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Truth and reconciliation for Bosnia (is the solution according to Jakob Finci).

`Bosnia was a poor part of the poor former Yugoslavia,' says Jakob Finci, the President of Bosnia's Jewish community and of its Association of Citizens, Truth and Reconciliation. `Now, after being destroyed by war, the country is even poorer than ever. Dividing the country into three parts is not the solution. Truth and reconciliation is our only hope.'

Finci came to Caux with a group from his country's different communities and regions--`Bosnia in small'--involved in developing the truth and reconciliation process. `Our approach is simple,' he says. `The war in Bosnia finished with three losing sides. Each is teaching their children a different history, that their neighbours are their enemies. On this basis, it's hard to expect anything but war in the years ahead.'

In setting up the truth and reconciliation process, Finci and his colleagues have drawn on the experience of South Africa and South America, but there are important differences. This will be the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to be organized in Europe, and the first where there is already a special international tribunal for war criminals. The TRC is concerned with the victims and perpetrators who do not reach the tribunal in The Hague.

Finci lists three main groups who will testify: victims; those perpetrators who qualified for the general amnesty granted to all except war criminals, but still may not be able to sleep at night; and those who were regarded as traitors by their own people because they helped people of other communities. He hopes that the public hearings will act as `some kind of psychotherapy' and provide the material for a database through which missing people can be traced and on which future history can be based.

`Clearly the TRC cannot solve all our problems,' he says. `But if it can improve relations between our ethnic groups--even to a partial extent--that will be a huge achievement.' The cost of the process is estimated at under $15 million--`less than one per cent of one year's peacekeeping bill'.

The impetus for the TRC began with the country's religious leaders, and was taken up in February 2000 at a roundtable of over 100 Bosnian NGOs. The proposal will come before parliament this autumn and, if approved, seven Bosnian nationals will be appointed by the UN Secretary-General to sit on the Commission. The Commission should begin work in 2002 and report in 2004.

And how valuable were his group's meetings in Caux? `The timing was excellent for our work: it was more than useful to be able to exchange views with people who have passed through similar situations.' In the same way, he hopes, Bosnia's experience today will be useful for other countries tomorrow.
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Publication:For A Change
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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