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UN adviser on prevention of genocide warns of challenges in Western Balkans

  UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng has expressed concern about the presence of a number of factors in the Western Balkans that could lead to further polarization unless serious and concerted efforts are taken to address them.

  Concerns include political polarization across identity lines and politicization of events in the past, including glorification of war criminals, contestation of court decisions and limited engagement in transitional justice and national reconciliation, said the UN secretary-general's press service in a note to correspondents on Monday.

  Dieng, who has just concluded a 12-day trip to four Western Balkan states -- Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, also expressed concern about the absence of shared narrative of events in the past and what he considered as limited political interest in promoting such understanding.

  He called on political leaders to take active steps to overcome divisions and to maximize common ground. He specifically encouraged them to overcome existing trust deficits by focusing on the future and by prioritizing reconciliation as a fundamental policy objective for the region.

  This includes strengthening efforts to advance transitional justice and accountability agendas by expediting implementation of legislation addressing genocide denial, glorification of war crimes and hate speech, as well as by harmonizing domestic provisions on civilian victims of atrocity crimes, said Dieng.

  He appealed for recognition of the suffering of all victims irrespective of their ethnic or religious origin, including through joint participation by political leaders in memorialization events. He praised the courage of victims' associations in advancing accountability in the region.

  He also underlined the important role of religious leaders and actors in promoting reconciliation, as well as the importance of empowering the youth with sustained efforts to promote inclusive education.