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Recommendations to promote the peace process

Boton R

Following the Social Forum to promote the peace process, held last 14th and 15th March the organizers, having heard the opinions of international experts and analysed the social contributions received, wish to propose the following recommendations to promote the peace process:

a) Reach minimum consensus on addressing the main challenges of the peace process

 1. - We recommend an exercise of dialogue and reconciliation that would seek  to establish a solid basis for future coexistence through a wide-ranging and active engagement of institutions, political parties and civil society. In particular, we recommend that these groups should work to reach consensus that will contribute to addressing the main challenges of the peace process: disarmament, dismantling ETA’s military structures, reintegration of prisoners and people on the run, the safeguarding of Human Rights, as well as dealing with everything that happened in the past and establishing a basis for coexistence in the future.

 b) Design, develop and implement a process of dismantling and disarmament

2. - In order to ensure safety for all citizens, and as an essential part of the peace process, we recommend designing a controlled, ordered and agreed process that will conclude with the disarmament of ETA and the dismantling of its military structures.

3. - We recommend that this process, to be carried out in a reasonable timescale, should be able to call on independent facilitator bodies, with the aim of providing security to the states and its institutions and to the general public.

c) Facilitate the integration of prisoners and people “on the run”

4. - We recommend that a consensus is found on a comprehensive solution to the issue of prisoners and people “on the run”. This is essential to building a stable and lasting coexistence. To do this, we consider it necessary to adapt the law to the new reality and implement a transitional justice that helps society to consolidate coexistence. At the same time, and as a starting point, aspects of the prison policy that contravene human rights or that go against the humanitarian treatment of prisoners must be modified, eliminating exceptional prison policy measures that oppose the international standards. In particular, the situation of those who are seriously ill, the refusal to allow the release of prisoners who have served their sentence, and the dispersion of prisoners, which punishes their families.

5. - We recommend that the process of reintegration be done through legal channels, accepting that it – being comprehensive – may take place in an individualised, staggered manner and within a reasonable timescale. This process requires that prisoners show their commitment to the new scenario of peace and renounce violent means. Furthermore, as the case may be, there should be recognition on their part of the harm done as a result of their actions.

6. - We recommend that prisoners be active agents of the process of peace and normalization. Therefore, it is important to facilitate contacts and the exchange of opinions between prisoners and Basque society and the competent institutions, in order to promote coexistence for a future in which no type of violence takes place.

7. – We recommend examining the situation of people on the run, exploring ways for their integration into society and providing solutions for them.

d) Promote and safeguard Human Rights

8. - We recommend implementing the necessary legislative reforms to guarantee that all Human Rights and democratic freedoms are fully safeguarded, setting up the necessary mechanisms for that. As a first step, an independent body must assess the current human rights situation.

9. - We recommend establishing the principle that there cannot be room for impunity. Not only is it outside the international legal order, but it would also go against the principles of truth, justice and reparation and of the rights of victims. Nevertheless, international standards do allow the implementation of justice that takes the context of a peace process into consideration.

10. - We recommend redimensioning the number and function of State security forces and bodies to adapt them to the new reality. Mechanisms to control the security forces and bodies of security by institutions and civil society also need to be strengthened.

e)  Preserve truth and memory to deal with the past honestly and establish the basis for future coexistence

11. - We recommend that the institutions promote a broad process of truth, justice and reconciliation of a comprehensive nature that will include society as a whole. The aim is to create the ingredients for future coexistence based on respect of all Human Rights. To this end it is necessary to address what happened in the past, to recognize and provide reparation for all the victims and recognize all the harm done. Furthermore, we understand that a mechanism for Truth and Reconciliation, promoted and supported by the institutions and independent, and where civil society has a main role, is a useful tool capable of dealing with all this.

12. - We recommend facilitating different ways of narrating and remembering what happened, encouraging self-criticism in every social and political sector and an honest exercise of recognition of the serious mistakes made. In this way, it is necessary to create an official database that is public and complete, of all victims and Human Rights’ violations, in order to preserve the memory of what happened in the past before it is lost or becomes blurred.

