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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World
Number 8 June 2001

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You will not return from the depths of the rocks
You will not return from the time underground
Your hardened voice will not return
Nor will your drilled eyes
And I have come to speak through your dead mouth

Pablo Neruda

block print
"Peace at last", Boniface Chege


Towards a Culture of Peace

"The only struggle lost is a struggle abandoned"
Gustavo Marin*

Constructing peace is a complex process that must take into consideration all aspects of social reality: economic, social, political, cultural, religious, artistic. But in order to build peace, it is also necessary to exercise justice, and that means judging those who have committed crimes against humanity.

Consolidating the construction of peace not only requires us to establish peace in those places where it is absent or in danger risk (especially in regions at war)-it means consolidating peace where those who have committed crimes against humanity are being tried, or where they are about to be.

Last February, I was in Chile. It was summer there, and all of the news-stands displayed a magazine with a beach on the cover. At first, I thought that the magazine had dedicated one of its summer issues to making a tourist presentation on the state of Chile's beaches. Almost as soon as I had picked it up, I realized that it was not an analysis of the quality of the water, or how clean the sand was -- but a recount of the beaches where the bodies of those who were "missing" had fallen after being thrown out of the planes used by those who did the military coup of September 1973.

In January 2001, 28 years after the military coup, chief army officers published a report recognizing the fact that not only were there people "missing", but also indicating the places where they had been flung from planes.

To many Chileans, who like to go the beach in the summertime, this report from the army not only served to confirm a widely known cruelty, but also provoked an uncomfortable, or even unbearably, painful situation: no one likes to go to a beach where the bodies of those opposed to the coup had been thrown from the air in 1973.

At the same time, newspapers and television showed images of the warrant officer arriving at the residence of Pinochet to inform him of his arrest, as dictated by Judge Guzmán.

The government, the parties of the governing coalition, and members of the Catholic hierarchy all stated that the army's recognition of the "missing", and its detailed accounts of the beaches where some of them had been flung from passing planes, had put an end to this cruel episode in the history of Chile, and that the country must now turn the page of history, forgive, reconcile, and look to the future with optimism.

But the quest for reconciliation must not hide or put off the indispensable application of justice against those who committed outrages against humanity by torturing, banishing, and murdering people, making them vanish forever, and flinging prisoners to the sea from planes.

For this reason, the families of the missing, as well as organizations for the defense of human rights, advocates for the missing, and, I would say, the majority of Chileans think that precisely because of the fact that military chiefs recognized the fact that they were murderers, the least that could be done would be to bring them to trial. Seen from this perspective, the process of trying Pinochet is a fundamental step to enable justice to be done some day in Chile.

The "Pinochet case" is a matter for citizens of the entire world. People in countries and regions very far from Chile are watching to see what will happen with Pinochet and others. Be they Chilean or citizens of the world, they look, wonder and finally find strength in noticing that justice will follow its course, and that Pinochet will be tried.

This feeling of "doing justice", and bringing to trial those who have committed crimes against humanity, whatever their nationality, has become the "common feeling of humanity", for those who have been the victims of crimes against humanity, as well as for those who show solidarity with them -- and this is one of the most promising features of the construction of peace, here at the dawn of the 21st century.

In Chile, in Argentina, and also in various African countries, reconciliation commissions have played an important role in unveiling the truth regarding violations of human rights during coups d'état, wars or apartheid. The processes against Pinochet and Milosevic, among others, illustrate, however, the conviction that this reconciliation needs for justice to follow its course, and that those who committed these crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.

Crimes against humanity have no nationality

One of the key convictions of this era, shared by millions of citizens, is that crimes against humanity have no nationality. The tortured, the missing, the murdered, be they men or women, young or old, whatever their country of origin, are human beings against whom a crime has been committed, and those who have committed an outrage against their lives must be brought to trial.

Another conviction is that mere reconciliation is not enough. If it limits itself to being an amnesty, or the publication of an enormous report acknowledging the crimes, but the people responsible (at whatever level) are never brought to trial, then all reconciliation loses its validity. It will not be fruitful, and sooner or later, tensions will arise once again.

New generations that did not live through or suffer these crimes against humanity, not only do not forget them, but they are very much aware of the need to bring to the surface all of the facts surrounding them, and especially, to bring to justice those responsible.

The motto of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo ("the only struggle lost is a struggle abandoned") is present in the hearts and minds of thousands, even millions of Argentines, Chileans, and citizens of the world. A Christian blessing, "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice", has truly become a moral and political watchword.

In that same month of February 2001, in a village in the north of Chile, thousands of Chileans, men and women, got together to hear the musical group Los Jaivas on their annual tour, and all present sang the poem by Pablo Neruda:

Come up and be born with me, my brother
Give me your hand, from the deepest of your scattered pain.
Bring to the highest bough of this new life
your old and buried sorrows.
Come up and be born with me, my brother.


* Gustavo Marín is Chilean and French, and is in charge of the program Future of the Planet at FPH, Paris. He was imprisoned for three years in Chile after Pinochet's military coup. He was tortured, and almost thrown, bound up, from a plane, and was then banished to France in 1976. Today he provides support for various thematic workshops, geo-cultural groups, and social/professional networks in the Alliance, including those who work for the construction of peace.

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