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CCDH President Participates in the 9th Biennial Meeting of Human Rights Network of Academies and Learned Societies

The CCDH President, Mr. Ahmed Herzenni, participated in the opening of the 9th Biennial Meeting of the Human Rights Network of Academies and Learned Societies, held on May 21, 2009, in Rabat under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI under the theme of “the role of academies and learned societies in promoting human rights”.

Here is the statement given by Mr. Herzenni:

In this inaugural address that you give me the honor to deliver, I intend to show the links between science and the promotion of human rights in daily practices, in method and in philosophy.
In their approach to reconciliation, the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) and the Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) had to mobilize resources, methods and techniques of several scientific disciplines, ranging from history to genetics. Thus, to make sure that former victims of repression are eligible for financial compensation, one should not listen to these victims only, but also check their statements, compare testimonies, sometimes go to look for testimonies on the ground, compare testimonies and existing documents, store and process all the information gathered, take the arbitration decisions required, and calculate indemnities. All this, not counting the necessary reconstitution of the historical context of human rights violations, did not require intensive recourse to techniques of history only, but also to sociology, anthropology, law, medicine, information science and documentation, computer science, mathematics, or at least basic mathematics. Psychology was also highly sought, especially during the public hearings, to help people who are sometimes illiterate and still terrified by the memory of the past events, to gain enough confidence to speak directly to millions of countrymen, or to immediately remedy possible defects during the course of the hearings.

Similarly, social sciences in particular were systematically adopted to identify areas and communities who deserved to benefit from a special community reparation program, to mobilize and to train civil society to participate in this program, in its management and in its implementation, which is still underway.

With regard to the elucidation of the truth in cases of forced disappearance, particularly when it came to identify the remains of victims of this heinous violation of human rights – undoubtedly and absolutely the most heinous one– neither the IER nor the CCDH could do without forensics, physical anthropology and DNA analysis.

Finally, to develop proposals for reforms to be introduced into the legal system of the country to guarantee non-repetition of past human rights violations, the CCDH and the IER relied greatly on the different branches of law.

We can therefore say that in almost all their activities, the IER and CCDH have relied greatly on sciences, mainly and quite naturally social sciences, and partly some other hard sciences. This alone shows that in the Moroccan experience and certainly in all other experiences, the link between human rights and science is very strong.

But let me say that this is almost not the most important thing, because after all, what is now the domain of human activity where you can do without science services? What is the area of human activity where we do not use, and sometimes not abuse, science? Almost none.

It seems to me more interesting to notice, beyond the links of usage, a significant proximity between science and human rights, or rather promotion of human rights, which is found at the level of method.

Insofar as the scientific method includes four basic moments: the conceptualization of phenomena, operationalization of the dimensions of each concept, formulation and verification of hypotheses, we can say that all these moments are found, to greater or lesser degrees of consciousness and systematization, in the Moroccan experience in reconciliation and promotion of human rights.

First, the meaning of reconciliation had to be specified. The involvement in a "witch hunt" aiming to identify and punish individuals responsible for past violations of human rights is excluded in the notion of reconciliation. Should reconciliation be reduced to hugs and, at best, to pledges on all sides to behave better in the future? The leaders of the human rights movement, who are committed to the principle of reconciliation and who were also the leaders of the movement of victims, rebelled against this interpretation of reconciliation as well. Based on the theory of transitional justice that was developing at the time, they claimed that genuine reconciliation could take place only if victims were compensated individually and collectively, were rehabilitated and took the floor publicly, and only if everybody collaborates to elucidate the truth, especially in cases of enforced disappearance, and only if reforms were brought about, particularly in the field of justice, to make it more independent, and in the field of security governance to normalize it.

In doing so, the pioneers of the Moroccan experience in reconciliation and promotion of human rights specified in a fair and scientific manner indispensable dimensions of the concept of reconciliation. Each of these dimensions was subsequently operationalized in order to help take appropriate measures and begin implementation.

The main hypothesis was that if all dimensions of reconciliation were adopted and properly implemented, not only there would be an effective reconciliation, but the process of democratization of the country would be expanded, deepened and strengthened as well, despite the current state of democratic forces who are weak, fragmented and disoriented.

