Alfred de Zayas speech at U.C. Berkeley Symposium

Monday, October 2, 2017 - 10:00

Symposium co-sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program and 
the Organizing Committee of the Congress of Western Armenians

Conference on the Armenian Genocide
Berkeley, 2 October 2011
Dear Professor Astourian,
Assistant Secretary General Seraydarian,
Professor Kevorkian, Ladies and gentlemen,
The historicity of the systematic discrimination, persecution, deportation and murder of a million and a half Armenians 1915-1923 is well established and generally recognized as constituting the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. These persecutions and massacres had a pre-history of abuse characterized by the massacres of some 200,000 Armenians in 1894-96 and by the subsequent Adana massacres of 1909 that claimed a further 30,000 innocent lives.
As we all know, history is not mathematics, and knowledge of the facts does not immediately result in reparation of the damage. Law is necessary for that – not only treaties and conventions, but also natural law, general principles of law, the pronouncements of the highest national and international courts and tribunals. Again, the legal norms are not identical with their enforcement. For that the political will of the powerful nations is necessary, which often enough is driven by other considerations of a geopolitical and economic nature, vital interests that frequently hinder the proper application of the law. Thus, an appeal to the clear language of the Treaty of Sevres of 10 August 1920, or to the provisions of the Arbitral Award of President Woodrow Wilson of 22 November 1920 does not automatically lead to the implementation of the general principle ubi jus, ibi remedium, where there is law, there must also be a remedy. Here again, it is necessary to create the conditions that will allow reparation to the victims, including the adoption in national law of enabling legislation and the establishment of competent judicial instances to which claims can be submitted for examination and settlement.
There are multiple obstacles that must be overcome on the way to recognition and reparation. Some of these obstacles have already been overcome. The first obstacle was that great wall of silence – everybody knows what Hitler sarcastically observed about the world’s indifference and oblivion about the Armenians. Yet, by now in 2011 the gruesome reality of the Armenian genocide has been recognized by an ever increasing number of governments and parliaments, and even by the judiciary. Not long ago, on 1 April 2011, the Argentinean Poder Judicial de la Nacion, the federal Court of Buenos Aires, issued a Declarative Resolution on the basis of extensive evidence submitted to the Court. This ruling followed a ten-year truth trial establishing that the relatives of Mr. Gregorio Hairabedian died in the Armenian genocide and that therefore Mr. Hairabedian has a justiciable right to demand investigation of the case and to know the truth about what happened to his relatives. Pursuant to this ruling the Argentinean Government formally wrote to the Turkish Government asking for their investigation and response. Predictably, the Turkish government dismissed the inquiry. Nevertheless, the Argentinean legal finding can pave the pay not only to demands for information but also to claims for reparation that may be submitted in the Argentinean judicial system.
Other obstacles on the way to recognition and reparation are more subtle. The wall of disinformation – erected and maintained by well-organized Turkish negationists -- still confuses many non-Armenians. Disinformation engenders doubt, which simply paralyses even well-meaning persons, who feel unable to decide who is right and who is wrong and then, using a false logic, determine that the truth must lie somewhere mid-point between the Turkish and the Armenian positions.
Another obstacle is that of what I would call the Turkish red herrings – and there are oceans of them – intended to divert attention from the real issue, and blithely ignoring what cannot be denied, what any person with two eyes can see: the absence of the Armenians in Eastern Turkey, the evident destruction of 4000 years of Armenian presence in Asia Minor, the devastation of the churches and monasteries, of the villages and cemeteries, of monuments and symbols. Through these red herrings the Turkish authorities deflect our vision toward the lame excuse that in all armed conflicts civilians get caught in the crossfire, that the Ottoman authorities only wanted to “evacuate” Armenians from the war zone, that many perished not intentionally, but because of epidemics and bad weather. This is exactly the same kind of negationist rubbish used by the apologists of the Nazis, who want to deny, diminish or trivialize the Holocaust. Himmler too spoke – euphemistically – only of an “evacuation”, not of the murder of the Jews.
