Ljubljana, 10 March 2009
Statement by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Slovene Bishops' Conference about the discovery of a mass grave containing victims of post-war executions in a disused coal mine in Huda Jama
The images that have circulated following the discovery of mass graves containing victims of post-war executions in a mining shaft in Huda Jama near Laško have deeply shocked every compassionate individual as it is impossible to fail to see the terrible suffering of the victims and the barbarous brutality of their killers. The Justice and Peace Commission has in past years several times warned of the moral and legal implications of post-war crimes and the duties which the most senior state institutions have in connection with them.
Empathy, shock, horror and the demand for a proper burial of the victims of these mass crimes are entirely appropriate and understandable reactions of the people, but as a political community we cannot simply stop there. The most senior state institutions, especially those which in particular are responsible for promoting ethical values, justice, peaceful coexistence and respect for human rights, should clearly and unequivocally express a moral and political condemnation of these crimes and all the individuals or groups which are responsible for them.
Coming to terms with the most suppressed events of Slovenia’s 20th century totalitarian past is essential if we wish to become and remain a civilised and ethical society. It is high time that all Slovenians, on a personal, national and state level, establish very clear basic moral principles about the inviolability of each and every human life and the dignity of every person which were mercilessly trampled upon during the revolution and after it. Ideology cannot be used as an excuse for any crime. Those guilty, both political and ideological individuals and groups, of the heinous crimes against humanity and the nation must be identified. The communist totalitarian regime must be publicly condemned and the reputation of the honest and sincere fighters for the freedom of the Slovenian nation who were abused as a kind of “human shield” during the war and all the years that followed by totalitarian politicians, ideologists, and criminals must be rehabilitated.
There is still far too much moral cynicism, evasion, indifference and sometimes even punishable but unpunished belittling or even approval of the murders perpetrated during the war and after it. There is also far too much fear. All this because schools and other educational institutions, those that shape public opinion and the most senior state institutions whose duty it is to preserve in the political community the existence of basic ethical principles and the human rights which follow on from them, have failed to establish suitable moral standards regarding these crimes after they were systematically concealed for decades. The attempt to forever conceal the crime is completely evident in Barbarin Rov. Belittling of the crime represents a gross politicisation of these crimes. No politicisation would be possible if the state had fulfilled its moral obligation on time. That is why the Justice and Peace Commission wishes to express appreciation for the state commission, which has striven courageously in recent years to uncover suppressed criminal acts. It is also pleased to find that a portion of public opinion and the media are showing an increased moral abhorrence in the light of the crimes. The final goal of this maturation of our moral consciousness must be forgiveness and reconciliation, which should bring us to the point at which we will no longer be divided into “us” and “them” but we will all have equal rights, be equally respected and equally welcome members of the same national and political community.
Msgr. Dr. Anton Stres, Coadjutor Archbishop in Maribor
President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Slovene Bishops' Conference