Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pondering Transitional Justice in Turkey . . .

From Today's Zaman's Ayse Karabat:
Nowadays my dream is to be able to pay a visit to the recently opened Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile.

I am looking at the pictures from the museum and reading every piece of information that I can find about it. Most comments suggest that the museum, which is dedicated to the 31,000 murder, torture and kidnapping victims of the 1973-90 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, will contribute much to Chilean society in both healing the wounds and also in teaching the value of democracy to the younger generation.

Confronting the past also prepares the ground for reform and consensus in society. I think if there had not been a truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa it would be very difficult for South Africans to live together.

If Turkey were able to confront its past, if it were able to establish a Sept. 12 coup museum, if it were to have the courage to look closely at recent events, I seriously doubt that we would have the Ergenekon case now or if we would be dealing with the Sledgehammer plot. Most likely, we would not have been suffering because of the Kurdish question either.

One of the basics of those commissions is that they investigate a specific period of history, and they are usually based on the principle of amnesty for confession. But in South Africa, the experience of confessing did not automatically bring amnesty; those who gave the orders were not pardoned.

But still, I really wonder what would happen if we made a law in Turkey that said those who committed crimes against humanity and democracy must come forward and confess whatever they did and give the names of those who gave the orders.

I think we would hear many confessions and these confessions would lead to healthy discussions on a new constitution. Suddenly, we would be able to understand each other better, and certainly, the very long journey we have to make to improve our democracy as a way of life and culture would be shortened.

But we are facing a huge problem here: Some of the crimes are so fresh, and new ones are being uncovered every day. It will be difficult to set the period for the implementation of amnesty for confession.

Still, to start from one point, for example, the Sept. 12 coup, might help a lot. Then I can fulfill my real dream: to pay a visit to the museum(s) of memory and human rights in Turkey.

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