There are other, more sophisticated red herrings used by the Turkish government and by their fellow-travelers to mislead public opinion. Even those who are willing to accept that grave injustices were committed against the Armenians try to escape with the false argument that there is, unfortunately, no applicable law that would grant reparation to the Armenians, contending, for instance, that the Genocide Convention of 9 December 1948 is subsequent to the Armenian tragedy and that it cannot be applied retroactively. I think that in my book The Genocide Against the Armenians 1915-1923 and the Relevance of the Genocide Convention (1) I have definitively refuted this particular red herring.
Yet another red herring is the argument that Turkey is not the successor state of the Ottoman Empire and that it therefore does not have a duty of reparation. This argumentation was tried unsuccessfully by Serbia in connection with the crimes committed by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It is to the credit of the Federal Republic of Germany that its Government did not attempt to escape responsibility for the Holocaust by having recourse to a supposed tabula rasa and virgin birth of the country without any links to the past. There is yet another reason why this argument necessarily fails // and that is that the genocidal acts of the Ottoman Empire were continued under Kemal Ataturk – and not only against the Armenians, but also against the Greeks of Pontus and Smyrna, the Chaldeo-Assyriuans and other Christian minorities in the Turkish Republic. Not only were massacres committed against the Christian minorities, but there was a concerted effort to erase their memory, to efface traces of their existence in Asia Minor for thousands of years, a deliberate policy of cultural genocide characterized by the destruction of churches, cemeteries and symbols – priceless cultural heritage that today should be reconstructed and recognized not only as Armenian but as UNESCO World Heritage of mankind. It is this kind of continuous violation of international law and of human rights norms that is so often ignored by the media. In a very real sense, the Turkish authorities are practicing the old Roman policy of damnatio memoriae, the destruction of the memory of the victims, as if they had never existed – the same fate that Hitler had intended for the murdered Jews, the same fate that Stalin imposed on his adversaries, the same fate that George Orwell described so well in his novel 1984.
Notwithstanding the bad faith of most the Turkish arguments, some non-Turkish entities have fallen for the red herrings, including the Centre for Transitional Justice and even some academics have supported their efforts to close the page on the Armenian genocide and leave the descendants of the survivors of the genocide without truth, without history, without recognition and without reparation. This is yet another reason to be circumspect and not let oneself be drawn into the trap of the Turkish-Armenian Protocols of 10 October 2009, which are fundamentally flawed and would ultimately betray the memory of the victims.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Murder has been a sin since Cain killed Abel, long before the first attempts by lawyers to codify penal law, before the Hammurabi and other ancient codes. More fundamentally, murder is a crime by virtue of natural law, which is prior to and superior to positivistic law. Crimes against humanity were crimes before the British, French and Russian note condemned the Armenian massacres in 1915 (2), calling them “a crime against humanity and civilization for which all members of the Turkish government will be held responsible together with its agents implicated in the massacres.” The word did not exist yet, but genocide was a crime before Raphael Lemkin coined the term in 1944.
According to article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, general principles of law are a principal source of law. Not only positivistic law – not only treaties, protocols and charters – but also the immanent principles of law are sources of law before the ICJ and can be invoked. Among such principles are ex injuria non oritur jus, which lays down the rule that out of a violation of law no new law can emerge and no rights can be derived. This is a basic principle of justice – and of common sense. Another general principle of law is ubi jus, ibi remedium, where there is law, there is also a remedy, in other words, where there has been a violation of law, there must be restitution to the victims. This principle was reaffirmed by the Permanent Court of International Justice in its famous judgment in the Chorzow Factory Case in 1928 (3). Another general principle is that the thief cannot keep the fruits of the crime. Another principle stipulates that the law must be applied in good faith, uniformly, not selectively. Thus, there is no international law a la carte.