This hypothesis has now been sufficiently tested, and I think the results are more encouraging. It should also be emphasized that the testing of the hypothesis was largely entrusted to former victims, which is already a proof, if not of impartiality, at least of good faith of people in power and of democratization.

In addition, victims, individually and collectively, are involved in the reconciliation process. They were heard and continue to be heard freely by the public. The truth has been made clear in most cases. A profound reform of the judiciary is expected. Elections are no longer a subject of controversy as to their freedom and fairness. Fundamental freedoms are respected. An area of inclusive social dialogue will emerge in the near future. Major societal reforms have been made, such as the reform of the Family Law and the rehabilitation of the Amazigh culture. All this and other changes that I do not have time to mention here will certainly be upheld on time by a constitutional reform.

Like any scientific discipline, we can not say that the expected results have been achieved at 100%. We were particularly disappointed about the lack of cooperation of stakeholders as to the elucidation of the truth on certain events which occurred immediately after the proclamation of independence. However, we do not despair of bringing these events to light. To this end and with the assistance of the European Union, the CCDH will launch soon a program of research on the history of the present time.

My point is not to praise the Moroccan experience in terms of reconciliation and promotion of human rights. I only tried to show how, in the heart of the moment and despite all constraints, this experience has been brought, once again more or less consciously, more or less systematically, into compliance with a subject close to the discipline of scientific method.

If it could do it with more or less success, it was basically because the scientific activity and the promotion of human rights follow the same ethics: the ethics of rigor and humility.

Like the scientific activity, the promotion of human rights does not tolerate vague notions, demagoguery and manipulation.

Like the scientific activity, it does not claim infallibility; on the contrary, the fact of being people who are at the service of other human beings, it claims their vulnerability to error and the insurmountable relativity of their performances, knowing that in any case human rights are a self-generating field and have no end, but human rights activists, like scientists, are committed to return always to the job.

The key word was given: to serve human beings. And indeed, beyond the services that can be delivered mutually thanks to science, on the one hand, and to the promotion of human rights on the other; beyond a common ethic, which ultimately binds these two approaches, it is the participation of and in the same project: the humanist project. But what kind of humanism we are referring to here?

There is a Promethean humanism, which, on the basis of the capabilities of the human mind and assuming, explicitly or not, the superiority of certain sectors of humanity, designed the plan to dominate nature and transcend the human condition. This inevitably racist humanism helped its protagonists to achieve great things in science and technology, and in the field of human rights. But, it also generated colonialism, wars and inequality on a global scale. Above all, at a time when its protagonists believed that they reached the goal, to the extent that they thought that they were no longer "ordinary" human beings but mutants somehow, it meets its limits. Nature is less docile and less inert that it did not look like them. It turns out that if one can master scientific processes, the mastery of their consequences is another business. Global warming and the emergence of new pandemics are eloquent and frightening illustrations of this hiatus. It has become also evident that the modes of production and consumption of the so-called most developed nations are simply not bearable. Even more, they cannot be generalized, and this at a time when all humanity seeks equal rights for all human beings.

Without wishing to be the prophet, it is clear that we are witnessing the failure of the Promethean humanism. Then it is time we rally around more humble, more sober and more fraternal humanism; a merely human humanism, which has always existed but for few centuries, it has been overshadowed by another humanism, the dominant and domineering humanism. This does not mean the denial of the capacity of the human mind nor submission to nature. It is not about renouncing the happiness of human beings, all human beings. But, neither human rights nor knowledge can be taken away from an external force. Why assuming an external force, while it is only about realizing a potential that every human being has in him/her?

Helping every human being to achieve as fully as possible his/her humanity; this is, for me, what should constitute the common cause of science and promotion of human rights.

In the year 2000, we believed in Morocco, at one point, that we would finally become an oil-producing country. His Majesty himself said so in the speech of 20 August. What he said about the country's wealth is in my view applied perfectly to the themes of science and human rights. He said: "We emphasize that the benefit which God gave us will strengthen our faith and our sense of humanity, and it will give us a new impetus to redouble efforts of imagination, perseverance, self-denial, mutual cooperation, solidarity, and stock up other virtues such as righteousness, probity, good education, strong commitment to the identity, institutions and sacred values, openness to contemporary civilization, moderation and tolerance..”.

Thank you for your attention.