[Listen] Debate: ‘A Truth Commission Investigating the 1963-1974 Atrocities, will Help or Hinder Current Solution Attempts of the Cyprus Problem’?

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The Cypriot Puzzle participated and co-organised a series of debates that took place in July 2015, at the Point Centre for Contemporary Art under the auspices of the Cyprus Circle. The debates dealt with issues ranging from the Cypriot problem and Cypriot society to architecture in Cyprus. They were all fondly welcomed by the audience that attended them.
Today we present the debate that took place on the 9th July, exploring whether a Truth Commission Investigating the 1963-74 Atrocities will help or hinder current solution attempts of the Cyprus problem. The four speakers discussing the motion were: Dr. Bulent Kanol, an expert in organizational development and capacity building, Dr. Erol Kaymak, a Political Science academic, Dr. Yiannis Laouris, a social and business entrepreneur who has worked on peace and development through modern technology and Achilleas Demetriades, lawyer and director of the ‘Truth Now’ NGO.

The debate had an interesting exchange of opinions, investigating whether it is better, at this crucial stage, to deal with the past and face it through a Truth Commission that will create a record of human rights violations in that period, or to not stir things up and allow what has happened to stay in the past. Most importantly, the active engagement from the audience that crowded the place and the profound discussion that took place exhibited the need for such questions to be raised in the public sphere. The matter was viewed from various perspectives and the discussion touched domains like its necessity as such, timing of the matter and its emotional links to reconciliation.
Firstly, a Truth Commission was on the one hand addressed as a prerequisite for the solution of the Cyprus problem. A clarification of these hideous parts of the history of Cyprus will help in addressing feelings of insecurity and in the sustainable construction of a unified Cyprus absolved from those crimes. That approach stood for Truth to be prioritized over Justice, just like in the case of the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP.) On the other hand, it was tackled as a topic with extreme technical complications that make it very difficult to be set up. At the same time, it was claimed that a Truth Commission would be lowering the bar of Justice in a process that would whitewash the past.
Regarding the question of timing, one approach maintained that the time is now for a Commission to be set up. As mentalities are changing, we are moving forward and people need the truth. Additionally, closure must happen now as, 50 years on, people involved in the crimes are dead or are dying. On the other side, the argument was heard that for many atrocities that occurred, authorities have been complicit and have already covered up cases in both sides, just like in the case of the CMP. Also, as those who committed or were accomplice in the atrocities might be involved in the establishment, they might hinder the creation of a Truth Commission.
Concerning the emotional aspect, some speakers emphasized the necessity for the expression of remorse by perpetrators (in exchange of immunity) and the capacity for forgiveness by people who have lost loved ones. That, being a feeling that can spread, can have healing properties on the society. This is what can thus lead to reconciliation. Some others were more concerned about the ability of the whole community to forgive and give closure and dissociated reconciliation from individual closure. When you scratch old wounds and let crimes resurface, even if individual people concerned might forgive, members of their community might hold a grudge.
Various other points were raised while the examples of Australia and Sorry Day there, as well as that of South Africa were brought in the discussion, giving interesting insights into how such Commissions ran in certain countries.
The Cypriot Puzzle invites you to listen, and comment with your opinions and continue the discussion online.

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