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Opinions Archive 1999
Letter to Helsinki Committees

The group of Belgrade NGOs who signed the "Appeal" of April 6, 1999
The IHF Executive Committee members
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Other Helsinki Committees, members of the IHF

1 June 1999

Dear colleagues

We are writing to react to the 18 May letter sent by the Executive Committee of the IHF and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, responding to the 6 April appeal by Belgrade non-governmental organizations. We express our disagreement with the IHF letter, summed in the points below:

1. In its letter, IHF speaks in a way which is reminiscent of the NATO propaganda. The reader of the IHF letter might conclude that the organization unconditionally supports NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. We do not believe that this is the real position of the IHF's Executive Committee. It is the mission of the Federation to be concerned about the defense of fundamental human rights in the OSCE region, and NATO has certainly or probably violated many of them during its operation. We cannot believe that IHF has departed from its objectivity in order to take sides in what is also an increasingly primitive propaganda war. Compared to the tone of the IHF letter, the Serbian NGO appeal, even though it is not signed ONLY by professional human rights defenders but by a broad variety of NGOs, is more balanced, an is clearly distinguishable from official Serbian propaganda. It is a pity that IHF should find it appropriate, in the current circumstances, to accuse them for not being more militant.

2. The Executive committee of the IHF is well aware that the IHF network members, as well as the broader international human rights community, is deeply divided over the Kosovo crisis. It also is well aware that Belgrade NGOs have limited opportunities, due to the devastated infrastructure of their country, to follow closely the discussions outside Yugoslavia. But the Executive Committee speaks on behalf of the whole network, and by doing so, they manipulatively imply a non-existent consensus. This is unfair, and in the given circumstances, very disheartening for the Serbian NGOs. The message of the IHF letter is, "We are all in solidarity with you, we respect your struggle, but now we, the human rights defenders from outside your country, are opposed to your view." Since the second part of this message is simply false, its first part appears not credible either but a mere diplomatic courtesy to soften the impact of the second part.

3. IHF writes: "Thus, when you say that 'NATO military intervention has undermined all results we have achieved', one must ask if these results were of such a scope and significance to bring hope that the plight of Kosovo could be relieved by peaceful means." To write in this way to Belgrade NGOs, on 18 May 1999, during a bombing campaign against their country that has been going on for many weeks, is both arrogant and insulting. This IHF statement implicitly blames the Serbian NGOs for the course of events. The message is, that had they worked harder and achieved more, there might have been peace, but since they achieved little, IHF implicitly supports bombing them.

In summary, by sending this response to Serbian NGOs, IHF has made a step away from civic dialogue and toward a political confrontation. And for our civic future, dialogue should have no alternative.

Signed (Organizations are mentioned for identification purposes only):

Antonina Zheliazkova, International Center for Inter-Ethnic Relations and Intercultural Studies
Deyan Kyuranov, European Roma Rights Center.
Dimitrina Petrova, European Roma Rights Center
Dionysis Gousetis, human rights columnist in Avghi (Greek daily newspaper)
Emil Cohen, President, Tolerance Foundation
Gregory Vallianatos, Greek Helsinki Monitor
Krassimir Kanev, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Michail Ivanov, physicist
Nafsika Papanikolatos, Minority Rights Group - Greece
Nikos Dimou, Greek Helsinki Monitor
Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor
Plamen Bogoev, Bulgarian Center for Human Rights
Rumian Russinov, Human Rights Project
Savelina Danova, Human Rights Project
Stanimir Petrov, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Vessela Terzieva, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Yuliana Metodieva, Obectiv (magazine of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee)

Source: Joegomail

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