Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The War is not over yet: Reconciliation is sine qua non for a happy end in Conflict Management

The War is not over yet:

Reconciliation is sine qua non for a happy end in Conflict Management

Vasilis Kiliaris[1]

University of Macedonia

The war is not over yet! How many times have we wondered if a conflict resolution is going to have a permanent outcome or it was just enforced by the Great Powers as a temporary solution aiming to end the violence in a conflict region?

The Cyprus Question: a case study of Conflict Management

The Cyprus problem can be examined as a draft case in Conflict Management. The funeral of a soldier in August 2009, who was missing since 1974, reminded both the international society and the two communities in Cyprus that the Cyprus Question is on the solution track for the last 35 years. The details of his last moments are important for us to understand how we can re-orbit the route of the conflict management into a permanent solution status. He was shot and buried in a massive grave after the invasion of Turkey in Cyprus. He was captured by the Turkish troops only after he run out of munitions. [2] His executors, according to testimonies, were paramilitary troops and not the Turkish Army. Whoever did the execution should be judged for violating the International Law of War - the International Humanitarian Law. [3]

The Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war clearly states that the: [4]

1. “Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them,

2. “Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated” and

3. “Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honor”

From the legal point of view the invasion of Turkey in Cyprus remains a fact that breaches the International Law. The UN and Security Council have been releasing Resolutions from 1964 till to date on the Cyprus Question.

Truth and Reconciliation

Here the case is not to hate or blame the one or the other site of the conflict. Greeks assassinate Turkish Cypriots before the war; Turkish did the same on Greek Cypriots during the war. It’s time to remember what happened only a few decades ago. The Cyprus Parliament, the Greek Government, the USA Secretary of State and the UK Foreign Office should open to the public the Files referring to the period before and during the Civil War within the Greek Community, the Coup d’état invoked by the Military Regime in Greece and the subsequent Invasion of Turkey and till to date occupation of the North part of Cyprus. Respectively the Grand National Assembly of Turkey should publish the documents related to the era ante, during and post the 1974 crisis and moreover the military archives of the invasion named “Attila I and II”.

It’s time for Greeks and Turkish to Remember, to Know, to Judge, and simultaneously to Forgive each other. If both communities truly want to live together, site by site, with respect on each other’s Culture, Religion and Civilization, then they must proceed on establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) on the model of the TRC court-like body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of the apartheid.

The concept of Justice

In Ancient Greece, the concept of Justice had a diverse meaning than the contemporary term reflected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The prior was referring to Adam Watson’s “a reasonable rule, a satisfactory regulation … the fair position, the status quo and the arbitration” [5]. The later refers to the definition of the ICJ,

The judicial arm of the United Nations. Established in 1946 it is composed of fifteen judges appointed by the General Assembly and Security Council. It acts as a body of arbitration for consenting states in conflict over a particular issue, and makes its decisions according to international law. It also provides legal advice to other UN institutions. [6]

John Rawls from another perspective claims that "Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought." [7] and Justice as fairness “based on the familiar idea of the social contract, and the procedure followed before the principles of right and justice are selected and agreed upon is in some ways the same in both the domestic and the international case”. [8]

The Nuremberg trials

Can be considered Utopianism the reintroduction of the concepts Justice, Truth and Reconciliation in Frozen Conflict cases such as the Cyprus Question, the Middle East Conflict, the Kosovo Issue and the Georgia Crisis? The precedent of the Franco-German case is the Realism’s answer to the aforementioned question. Only a few decades after the WWII that followed centuries of rivals, wars, ethnic cleansing, occupation and more between Germany and France, these countries turned into Allies in the NATO and Partners in the EU? If Germans and French found a way to move ahead, by establishing a peaceful neighborhood, other regions should also inquiry for the same path. The Nuremberg trials that followed the defeat of Nazi’s Germany had no aim to condemn the complete body of the German nation which fell in the Nazi’s trap and illusions of supremacy of any nation or person on the rest of humanity. On the same logic the trial of Marshal Petain and the Vichy pro-Nazi regime had no aim to convict the entire French nation into treason. However the trials stepped forward the reconciliation progress between the two nations. The truth assisted both nations and their peoples to surpass the passions and the biases of the past.


Political scientists should further investigate the coherence between the Justice enforcement and the necessity for Truth and Reconciliation in order for frozen conflicts to become warm again in the sense of reviving the passion of their peoples for a solution. It’s time for opposing parties to examine their own line of conduct and undergo towards self-criticism. Furthermore, the concept of Justice needs reorientation. Only then the Peoples or Nations of this world shall resurrect once again like the Phoenix, the mythological bird that is reborn through its ashes.

[1] BSc Economics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

MA International Studies (Relations), University of Macedonia

E-mail: vkiliaris@gmail.com

[2] According to the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war (Convention III of 12 August 1949) Additional Protocol I, Part II: any member of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict is a combatant and any combatant captured by the adverse Party is a prisoner of war
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/57JMJT [31 October 2009]

[3] International humanitarian law is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. International humanitarian law is also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict”, 31-07-2004, Fact Sheet, What is international humanitarian law?, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/humanitarian-law-factsheet [31 October 2009]

[4] Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war (Convention III of 12 August 1949), Part II, Art 12, 13, 14.

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/7c4d08d9b287a42141256739003e636b/6fef854a3517b75ac125641e004a9e68?OpenDocument [31 October 2009]

[5] Watson, A., The Evolution of International Society: A Comparative Historical Analysis, 1992, p. 107.

[6] "International Court of Justice", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, ed., Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?entry=t86.e656&srn=1&ssid=855282736#FIRSTHIT [31 October 2009]

[7] Rawls, J., A Theory of Justice, revised ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 3

[8] Rawls, J., The Law of Peoples with the Idea of Public Reason Revisited, Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press, 1999, p.p. 3-4.

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