Wednesday, 24 March 2010

“Set history free from political distortions” says Commissioner Hammarberg

Strasbourg, 22.03.2010 – “Historical controversies should not hold human rights hostage. One-sided interpretations or distortions of historical events have sometimes led to discrimination of minorities, xenophobia and renewal of conflict. It is crucial to establish an honest search for the truth” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.

Gross human rights violations in the past continue to affect relations in today’s Europe. In some cases, genuine knowledge of history has facilitated understanding, tolerance and trust between individuals and peoples. However, some serious atrocities are denied or trivialised, which has created new tensions.

“Coming to terms with history is always essential, but particularly crucial in cases of massive atrocities and human rights violations. Such crimes cannot be ignored without severe consequences. Prolonged impunity or lack of acknowledgment over several generations tends to create bitterness among those who identify themselves with the victims. This, in turn, can poison relations between people who were not even born when the events in question took place” said the Commissioner.

Highlighting past events whose interpretation is still controversial, the Commissioner stresses that more efforts are needed to disclose the truth. “Establishing true accounts of previous human rights violations is indeed essential for building the rule of law in all post-conflict situations. In the immediate aftermath this is crucial to bring those responsible to justice, to compensate the victims and to take actions to prevent the recurrence of these crimes.”

The Commissioner also underlines the importance of a proper education and the need to further those initiatives aimed at fostering multi-perspective history teaching.

Viewpoints have been published fortnightly since April 2006 in English, French and Russian. This is the last one of the series and can be used without prior consent, provided that the text is not modified and the original source is indicated in the following way: “Also available at the Commissioner’s website at”

The Commissioner will continue publishing articles on human rights regularly via a new tool to be launched in April.

Press contacts in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37;