Thursday, October 04, 2007

Amnesty after Atrocity?: Healing Nations after Genocide and War Crimes

Featured Speakers: Helena Cobban, author; Dick Ruffin, Executive Committee of Initiatives of Change International; Ian Bannon, Manager of the Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit, World Bank.

Helena Cobban opened the discussion of her book launch by expressing her interest in justice and accountability in post-conflict societies. She focused her attention on three case studies: South Africa, Mozambique, and Rwanda. Cobban discussed the failures in Rwanda regarding justice in the society. She explained how less significant war criminals were held at a national level under inhumane circumstances in Rwandan prisons, while more significant war criminals were held at an international level in a UN-style prison. She attributed the cruel treatment at the national level to Rwanda’s emphasis on revenge and punishment, post-conflict. Cobban sees the progress in Mozambique and South Africa as the antithesis of Rwanda. Unlike Rwanda, Mozambique stressed the importance of reintegration after the end of the conflict. Countrymen who had committed atrocities were allowed to return to the community, where community healers and religious groups played integral roles in eliminating the spirit of violence in the country. Religious groups in South Africa also played an important part in peace-building as they were strong proponents against the apartheid. Since the end of their conflicts, South Africa and Mozambique have both seen improvements in political justice and civil liberties, while Rwanda has yet to see any improvement. Cobban stressed the importance of increased emphasis on rebuilding and peace in order to create and maintain stability.

Dick Ruffin applauded the UN for its new peace-building commission and emphasized the importance of a multi-faceted conflict resolution and peace-building plan. He asserted that four factors must be involved in order to achieve reconciliation: honesty, justice, mercy, and finding common action. He also stated the importance of safe spaces for those involved with the conflict, in order to reacclimate themselves. Ian Bank of the World Bank agreed with Cobban’s thoughts on the importance of local healing, reintegration of societies, and peace as the overriding concern. However, he underlined that each conflict is unique, making it very difficult to systemize the best techniques for reconciliation. He also stated that in the case of Rwanda, where genocide took place, it is extremely difficult to reintegrate a society that is so deeply in conflict with itself.

Sponsor: The World Bank

Location: The World Bank

Date: September 26, 2007

Time: 12:00pm – 2:00 pm

Approximate Number of Attendees: 50

Intern Attending: Abby Smardon

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