vis acts for which they are responsible. Libya represents but one example, where reparations have been widely understood as monetary compensation chiefly to the families of fighters declared “martyrs” for their role in the fight against Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi.
  • And even the term “reconciliation” may be appropriated as a euphemism for a general amnesty, that is, a legal mechanism by which victims’ right to legal remedy is blocked, as with Algeria’s Charte pour la paix et la reconciliation (Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation), which effectively prohibits even inquiries by the families of the Disappeared into the fate of their loved ones or the whereabouts of their remains. In short, truth is the sine qua non of any meaningful transitional justice process, and without it the process, the funds that go into it, and most crucially even the needs of victims get manipulated and abused beyond recognition. Truth limits politicians space to manoeuvre.

 

  • Comment by Marijana Toma

    The text published on: https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/Transeuropa/RECOM-guarda-a-Trieste-come-opportunita-di-rilancio

    Cecilia Borrini

    RECOM guarda a Trieste come opportunità di rilancio

    Il prossimo luglio a Trieste si tiene il quarto vertice dei Balcani occidentali. La coalizione RECOM guarda all’appuntamento come un’occasione di rilancio e intanto ha raccolto migliaia di firme di cittadini dei paesi della regione

    Nell’ambito del processo di Berlino, il prossimo 12 luglio si terrà a Trieste il quarto Summit dei leader dei Balcani occidentali. Un percorso, quello del così detto “processo di Berlino” iniziato nel 2014 per volontà del governo tedesco con l’intento di ridare slancio al processo di integrazione dei Balcani. A tal fine i leader politici dei paesi coinvolti si sono impegnati a riunirsi con cadenza annuale. A riprova di questo impegno, Germania, Austria, Francia e Italia assieme ai paesi dei Balcani occidentali si sono riuniti a Vienna nel 2015 e Parigi nel 2016. I macro-temi in discussione ricoprono le importanti aree dello sviluppo economico, dello stato di diritto, delle dispute bilaterali e della cooperazione regionale.

    Nel contesto del processo di Berlino si è attivata una folta rete di realtà appartenenti alle società civili dei paesi balcanici, che si riunisce nel Forum della Società civile in parallelo al vertice intergovernativo e nel corso di appuntamenti che precedono e seguono il summit.

    In questo spiraglio di apertura verso le realtà dal basso e le loro iniziative, si inserisce il tema della riconciliazione tra i paesi della regione, il quale si impone con grande urgenza considerate le ancora attuali lacerazioni conseguenti alle guerre degli anni ’90 che attraversano il tessuto sociale di queste società. Sulla base della necessità di fare i conti col passato e di rispettare il principio del diritto alla verità, nel 2007 prende vita la coalizione RECOM ad oggi composta da più di 2000 organizzazioni della società civile e singoli membri dei paesi post-jugoslavi. L’impegno dimostrato in questi dieci anni di impegno per la riconciliazione si è concretizzato nell’immenso lavoro di raccolta di una cospicua mole di materiale che ha permesso di ricostruire le morti o le scomparse di persone durante la guerra.

    Un accurato lavoro di ricerca da cui è poi scaturita la volontà di creare una commissione interstatale con l’obiettivo di dare avvio a un processo condiviso di riconciliazione sulla base della pratica del truth-telling, affinché tutte le vittime dei conflitti possano essere ascoltate nella regione, abbattendo la dicotomia ‘nostre’ e ‘loro’ vittime. Un’iniziativa che ha raccolto un grande consenso da parte dei cittadini (nel 2011 vennero raccolte 550.000 firme a sostegno dell’iniziativa) ma che allo stesso tempo incontra resistenze e viene screditata dalle frange più nazionaliste della società.

    Proprio in vista del summit di Trieste in cui la tematica della cooperazione transfrontaliera è cruciale, lo scorso maggio, la Coalizione RECOM ha voluto ridare slancio all’iniziativa lanciando una campagna di raccolta firme per una petizione a sostegno della creazione della commissione regionale RECOM. L’iniziativa è riuscita a raccogliere in pochi giorni 50.000 sottoscrizioni nelle città di Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Pristina, Zagabria, Belgrado, Niš, Preševo, Novi Sad, Zrenjanin, Subotica e Novi Pazar.

    L’obiettivo dichiarato della campagna è di fare pressione sui leader politici balcanici al fine di ottenere il loro pieno sostegno a quest’iniziativa e di dare prova di coerenza agli impegni sottoscritti nelle dichiarazioni firmate nei precedenti summit, nello specifico quello di Parigi in cui nelle conclusioni si afferma che “la riconciliazione è essenziale per la stabilità della regione nel suo percorso verso l’UE”.

    L’auspicio dunque è che i leader politici della regione si esprimano a favore della creazione della commissione RECOM in occasione del futuro summit di Trieste e che intraprendano azioni concrete per raggiungere un accordo ufficiale di creazione della commissione da presentare al summit di Londra previsto nel 2018 e finalmente dare il necessario sostegno istituzionale al processo di riconciliazione dal basso.