Finally, we consider that all the actions referred to in this document should be compatible with respect for the rights to the truth, justice and reparation applicable to all victims.

 

Main contributions received

On the 14th and 15th of March 2013 the Social Forum to promote the peace process was held, organised by and supported by a range of different and plural organisations. The Forum included top-line international experts who shared their experiences and reflections on disarmament and the reinsertion of prisoners and people on the run, the safeguarding of Human Rights, and how to deal with the past.

At the same time, the organisers set up a process to collect citizens’ contributions. This section of the recommendations document is an effort to summarise of what was contributed, both by the international experts and other people who participated.

We need to begin with a reality: Basque society is now in a new situation, marked by the end of the violence of ETA. It is an unknown situation to date, in which new challenges that require renewed and innovative ideas and actions are emerging. In the Social Forum we had the opportunity to learn how processes have developed in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the international experts insisted on the idea that we have to find our own models.

Main conclusions: consensus is necessary

During the two sessions of the Social Forum to promote the peace process we learned of experiences in other peace processes that have taken place in the world. While recognising and respecting the specificity of each of these experiences, as a common denominator, in all the cases covered a fundamental idea was highlighted: whenever the challenges involved in an agenda of decommissioning of weapons, dismantling of structures and reinsertion into society, safeguarding Human Rights and dealing with the past and negotiating the basis for future coexistence have been taken on, there has been a framework of wide-ranging consensus that has meant that these issues can be dealt with in an orderly, constructive and resolutive manner.

Therefore, the main recommendation we extract from the contributions of the international experts and citizens’ proposals is the crucial and determining importance of being able to achieve wide-ranging consensus on the political, institutional and social levels that enable the definition of the mechanisms and initiatives that can consolidate a peace process.

An agenda for disarmament

Disarmament and the dismantling of ETA’s structures are crucial elements for the reconstruction and consolidation of peace, together with the reinsertion of prisoners and people on the run.

According to the UN, disarmament is the collection, documentation, control and transfer of light and heavy weapons, munitions and explosives. Dismantling is the formal and controlled dismissal of active combatants in armed groups, combined with the dissolution of the organisation’s structure.

Disarmament can take different forms: the handover of weapons, putting them out of use, or their controlled storage by third parties.

Disarmament and dismantling represent a great step forward in processes of building peace because they are necessary to remove the threat of violence or the perception of the threat of violence. At the same time, they are a symbolic and tangible demonstration that the violence has ended, and an important gesture that generates trust because it shows a clear commitment to the transformation of the conflict. Finally, they are also a security mechanism that fosters long-term stability.

Main guiding factors for disarmament and dismantling

- To ensure that the decommissioning is total, it is best that is should be part of a wider agreement to build peace. In this respect, it is best not to make disarmament a prerequisite, but rather something that should occur to ensure citizens’ security. Therefore, it is best if it is carried out in a reasonable timescale, without excessive delays.

- Disarmament and dismantling require the design of a process that provides guarantees, both to institutions and society in general. In this respect, the design of an agenda for disarmament and dismantling of ETA’s structures should take into account the United Nations recommendations on new perspectives for disarmament and demobilisation , and its guidelines on armament and munitions .

- An abrupt process of dismantling and demobilisation can create a vacuum that leads to members of an armed organisation dissociating. In contrast, an ordered process of disarmament and dismantling can avoid these power vacuums and guide members of armed organisations towards their reinsertion into society while maintaining their discipline.

- In other peace processes it has been seen that offering prospects of reinsertion creates greater opportunities for the decision to be taken to facilitate the decommissioning of weapons. In the long term, it is helpful if ex-members of armed organisation can find a place in political parties, groups of previous members or other support structures.

- The participation of independent bodies is important to increase the level of trust of the institutions and so that armed groups receive guarantees for their security during the process. They should be people with credibility and seen to be impartial. International and local witnesses can be combined.

- In no other place of the world has society played a major role in this type of issues, but Basque society can be innovative in the design of a process of disarmament and dismantling.

