Truth and Consequences

It is all too easy for political leaders to ignore victims or suppress the truth in their quest to end ethnic, religious, or ideological conflict and violence. But recognizing victims’ rights is an indispensable condition for lasting peace.

NEW YORK – The recent re-election of Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, brings hope to a country seeking to end a half-century of conflict. But, as with so many peace processes, finding a balance between creating a stable accord and acknowledging the terrible injustices that occurred during the conflict can be difficult to achieve.

Many countries and communities, from Nepal to Northern Ireland, have grappled with legacies of ethnic, ideological, or religious division and violence, often with limited success. This is frequently the case because the mechanisms established to cope with post-conflict reconciliation, truth, and justice, have proved inadequate.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has made important contributions to truth seeking. But victims complain that its procedures are slow and abstruse; and many Bosnian Serbs are convinced that the tribunal is selective and politically motivated.

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