By Stephania Xenophontos
THE movement for equality, support, anti-racism (Kisa) has expressed its dissatisfaction with Attorney-general Costas Clerides’ decision to shoot down a complaint lodged by the local NGO against Archbishop Chrysostomos for remarks he made to the press regarding Turkish settlers in the north.
Clerides’ statement, communicated on Thursday, was a response to Kisa which took offence at remarks made by the prelate on a television news programme last week.
In the complaint, Kisa asked the AG to look into whether the cleric’s language constituted hate speech. But the AG found that Chrysostomos’ remarks, while “intense”, were not directed at a particular group based on their ethnic background or religion.
Speaking of Turkish settlers in the north, the archbishop had said:
“They are Anatolians, uncouth, they will never become European, not even in a hundred years, and if they stay here they will spawn a dozen children per family; where are we going to go?”
He was commenting on a possible settlement of the island’s division and the number of Turkish settlers who would be allowed to stay.
Asked by the reporter if he thought his comments could be construed as racist, the archbishop said the settlers, even without citizenship, would remain as workers.
“We must look at why they arrived,” he added. “They came to alter the demographic composition of our people. They didn’t come to work like the Sri Lankans, Thais, Arabs and so on.
In his opinion, the AG said Chrysostomos was making a distinction between illegal settlers and economic migrants or people who legally come to Cyprus for work.
“The rhetoric is not directed at these people who were transported to the occupied areas, but at those who used them illegally, against international law, to effect forcible change of the demographic character of those areas,” Clerides explained to the Cyprus Mail.
In his response to Kisa, the AG further noted: “The remarks are clearly directed against the stay in Cyprus of illegally transported settlers, who in this case ‘happen’ to be Turkish Muslims, and not ‘because’ they are Turkish Muslims.”
“We want to express our deepest dissatisfaction in relation to AG’s comments implying that Kisa allegedly approves or disregards war crimes”, Kisa said in a statement on Friday.
“Although Kisa has never denied that colonisation constitutes a war crime, the substance of our complaint concerns the offence of hate speech against a group of people who may themselves be considered victims”, the organisation adds.
Kisa claims that the AG has failed to deal conclusively with the complaint, thereby protecting and offering immunity to perpetrators of hate speech. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (OHCHR) has recently made recommendations to implement a legislation in Cyprus criminalising hate speech and prosecuting offenders of hate crimes.
“Kisa has always been a proponent of human rights by supporting that the right to human dignity should be respected and protected for any individual, regardless of his religion, ethnicity or ethnic origin”, the NGO states. Turkish settlers should also enjoy human rights protection and, as such, the state must not tolerate hate speech against this group of people.
Speaking to the Sigma channel, Kisa executive director Doros Polycarpou said that, irrespective of the AG’s opinion – which they disagreed with – they plan to file a private criminal prosecution against the Archbishop.
And should the AG subsequently decline to allow prosecution, Kisa is prepared to take the matter up with the European Court of Justice.