The reinsertion of prisoners and people “on the run”

Reinsertion is a series of legal and social measures, a complex process that is non-linear, deep and dynamic aimed at prisoners and people on the run so that, under certain conditions, they can participate in society as free citizens after a reasonable period of time.

The reinsertion of prisoners and people on the run is a necessary factor in a peace process. It is an essential element to achieve a normalised society.

Guiding principles for the reinsertion of prisoners and people on the run

- Prisoners and people on the run have rights. The State has the obligation and the mandate to respect and safeguard their Human Rights. In this respect, the principles on prison policy approved by the UN and the European Union should guide their situation, e.g. the right to serve a prison sentence near the prisoner’s place of origin, and to provide a solution for seriously ill prisoners or the right to release of prisoners who have served their sentence.

- Exceptional measures approved under the pretext of fighting against terrorism are no longer justified in a context of transition from a situation marked by violence to another in which violence has ended.

- Within a general legal framework, the process of reinsertion should be done in various stages, in an individualised manner and following clear procedures. Each prisoner should show a clear commitment to the end of violence, coexistence and support for the peace process. Although the process should be global, i.e. aimed at all prisoners, it requires individualised implementation.

- It is important to facilitate that prisoners and people on the run should themselves be involved and leading the process of reinsertion.

- Reinsertion needs a comprehensive plan that covers areas of training, insertion in the labour market and psychological and healthcare support.

- The process of reinsertion is facilitated when civil society can speak to prisoners to get to know their needs and expectations, and so that the latter can also understand what society expects from them in terms of their contribution to a future coexistence in which violence cannot take place.

- Society should make an effort to accompany victims of violent acts, listen to them and help them through the process.

The safeguarding of Human Rights

Human Rights have been part of the problem because they have been seriously violated. Therefore, they should also be a key part of the solutions.

Human Rights are the route map and should be outside political considerations. The objective is to guarantee the dignity of persons, this principle being at the heart of a culture of respect for Human Rights.

Guiding principles for the safeguarding of Human Rights

- In the short term, the objective should be to stop violations of Human Rights that may be being committed currently. In the medium term, the system of protection of Human Rights needs to be reviewed to prevent abuses in the future. Therefore, a wide-ranging agreement on an agenda for Human Rights is essential as a fundamental instrument for the effective defence and protection of these rights.

- There cannot be room for impunity. Besides there being no place for it in the international legal order, it would go against the principles of truth, justice and reparation and of the rights of victims. Nevertheless, international standards do allow the implementation of justice that takes the context of a peace process into consideration.

- In this respect it is necessary to modify laws, although ensuring respect for Human Rights is not sufficient in itself. Integrating Human Rights into a peace process requires much more. Mainly, the collective (and dominant) narrative of “us” (the goodies) and “them” (the baddies) needs to be discarded. A new, inclusive social narrative needs to be developed that weakens narratives that are destructive for coexistence, especially those that contradict the essential values of Human Rights.

- An important element for safeguarding of Human Rights is the review of articles of penal legislation in the area of terrorism, to ensure that someone who proposes changes in a peaceful manner should not be treated as a criminal, or that his is used to punish the peaceful expression of opinions.

- This would also help to modify legislation that promotes the banning of political formations or associations for the mere proposal of political changes in a peaceful manner, and also to adapt prison policy to international standards and the Set of Principles for the protection of all persons subjected to some kind of detention or prison,

- Another area of action is to prevent cases of torture and mistreatment: to end the incommunicado system and, in the meantime, increase guarantees for detained persons (choice of lawyer and doctor, communication with the family). In this respect, it would help to establish an impartial, independent mechanism to investigate claims of torture and mistreatment, and to apply the Istanbul Protocol in order to recognise all the persons who have suffered torture.

- The safeguarding of Human Rights also requires the fostering of education and social pedagogy around their content, and respect for them.

- In a normalised society, the presence and action of the security and police forces should be in line with international standards on crime prevention. It is therefore necessary that the size and presence of these forces should be based on the particular society’s reality and the framework of powers and functions that arises from current legislation.

