On January 25th 2006, The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), which brings together parliamentarians from 46 European countries, passed a resolution entitled “Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes” at its plenary session. The resolution was passed by 99 votes to 42, which caught the attention of countries all over the world. Europe is the place where the spectre of Communism was born. This resolution passed by PACE heralded a new beginning of an international condemnation of totalitarian communist regimes.
Before voting on the resolution, the plenary session held over two hours of intensive debates. Parliamentarians from different countries made speeches at the meeting, outlining their personal experiences and opinions of communist regimes. Clearharmony will publish these speeches to bring attention to the crimes of the world’s largest communist regime — the Chinese Communist Party — which has brutally oppressed Falun Gong practitioners for almost seven years resulting in almost three thousand deaths and at least 44,000 documented abuses of torture.
The following is the speech made by Mr Mihkelson, the parliamentarian representing Estonia.
I am sure that this evening’s sitting will go down in history. There is a great chance that, for the first time ever, the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes will be officially condemned by a major international forum – the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
All the credit belongs to our rapporteur, Mr. Lindblad, whose brave and honest approach has brought us to this final discussion of a well-balanced and truly historic document. In the Political Affairs Committee, some colleagues asked why we were dealing with this document now and what added value it provided. People have waited for this report for a long time, because crimes against humanity cannot be forgotten.
If we adopt Mr. Lindblad’s report, we will take an enormous step to securing our core values – human rights, the rule of law and democracy. The three Rs – remembering, reconciliation and recognition – should drive us today. A united, civilised and peaceful Europe cannot be founded on the erasure of memory. Unfortunately, public awareness of the crimes of communist regimes remains minimal, and we have even witnessed that limited awareness here.
As we are the most respected organisation for respecting human rights and the rule of law on the European continent, a priori we must be interested in the atrocities, so that they are not repeated in the future. Mr. Lindblad’s document is a starting point for an awareness campaign at the European level. Activities such as organising international conferences and erecting memorials and museums are vital steps on the way. However, we cannot be successful if the reconciliation process in the societies that suffered under totalitarian communist regimes is not finished or has not been undertaken. Unfinished reconciliation could provide fertile ground for the revival of both Stalinism and Nazism, which could have serious political consequences.
Some supporters of the report have demanded a new Nuremberg trial, but no single trial can make the necessary difference. The Nuremberg trial did not shake Germany’s collective memory; it was the debate begun by Germans themselves that helped to build strong democracy on the ruins of the Nazi dictatorship. The German experience shows that any society that is ready for reconciliation and ready to approach its own history critically is truly democratic and free. We know that common memories create the backbone of national identity. However, if the past is kept under lock and key and historical facts are only in the service of political authorities, the future of democracy in that society will always be in question.
Today is important not only for the history of the Council of Europe, but for the millions of people who either suffered or still suffer under cruel, totalitarian communist regimes. It is our duty to recognise their suffering and those people fully deserve our sympathy and understanding. If we adopt this document, we will be remembered as politicians who not only spoke about but truly served human rights and the rule of law.
More information on the resolution “Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes” can be found at http://www.clearharmony.net/articles/200601/31217.html
Note: Founded on May 5th 1949, the Council of Europe (COE) has 46 member countries and has its headquarters in Strasbourg, France. The COE aims to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, to develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member countries’ social and legal practices, and to promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures. The highest decision-making body is the Committee of Ministers, composed of the 46 Foreign ministers or their Strasbourg-based deputies (ambassadors/permanent representatives). The European Human Rights Court is a body under the Council of Europe.
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