On the decision of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia to withdraw from the Coalition for RECOM

On Monday May 17th 2010 Beta News Agency published a press release by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia informing the public about their decision to cancel their membership with the “commission for RECOM”.

On the same occasion, in an interview for the Daily Avaz, Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, explains the decision in detail saying: “We have thought from the beginning that Serbia should have formed its national commission first and that the regional concept should have been developed after that.”

In responding to this press release, it is important to understand that the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia could not have cancelled its membership with the “commission for RECOM” because such a commission does not yet exist. Forming the Commission is actually the goal of the Coalition for RECOM. The Coalition for RECOM at this moment consists of 294 non-governmental organizations, 56 victims’ organizations, six veterans’ organizations, 11 media outlets, and 503 individuals – victims, academics, artists, journalists, lawyers, and members of other civil society groups. The goal of all our activities undertaken so far is to develop a broad based debate in all post-Yugoslav countries on the Initiative to create RECOM which should result in the disclosure of the facts about all victims and war crimes. The fact that several organizations (five to be precise) have decided to cancel their membership with the Coalition for RECOM will in no way interfere with these efforts.

The second dilemma of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights is: “Why not a national instead of a regional commission?” In the current political situation among the states formed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia it is unrealistic to expect that a national commission of any state would be accepted by other states in the region. National mechanisms are insufficient and they can only be legitimate in the country where they were formed. The regional approach, however, removes the shortcomings of the national concept, makes it possible to establish the facts about all victims, and restores the dignity of the victims.

Even before informing the public of her decision to cancel the membership of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia with the Coalition for RECOM, Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, had on more than one occasion told the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina that the concept of RECOM was premature, that the idea was too simplified because it only focused on victims, that it would make all victims equal, that it was inspired by international organizations, and that it did not consider the fact that BiH was a victim of aggression.

The Initiative for RECOM is a local response to an ever-growing societal need to deal with its past. It represents the interest of all victims and all societies in the region. It has the potential to reduce tensions, and bring people in the post-Yugoslav societies closer together. The Initiative for RECOM has a regional character; it is a subject of the first post-war public debate on the past events in the region; it has no political aspirations; it strongly advocates for the establishment of the facts about all victims; it advocates for the creation of an individualized record of the killed and missing starting from a generally accepted opinion that all victims deserve respect but that war crimes are different and should be categorized according to their gravity and legal qualification.