TUE, 23 JAN 2001 10:20:32 GMT
AIM Athens, January 23, 2001
We reproduce below the comment on our article "Greece's Chief Human Rights Official's Odd Views on Plavsic and DU Weapons Use in NATO Raids" (AIM Athens, January 16, 2001) received from Greece's chief human rights official. It confirms indeed that its author has a very different "conception of the role and duties of human rights defenders [and their] real independence of position." Greek Helsinki Monitor (whose spokesperson Panayote Dimitras is) has publicly and consistently opposed NATO raids in 1999 and expressed its strong condemnation of The Hague's Tribunal's decision a year ago not to look into serious and credible (mostly NGO-provided) evidence of NATO-committed violations of humanitarian law. In the recent DU debate, it has also stated that "should there be incontrovertible scientific proof of their long-term serious adverse effects, it must lead to the prosecution of all those parties responsible in initiating and/or cooperating and/or tolerating their use, wherever they are, no matter how powerful they are." However, equating any NATO (or Second World War Allied Forces for that matter) war crimes with Nazi atrocities and genocide only helps trivialize the latter. While bringing the allegations of bias in the 1993 investigation of mass rapes in Bosnia to the Tribunal -directly to its prosecutor for possible indictments- not when ICTY was launched, but eight years later and in the framework of the defense of Biljana Plavsic, can only be perceived as an effort to trivialize the latter's alleged horrible crimes and to help offer "attenuating circumstances" for them. We agree, though, that it is Professor Marangopoulos' stance on such issues -as well as her (and the institutions' she chairs) silence on human and especially minority rights violations in Greece- that have contributed to her prominence in such institutions. Follows the full text of her letter.
"Mr. Dimitras' criticism of my reaction to the recent revelations concerning the use of depleted uranium bombs in Yugoslavia and their tragic consequences, and also of my views on the one-sided investigation undertaken in 1993 of rapes committed exclusively against Muslim women in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a sufficient - but not the only - proof of Mr. Dimitras' conception of the role and duties of human rights defenders. Real independence of position of human rights defenders from any outside directives is a notion he does not comprehend.
The use in Yugoslavia of depleted uranium bombs constitutes a war crime. NATO did not hesitate to use this kind of bombs unnecessarily destroying the material infrastructure of this country but also its population for more than one generation. Thousands of people have been killed and very many are dying or will die in the future of leukemia and cancer; moreover, and several children have been born with serious birth defects. In addition, an ever-increasing number of soldiers who are part of NATO military and UN civilian forces and who have been serving in this country are falling victims of the "Balkan syndrome." This kind of war waged by NATO is inhuman. With respect to the local population, it constitutes a form of genocide, since the perpetrators were fully aware of the effects of such bombs previously used in Iraq in order to defeat Sadam Hussein.
Of course, the arms industries, exercising strong pressure over governments, have made important benefits out of the Iraqi and Yugoslav affairs.
What is most disappointing to human rights defenders is that all the above acts were committed by 'democratic and human-rights oriented' Western countries in the very name of human rights. Without at all minimizing the genocides committed in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge and in Rwanda, my focus was on the fact that we, Europeans, although taking pride in our human rights record, did not hesitate to consciously proceed to those bombings.
In any event, my own views regarding the recent revelations of the tragic consequences of the use of depleted uranium bombs in Yugoslavia were surpassed by those put forward by Ms. Margaret Papandreou, although she is an American citizen and mother of the current Foreign Minister of Greece. In a lengthy interview in the newspaper 'Eleftherotypia' on 15 January 2001 (pp. 18-19) under the title 'They were undertaking experiments with 4 million souls', she formulates the fundamental slogan: 'Stop the industry / army / State intelligence agency cartel.' In this interview, she stressed the destruction of the civilian population, especially children, in Iraq resulting from the use of these bombs as well as the embargo, which she has ascertained on the ground. And as a mother she requests the return of the Greek soldiers and students who are in Yugoslavia.
I personally think that the prohibition of the use of any kind of nuclear-radioactive arms must be a priority for human rights defenders.
Turning to the second point of criticism of Mr. Dimitras, namely my readiness to make available to the ad hoc Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia first-hand information relating to the mandate entrusted in January 1993 to the Warburton Commission (of which I was a member) for the investigation of rapes of Muslim women in Yugoslavia during the war, I would like to emphasize that the Commission carried out its work conscientiously and ascertained the perpetration of numerous tragic instances of rape. It did so, however, only in regard to Muslim women, in spite of our fruitless demarches to conduct investigations in all directions, irrespective of religion and ethnicity.
Not only did I submit at the Commission's first session (19/1/1993) a written request for the impartial widening of the scope of the investigations, but upon my return to Greece I held a press conference on behalf of the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights on 2 February 1993, where I exposed to the Greek press the tragic events but also the one-sided character of the mandate entrusted to the Commission by the European Community. I set out below a verbatim excerpt from the Warburton Commission's report which I consider sufficient to prove my point.
'The Mission was fully conscious that its mandate focused on the investigation of alleged abuses against Muslim women in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, the Mission considers it important to place on record its view that rape and sexual abuse are restricted by neither nationality, nor by gender. That Bosnian Muslim women form the vast majority of the victims of rape is explicable in terms of the intensity and pattern of the conflict. This is not to ignore the fact that there are many and disturbing reports of rape of Croat and Serbian women and children, as well as sexual abuse of men in detention camps. The Mission therefore emphasizes that all those who are victims of this appalling conflict must be the concern of the international community' (Warburton Commission's Final Report, para. 8).
I would consider myself unworthy of being called a human rights activist if I avoided putting this information at the disposal of the Hague Tribunal, where, obviously, a most important trial is to take place. Bringing to the Tribunal's attention all the facts in favour or against the parties will no doubt contribute to an impartial judgement. Thus, both as a criminologist - I am a Professor of criminology - and as a human rights defender, I considered and continue to consider it my duty to contribute, even to a minimal extent - if it were to be found useful - to the holding of a fair trial, especially in such a complex case.
It is this clear, independent and uncompromising stance in the defense of human rights which I have adopted during my long-standing activity that the members of the recently established Greek National Commission for Human Rights (representatives of 27 bodies and institutions from the social, political, trade unionist, academic and other fields) had presumably in mind when they elected me as President of this independent Commission.
Prof. Alice Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos President of the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights President of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights"