Statement by Mr. Levent Eler Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Turkey to the United Nations at the Thematic Debate on “Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation”

Levent Eler 10.04.2013
Mr. President,

History shows that, throughout the World, peaceful times and times of conflict alternate. Periods of violent conflicts can truly devastate a country, destroy natural richness, infrastructure and, above all give great suffering to the people. In situations where grave violations of human rights occur, the impact upon victims is extremely severe and painful. In aftermath of such situations it is highly important to do justice to the survivors of shocking atrocities, rehabilitate them, and at the same time rebuild and reconcile the country when peace has finally set in.

It has become clear that peace and reconciliation are intertwined. They can be regarded as mutually reinforcing imperatives, rather than excluding one another. Peace without justice would leave victims empty-handed, not having been heard, acknowledged nor having received any reparation for the harm done. Without justice, those responsible for the most heinous crimes would not be accountable for their wrongs. This will seriously limit the chance of genuine transition and the healing of the society.

Obviously one of the significant options at hand is criminal justice. Criminal justice can contribute to the process of achieving justice for victims. Prosecuting the individuals that are responsible help to create respect for the rule of law, establish an accurate historical record, and act as a deterrent to future criminals.

With this understanding, international criminal tribunals were established as a response to the large-scale and systematic violations of human rights in the context of serious ethnic and national conflicts.

Prosecution and punishment of crimes, especially of serious international crimes, proved to be an appropriate instrument just as much conducive to reconciliation and to the restoration of peace as it claimed for restorative justice. In its resolution establishing the ICTY and ICTR, the Security Council considered the creation of those courts as a measure under Chapter VII of the UN Charter suitable to contribute “to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace”.

Twenty years after the establishment of the ad hoc tribunals, beyond any doubt, it is proved that those suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed can be called to account. In this regard, decisions handed down by the ad hoc tribunals for the accused individuals also protect entire communities from being labeled as “collectively responsible”.

Therefore, we are of the opinion that today’s debate should highlight the important role the international criminal courts have played in this effort.

Mr. President,

The former Yugoslavia has often been characterized by conflict and tensions, being dubbed as the “most vulnerable region in Europe”. We are glad to observe that this image is changing.

Increased momentum in the European and Euro-Atlantic integration process and positive steps taken towards good neighborly relations and regional cooperation are indicators that the region is moving in the right direction.

Turkey, which is a Balkan country herself, and shares historical, cultural and human ties with countries of the region, has actively contributed to the peace, stability and reconciliation efforts from the outset. In particular, the “Turkey – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Serbia” and “Turkey -Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia” trilateral processes have led to significant advances in terms of regional understanding and dialogue. At this moment, the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue process has also reached a critical phase. Constructive solutions are also being sought to the issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

These are positive developments. We believe that progress in these areas can change the image of the Balkans to a region of cooperation, integration and prosperity and ensure that conflict is an issue of the past.

Thus, we should be very careful to avoid any action that can cast a shadow over the positive, yet vulnerable political picture in the Balkans.

Thank you.