  • Comment by Natasa Kandic

    Campaign for the establishment of RECOM under the auspices of the Berlin Process

    In May 2017, in the course of just a few days, 50,000 citizens of Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Pristina, Zagreb, Belgrade, Nis, Presevo, Novi Sad, Zrenjanin, Subotica and Novi Pazar signed the petition calling on the leaders of post-Yugoslav states to conclude an official agreement to establish RECOM as part of the Berlin Process. The aim of the campaign was to inform the public about the obligations of states and political leaders in the region undertaken in the official declarations signed at the Summit of Western Balkan Leaders in Berlin (2014), Vienna (2015) and Paris (2015), calling for “concrete steps to be taken by Western Balkan leaders towards lasting reconciliation in the region.”

    The citizens of Pristina have decisively backed a regional approach to truth-telling, rather than a national one as in the proposed Commission for Truth and Reconciliation in Kosovo. The procedure for the establishment of a Kosovo commission was set in motion by the President of Kosovo, Hashim Taçi.

    The citizens of Banja Lukahave chosen to disregard the appeals of certain local associations (all of them funded by the RS Government) not to sign “a petition aimed against the Serbs”, and to place their trust in RECOM instead.

    The support of the citizens of Sarajevo for the establishment of RECOM was never in question. Their motive has always been “to know the name of each victim, and have their voices heard throughout the region.”

    At the height of the election campaign in Croatia, the support of the citizens of Zagreb for RECOM has clearly demonstrated their view that Croatia, being an EU member, has a political and historic obligation to participate in the public acknowledgment of all the victims of the wars following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

    The campaign also marked the first time the citizens of Presevo in Southern Serbia were able to participate in a regional, victim-centered process. They too regard a regional approach to be the most credible guarantee of public acknowledgement of all victims (‘ours’ and ‘theirs’). In Serbian towns and cities – Belgrade, Novi Sad, Zrenjanin, Subotica and Nis – the signature campaign reaffirmed strong grassroots support for RECOM. For ordinary Serbian citizens, the establishment of RECOM is understood as an obligation of the state and its current leadership.

    Facts

    The RECOM Coalition brings together more than two thousand civil society organizations and individual members – artists, academics, writers, lawyers and journalists, among others, from all post-Yugoslav countries. Between 2007 and 2011, the Coalition conducted a consultations process which engaged some 8,000 individuals from different sections of civil society around the idea of facing the past regionally. These debates gave birth to the Draft RECOM Statute Proposal, outlining the goals, tasks and basic activities of a future inter-state commission. In May of 2011, the Coalition organized a four-day signature collection campaign for RECOM, in the course of which 550,000 citizens from all post-Yugoslav countries signed the petition for the establishment of RECOM. In May 2013, the region’s Presidents/B&H Presidency Members appointed their personal envoys for RECOM. The envoys analyzed and deliberated on the Draft Statute Proposal for eighteen months, before submitting to the Coalition their Amendments to the RECOM Statute, on October 28th, 2014. At its assembly held on November 14, 2014, the Coalition adopted the document in its entirety without any objections, and expressed the view that “all the formal conditions for the establishment of such an inter-state commission have been met”.

    In order to help the future commission carry out its mandate to document all wartime detention sites and create a registry of all civilians and combatants who lost their lives or disappearedin connection with the war (as foreseen by the Statue), the Coalition had, by December 31st, 2016,taken more than 17,000 statements from witnesses and victims’ relatives, andgathered some 12,000 victims’ photographs and more than 30,000 documents relating to the context and circumstances of their death or disappearance. Drawing on these sources, to date the Coalition has been able to establish the identities of 23,000 war victims (out of a total of 130,000, both civilians and combatants) and the circumstances in which they lost their lives or disappeared in connection with the wars following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia from 1991 until 2001.

    By the end of 2016, the Coalition had documented 630 detention sites and prison camps in B&H (out of a total of around 1,500 known sites), where more than 170,000 people were imprisoned during the war. More than half of those detained at these sites were civilians.

    The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia itself has established the identities and circumstances of deathof at least 18,000 victims of war crimes.

    In their conversations with the campaign activists, many people expressed a commonly shared view that the time has come for the states in the region, through their support for RECOM, to complete the remaining work on establishing the identity of each of the 130,000 victims of the war and the circumstances of their death or disappearance.

    Citizens of post- Yugoslav states expect from their leaders to express support for including the initiative of establishing“RECOM – Regional Commission Tasked with Establishing the Facts about All Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia in the period from 1991-2001“ in the agenda of the upcoming Western Balkans Summit in Trieste on July 12, 2017 and to take concrete steps for reaching the official agreement for establishing the “Commission” at the next Summit planned in year 2018.

    Natasa Kandic

  •  a month ago Liked by Bekim Blakaj, Furtuna Sheremeti and Tihomir Loza.
  • Comment by Furtuna Sheremeti

    I am new here and not sure if everyone knows why I am here. I have been part of the RECOM consultations when I was young(ER) and have continuously volunteered to help when I could, but at the same time followed the process. Currently I am doing my PhD in Belgium (KU Leuven) on the harms of state crimes in former Yugoslavia – with specific focus in Kosovo. RECOM Initiative is a substantial part of my work and that’s why I am here :).

