Memory, remembrance and reconciliation: words that matter: a glossary for journalism in Cyprus

In 2018, the OSCE issued a document entitled ‘Words that Matter: A Glossary for Journalism in Cyprus’. It contains over 50 words used by Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot media which are considered by the drafters to be potentially damaging to reconciliation efforts. On most occasions, the explanation of problematic usage resulted from the offence caused to the ‘other’ community (in most cases offence caused to Turkish Cypriots). In only a handful of the words did the issues of negative stereotyping and incitement to discrimination constitute the motivation for amending language. Since the glossary was an initiative led by an international organisation, its dilution of historical facts such as the internationally recognised invasion is troublesome. This paper will critically analyse the glossary and assess the extent to which such reconciliation initiatives may hamper free speech, memory and remembrance.

Turkish and Russian memory laws in comparative perspective

The proposed paper analyses and compares two well-known memory laws: Article 301 from the Turkish Penal Code and Article 354.1 from the Russian Penal Code. Turkey and Russia are pursuing a memory policy of contestation of two widely accepted facts about the past: the Armenian genocide and World War II. The two provisions have several similarities. Most importantly, memory laws usually protect memories of the victims of state-sponsored crimes (such as Holocaust denial laws), but Article 301 and Article 354.1 ‘protect’ the memory of undemocratic regimes. The dominant narrative in both cases denies serious state sponsored atrocities, and both criminalize statements contradicting this narrative. Additionally, Article 301 and Article 354.1 are used to limit freedom of expression and censor criticism, and as such are in violation of rule of law norms. This is happening in similar political and social contexts, as both Turkey and Russia are undergoing comparable changes.

The resurgence of amnesties in Latin America: between remembrance and renewal

Latin American countries have recently enacted or considered amnesty laws to pardon persons convicted of crimes stemming from internal armed conflicts and gang violence. The most prominent development has occurred in Colombia, where the amnesty law of 2016 covers guerrilla fighters and military personnel who were involved in the conflict between FARC and the Colombian government. In Mexico, the newly elected president has promised amnesties to forcibly recruited gang members. These trends run counter to constitutional, legislative and judicial developments in the region and contrast highly with the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Barrios Altos, 2001). This contribution surveys the international legal rules applicable to amnesties in these rapidly changing societies to determine the lawfulness of the Colombian and Mexican measures. It concludes that, with their emphasis on restoration, reparation and reconciliation, these amnesties cannot be deemed unlawful.

Legal and political deployments of memory in Central and Eastern Europe

Simultaneously, as nationalistic and populist forces gained power in Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) and the new statehood based on national myths and identity had to be reestablished, it emerged that the European, Holocaust-centered “duty to remember” could be easily rejected and replaced by other, nation-focused narratives. In this paper, I will analyse and discuss the reasons, mechanisms and consequences of the recent implementation of legal and political discourse regarding the past that situates the crimes and sufferings of titular nations on the pedestal of memory, particularly in CEE states. Overall, these techniques instrumentalize the common consensus over the Holocaust as the core element of European identity. In particular, I will focus on interrelations between the decline of the rule of law and liberal democracy in CEE, on the one hand, and the implementation of the so-called memory laws, on the other.

Should the law regulate historical memory?

This paper focuses on states’ attempts to outlaw the denial of historical facts and the impact that this can have upon expressive freedoms. It compares the prohibition of the denial of the Rwandan genocide with the prohibition of the denial of crimes against humanity in Europe. It also discusses the obligatory forgetfulness imposed in Ancient Athens after the in 401 B.C. In Rwanda, the government has forbidden the denial of the 1994 genocide to legitimize its authority. In Europe, bans on denying the holocaust are dictated by irrational elements in the collective consciousness: a feeling of guilt. In Ancient Athens, the democrats imposed forgetting past misfortunes, a wilful amnesia. Rwanda and other European states impose obligatory remembrance. Ancient Athens instituted forgetfulness. All of these attempts are based on a wrongful use of government power. They are close to imposing official versions of the truth and can have detrimental consequences upon expressive freedoms.