Establishment of a European remembrance centre for victims of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing

1. During the recent history of Europe, millions of people have been forcibly expelled, transferred or exchanged because of their ethnicity or political and religious beliefs, as a result of the delimitation of new state borders or to solve the question of ethnic minorities or, again, on the basis of deliberate policies of ethnic cleansing. Mass deportation has been used to punish some national, ethnic or social groups for their imputed political opinions and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homeland for fear of being persecuted by oppressive regimes or in the context of the establishment of new state borders.

2. In the first half of the 20th century, forced migration was a collective European experience. Thus, 60 to 80 million Europeans were forced to leave their homeland, many of them never to return again. In central and eastern Europe most nations or regions were affected by this tragedy. In recent years, millions of people have been forcibly displaced in the Balkans and the Caucasus due to conflicts in these regions.

3. For a long time, the international community has accepted, and sometimes even encouraged, population displacements and transfers, considering them as a means to bring durable peace to a region. Nowadays, deportation and forced population transfers could, under the statutes of a number of international tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, be considered as crimes against humanity.

4. As these crimes imply numerous and serious human rights violations they do not only concern the populations who had to endure them, but all the peoples of Europe. Therefore it is the duty of the Council of Europe, as a pan-European organisation with the aim of achieving a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the ideals and principles which are their common heritage, to commemorate the victims of such acts to ensure that history is not repeated.

5. To this end, the Council of Europe member states should establish a European remembrance centre for victims of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing to remind Europeans of their history of forced migration, to favour reconciliation, to act as an instrument of conflict prevention and to raise public awareness of the personal tragedy of individuals who, because they belonged to a particular group, had to leave the country or region where they were settled due to fear of persecution or because they were forcibly removed.

6. A European remembrance centre for victims of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing should have some premises, however small, in order to be better perceived as a symbol of a common collective European memory. This centre would principally aim at educating young generations by teaching and promoting a common European memory in order to overcome the divisions of the past and contribute to the creation of a Europe where cultural and religious differences would be seen as an advantage and no longer as a threat.

7. The Assembly, therefore, recommends that the Council of Europe member states:

7.1. take action for the establishment of a European remembrance centre for victims of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing (“the centre”), under the auspices of the Council of Europe, according to the following guidelines:

7.1.1. the aims of the centre should be to: favour reconciliation by promoting impartial studies of history and contributing to the creation of a common European memory, overcoming the divisions of the past; act as an instrument of conflict prevention by promoting the respect for human rights and the rights of persons belonging to national minorities; and combat racism and xenophobia by raising European public awareness of the human aspects and the human rights issues of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing, in co-operation with the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI);
7.1.2. its mandate should cover forced movements of populations or groups, including those connected with policies or practices of ethnic cleansing which have affected, affect or will affect the geographical area of the Council of Europe member states, with a particular focus on the 20th century, whether they take place within the borders of one state or between two or more states. Due to its unique character, the mandate should not cover the deportation of Jews during the Second World War; the numerous initiatives as well as the various centres established to commemorate the victims of the Shoah should, however, be used as valuable sources of inspiration for the creation and activities of the centre;
7.1.3. the functions should include, amongst others: conducting or promoting research on the history of forced population movements as well as on relevant international and human rights law; supporting the development of educational materials for history teaching; acting as a permanent forum of public and academic analysis and discussion, with the purpose of applying the lessons of the past to meeting the challenges of today and of the future; organising conferences, seminars, exhibitions and other events; and funding and supporting cross-border non-governmental organisation initiatives in this field;
7.1.4. the centre should not be concerned with the issue of compensation for the loss of property resulting from forced population movements;
7.2. as a legal basis for the establishment of the centre and in order to assure funding outside the ordinary budget of the Council of Europe, consider drawing up an agreement or a partial agreement, as set out in Statutory Resolution (93) 28 of the Committee of Ministers, open to signature by member states, with a view to its implementation on the occasion of the Council of Europe’s 60th anniversary;
7.3. develop activities in this field and set up appropriate national centres, only under the auspices of the Council of Europe;
7.4. use the Council of Europe as a catalyst and co-ordinator for the creation of the centre and use the Council of Europe to foster a European network so as to enhance European co-operation in this field.

1. Assembly debate on 5 October 2006 (30th Sitting) (see Doc. 10925, report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, rapporteur: Mr Einarsson).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 5 October 2006 (30th Sitting).