Promoting Reconciliation and Protecting Human Rights: An Underexplored Relationship

Hadjigeorgiou, Nasia orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7324-9689 (2017) Promoting Reconciliation and Protecting Human Rights: An Underexplored Relationship. In: Injustice, Memory and Faith in Human Rights. Routledge. ISBN 978-1472462329

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The United Nations was correct in asserting that the absence of war ‘can only create a space in which peace can be built’. This chapter examines the challenges that exist in filling this space and particularly, in reconciling previously warring groups in ethnically divided societies. First, it argues that reconciliation can only be achieved when members of different ethnic groups rehumanise and start trusting each other. It then makes the case that reconciliation and human rights do not coexist in an easy relationship; rather, the connections between them are varied and often contradictory. On the one hand, human rights are indeed positively connected to reconciliation. On the other, the two terms can also be at odds with each other: human rights protection can undermine reconciliation, while the language of reconciliation sometimes derails the process of protecting human rights. In addition to these positive and negative connections between the two terms, it is also possible that human rights and reconciliation remain completely unconnected. While the former is well suited in inducing legal and institutional changes, it is social and psychological changes that the later requires. These conclusions about a nuanced relationship between human rights and reconciliation directly challenge the UN orthodoxy. Challenging this orthodoxy is not only an exercise of theoretical importance. Rather, it can have profound practical implications on how human rights are used in post-conflict societies themselves.

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