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NewsReconcile differences through recognising the past blunders

Reconcile differences through recognising the past blunders

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Bashy Quraishy

Secretary General – EMISCO -European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion 

Thierry Valle

Director CAP Liberté de Conscience

The United Nations was founded in 1945 after the Second World War and is committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

In our opinion, however the most important job of such organization today is to prevent injustice, stop aggression and make sure that a powerful nation does not violate the freedom of a smaller or less resourceful country.

Since its founding, UN headquarter is in New York City, but it has offices in Geneva – Switzerland. As a diplomatic center, with near universal representation of states, Geneva is the ideal location for successful international cooperation. Thousands of beneficial meetings are held at the Palais des Nations every year, each in different ways touching the lives of people around the globe. This way, it brings together individuals, organizations, and nations to ensure a better future for all.

One of its mail activities is to provide a platform for civil society organizations to meet, discuss and come to an understanding on issues that create conflicts and violate human rights. For that the UN Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, in February-March, June-July and September-October.

Normally, it is the States and their governments that are the deciders and practitioners of conflicts as well as finding the solutions, the role of the civil societies is often invisible in such development. NGO organisations tirelessly work to create the conditions that pushes international institutions and States to set aside their entrenched views in conflicts and move towards peace through give and take process.

Invitation side on peacebuilding and reconciliation 1 - Reconcile differences through recognising the past blunders

A very good example of such effort is the conference held on 6th October 2022 in Geneva at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council which was arranged by European NGOs, “Recognize to reconcile Initiative” to advance the cause of justice and peace to prevail between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the South Caucuses and the world at large.

The conference not only discussed the importance of recognition of the historical wrong doings that happened in Khojaly- Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992 but also encourage governments and leaders of public opinion in both countries to consider application of transitional justice mechanisms in their post-conflict normalization agenda.

The eminent speakers from various European human rights organisations, like Gyorgy Tatar, Director of the Budapest Centre of MAP, Thierry Valle, Director of the CAP- Freedom of Conscience, Antonio Stango, President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights and Bashy Quraishy, Secretary General of the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO) addressed the event.

The main speaker was Ms. Munira Subasic, President of Association Mothers of Srebrenica whose life story and first-hand experience of Bosnian Muslims massacres touched every participant. The main emphasises of all the speakers was to encourage Armenia to properly recognize Khojaly massacre and offer a public apology to its victims but they also requested Azerbaijan to open public space for direct dialogue on the issue at hand between the civil societies of the two countries because it would be an important cornerstone for reconciliation efforts.

The conference appreciated the fact that leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have recently announced their willingness “to turn the page” and start“era of peace in the region”. The organisers believe that it is time for a strong international mediation, first on civil society level, to end the impunity and silence, render justice for Khojaly but also to help communities in both countries to overcome the shadow of the tragedy through recognition, dialogue, and ultimate reconciliation. In such dire circumstances, the role of civil society becomes even more vital, not only in leading the way when other paths are muddy but also bringing peace to both parties, namely aggrieved and the aggressor.

In recent history, there are many examples of successful reconciliation, but we can mention two outstanding efforts that are well known: namely the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Rwanda Conflict resolution.

After the end of Apartheid in South Africa, there were two choices in front of Nelson Mandela. To embark on retribution and revenge or extend a hand of reconciliation towards those who committed tremendous crimes against the African majority. In 1996, the Government of National Unity under the great Mandela established, The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to help deal with what happened under apartheid.

He nominated, a great humanitarian, Bishop Desmond Tutu as Chair of the Commission. Tutu’s idea of reconciliation was to invite the witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations to give statements about their experiences, and some were asked to speak at public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. The TRC was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa. Despite some flaws, it is generally thought to have been successful.

Another good example is Rwanda conflict resolution, which is held up as a model for reconciliation, 28 years after genocide. Reconciliation has enabled Rwandans to close a chapter of their history and write a new one. For that Rwandan people collectively decided to move forward and rebuild their society after the 1994 genocide. The post-genocide RPF government imposed a reckoning from the top but it was also up to ordinary Rwandans to figure out how to carry on day-to-day. In short, confession as a way forward lead to reconciliation.

In light of the increasing challenges that Europe and the world faces, such initiatives are especially important for reducing the risk of escalation in conflict situations around the world, particularly in areas where there are opportunities for peaceful transformation.

Since the conference was attended by various ambassadors, including Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as NGO representatives, media, and conflict resolution experts, we believe that NGOs and activists with expertise on transitional justice, human rights, and peacebuilding would join the coalition because by doing so, they would not only be extending their valuable expertise and help to achieve objectives of “Recognize to reconcile” initiative but would be partner in advancing its noble cause of Justice and Peace to prevail between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

We would like to end by mentioning that our Vienna/Rome Initiative is the right way to move forward and get justice for the victims. We do not have to repeat mistakes but learn from the achievements of others, because peace can only come if we all work to achieve it.

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