    Now, these are my two cents on the matter at hand:

    In my opinion, the international community has gone to great length in trying to identify and bring to court those responsible for state crimes in the region, above all through the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). To support and speed up the work of the ICTY in Kosovo, special chambers under the official name of “The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO)“ have also been recently instituted. Based in The Hague and composed of foreign staff, these special courts have the mandate to conduct trials over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law which allegedly occurred between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000.

    Instead (and the focus should lie here), much less has been done so far at the local, regional or international level to assess the harms generated by state crime and to understand victims’ perceptions of such harms and their needs. A few years ago even Robinson (2011), the ICTY President, admitted: “the Tribunal cannot, through the rendering of its judgments alone, bring peace and reconciliation to the region. Other remedies should complement the criminal trials if lasting peace is to be achieved.” Robinson went on calling for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and for a non-judicial assessment and restoration of the harms resulting from war crimes and other serious violations of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the restorative justice approach is instead still a novelty in the Balkans, despite the seminal studies in Croatia and Bosnia. In Kosovo, several bills recognize compensation of material damage as a right—but provide no funds for it by law for it. Until recently, no compensation was foreseen for non-material damages. In February 2016, after a civic initiative that gathered 13.000 signatures, compensation for non-economic, or so-called “emotional damages” was added—at least on paper.

    The only initiative that has systematically pursued the need to deal with the past has been RECOM Initiative. As such the benefits of its establishment would be numerous, in my opinion.

    The establishment of RECOM would not only help bearers of harm (victims) and give them a voice, but it would at the same time provide a platform – a credible platform where victims would gather to share and hear, but also (upon establishment) seek reparation. It was said in one of the texts above that: “The concept of “reparations” may be altered to mean distribution of funds to war veterans,martyrs’ families and other partisans of one side to the conflict or another – in short, to entrench systems of patronage among party faithful impacted by the conflict, as recompense for their suffering and to ensure their continuing loyalty.” It is my opinion that victims can benefit from different forms of reparation (as provided on UN 2006 Resolution) without being alert that they may be altered. While some victims might not care at all about satisfaction (a form of reparation), but they only might want to share their stories and be heard – the other victims might be seeking only satisfaction. RECOM – upon establishment would be a platform enabling these differences as well. Offering options. Setting the path for the system/s to actually start working on these matters.

    Furthermore, RECOM would be (as if it is not already) a major help for the system/s (judicial prosecutorial, political) that plan on starting to deal properly with the war crimes and reparations.

    Also, establishing RECOM would mean also introducing relatively novel concepts within the system and providing the opportunity for the system/s to get familiar with them (such as restoration, reparation, rehabilitation, reconciliation, transitional justice etc).

 

 a month ago   Natasha Stamenkovikj and Bekim Blakaj like this.
  • Thomas OsorioThomas Osorio in reply to Natasa Kandic

    Indeed, introducing reconciliation to the re-launched regional cooperation through the Berlin Process is absolutely critical if the future of the Western Balkans is to be bright and peaceful. RECOM is rightfully building on a two-decade uphill battle to bring out the painful truth and give victims a chance to reconcile. Nothing speaks more eloquently then the number of associations, civil society organisations and individual victims that have joined RECOM to deal with their trauma so that the past stops haunting the present and undermining the future.

    A victims-based approach brought as a dimension to the Berlin Process as RECOM advocates has true merit and by all means should be embraced. It is also complementary with the intent of the political sponsors of this process, some of the big member states and the EU to foster civic initiative and bottom-up pressure on the governing elites. This is chance for the political masters in Western Balkans to put their money where their mouth is. Due to the relentless work of RECOM to bring together and create critical mass and momentum, the proposal to the Berlin Process has a fair chance.

  •  a month ago Natasha Stamenkovikj likes this.
  •  NS, Natasha Stamenkovikj in reply to Thomas Osorio

    Fully agreed. However, in reply to the last sentence by Mr. Osorio, I just want to mention that it seems that the reconciliation pillar of the Berlin process is the least ‘shaped’ one so far. Even more, the civil sector representatives (from Serbia, who will be at the Trieste summit) seem to pay least attention to that pillar. They see it as an umbrella pillar which would be expected to have its boost due to the developments of the rest of the pillars, and especially of the RYCO initiative. Thus, my suggestion to FHP/HLC would be to ensure that the civil sector representatives in Trieste are more dedicated to forcing the RECOM issue towards a constructive debate at the summit. For now it seems that all of the actors, and especially the civil sector representatives from the region, are dedicated entirely to boosting the RYCO initiative, while RECOM is set aside for the time to come, EVENTUALLY. The participants of the Trieste summit should be well advised to boost both of the initiatives together and equally, since they are directly inter-dependent to and of each other.