Dealing with the past and laying the groundwork for future coexistence

The process of dealing with the past is one of handling a legacy of violence in a context in which violations of Human Rights have occurred. The objective is to repair, resolve, transform or deal with a legacy of violence and division.

Dealing with the past is a long-term process that requires clear commitments: by the institutions and also in the most basic areas of relations among citizens.

It requires an involvement at all levels and wide-ranging and global vision in which the victims have a role to play without losing the perspective that this process is basically a social one.

Guiding principles for dealing with the past

- A wide-ranging agreement for dealing with the past helps in achieving this objective. However, it is not essential for work to start.

- Taking on a process of construction of peace without dealing with the past leads to a false, incomplete and more vulnerable closure from the social cohesion point of view. It would be easier to favour amnesia and forgetfulness in society, but this is also more dangerous and unfair for society. This challenge of preserving memory has to start as early as possible to avoid it becoming blurry or gets diluted with the passage of time.

- Memory is necessary for the victims and for society as a whole. Society has a leading role when it comes to preserving the memory of everything that happened in the past.

- Collective memory should be plural, flexible, open, and objective and have a disinterested spirit. It is necessary to avoid constructing a single, watertight, rigid, subjective or self-interested memory. People need to learn to coexist with different visions of the past. It is important that memory should be inclusive. The truth of what happened needs to be revealed, so honesty is a key factor here.

- One should not remain anchored in the past and in suffering. Progress needs to be made in building peace, learning from mistakes and in the hope of enjoying a better coexistence in the future.

- All victims should be treated on an equal basis; for each violation of Human Rights, the same right to memory, the truth, justice and reparation.

- It is important to acknowledge the harm done to avoid errors from the past being repeated again. An exercise of empathy is advisable, and this can be expressed in very different ways: listening to people who think differently, listening to victims, holding constructive debates, having conversations on difficult subjects, encouraging self-criticism and the honest exercise of asking for forgiveness for serious errors committed.

- Attention needs to be paid to language and symbols. They should not become a form of attack. Look for new language and a narrative that encourages coexistence, not to make it more difficult.

- Experience shows that the setting up of an independent mechanism in search of the truth, in which all stakeholders participate, promoted by the institutions and accompanied by civil society, helps in the process of dealing with the past and establishing a solid base for the future.

- The exercise of dialogue and reconciliation should not only focus on what has happened. Questions about what happened and why should lead to a dialogue that is able to establish a solid democratic basis and respect for all Human Rights. This is essential for a future coexistence that establishes guarantees that these things will not happen again, through a wide-ranging and active participation by institutions, political parties and civil society.

Citizens’ Participation

Civil society needs to play an important role in the peace process. At moments of impasse or difficulty, dialogue, encounters and collaboration at the ground of society keeps the process going, influencing and promoting agreements between parties and institutions. Moreover, this participation helps build and rebuild coexistence. That is why it is essential that citizens have forums for participation in promoting the peace process.

The participation of women

The search for a just and lasting peace requires a peace process based on equality of the dignity of people, which should also be expressed in the inclusion of women’s voices, their singular experiences and their own ways of dealing with conflict/disagreements in a different manner.

All bodies established to implement the peace process should include the equal representation of women. Likewise, all the mechanisms put in place for the reinsertion of prisoners, the safeguarding of Human Rights and dealing with the past, should be designed to take account of the particular impact and issues that they raise for women and girls.

The participation of young people

Young people should have both shared and exclusive areas for participation. They may have a greater capacity for empathy and be more flexible in their positions, because the passing of time has not led them to a situation of entrenchment.

We are faced with a new situation in which young people are very important, because they will have to manage the new way of coexistence that we are starting to build now. This is why all the mechanisms implemented should ensure that they provide young people with the right to be heard.

You can also watch the introduction of Andy Carl, director of Conciliation Resources, in the presentation of the Recommendations and you can also read the letter on the Recommendations that Bertie Ahern sent