And yet there are those who claim that the Armenians have no justiciable rights, because the Genocide Convention was only adopted 1948, more than thirty years after the Armenian genocide, and because treaties are not normally applied retroactively. This, of course, is a fallacy, because the Genocide Convention was drafted and adopted precisely in the light of the Armenian genocide and in the light of the Holocaust. Not only the Armenian Genocide but also the Holocaust predated the Convention, and no one would question the legitimacy of the claims of the survivors and descendants of the victims of the Holocaust, simply because the Nazi atrocities were committed before the entry into force of the Genocide Convention. It bears repeating that the rights of the Armenians do not derive from the Genocide Convention. Rather: the Genocide Convention strengthens the pre-existing rights of the Armenian to recognition as victims, to restitution and compensation (4).
Articles 144 and 230 of the Treaty of Sevres , signed on 10 August 1920 by four representatives of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI, recognized the rights of the survivors of the extermination campaign against the Christian minorities of the Empire, including the Armenians, the Greeks from Pontos, the Chaldeo-Assyrians, and affirmed the obligation of the Turkish State to investigate these crimes and punish the guilty. Article 144 stipulated in part:
“The Turkish Government recognises the injustice of the law of 1915 relating to Abandoned Properties (Emval-i-Metroukeh), and of the supplementary provisions thereof, and declares them to be null and void, in the past as in the future. The Turkish Government solemnly undertakes to facilitate to the greatest possible extent the return to their homes and re-establishment in their businesses of the Turkish subjects of non-Turkish race who have been forcibly driven from their homes by fear of massacre or any other form of pressure since January 1, 1914. It recognises that any immovable or movable property of the said Turkish subjects or of the communities to which they belong, which can be recovered, must be restored to them as soon as possible, in whatever hands it may be found…”
Article 230 stipulated in part:
“The Turkish Government undertakes to hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Turkish Empire on August 1, 1914. The Allied Powers reserve to themselves the right to designate the tribunal which shall try the persons so accused, and the Turkish Government undertakes to recognise such tribunal….”
Even though the League of Nations never established an international criminal tribunal to try the Turkish perpetrators of the genocide against the Armenians and other Christian minorities, numerous trials under Turkish law did take place in Istanbul in 1919, even before the treaty of Sevres was signed. The Turkish authorities conducted these trials against Ottoman officials involved in the genocide pursuant to the Ottoman penal code. Many were convicted and three persons were executed.
The Treaty of Sevres, however, was not implemented, because of a coup d’etat against the Sultan conducted by a Turkish general, Mustafa Kemal, who not only overthrew the Sultan but proceeded to wage war against the Greeks and the British, push them out of Anatolia and negotiate a new Peace Treaty with the Allies, which ensured impunity for the thousands of Turkish officials, officers and soldiers involved in the massacres.
To deny that the Armenian massacres amounted to genocide manifests both ignorance of the facts and bad faith. There is no doubt that the Armenian genocide was many times worse than the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, a crime which the UN General Assembly in its resolution 47/121 (1992) considered “a form of genocide”. There is no doubt that the massacres of the Armenians were many times worse than the massacre of Srebrenica, which the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice condemned as genocide.
But let us return to the general principle of law ubi jus ibi remedium. What is of relevance today is not the punishment of the guilty, because no person criminally responsible for the massacres is still alive. What is crucial is the right to the Armenian homeland, which entails the right to return and the right to restitution and compensation. In this context it is relevant to cite the final Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Dimensions of Population Transfers, Awn Shawkat Al Khasawneh (today a judge at the ICJ).(5)
The Declaration appended to the Report, which was formally adopted by the Commission on Human Rights and by ECOSOC provides in article 8: “Every person has the right to return voluntarily, and in safety and dignity, to the country of origin and, within it, to the place of origin or choice. The exercise of the right to return does not preclude the victim's right to adequate remedies, including restoration of properties of which they were deprived in connection with or as a result of population transfers, compensation for any property that cannot be restored to them, and any other reparations provided for in international law. “
Reparations in International Law
The Armenians have undoubtedly a strong and legitimate claim to receive reparation from Turkey for the material and moral injury that accompanied the genocide perpetrated between 1915 and 1923, as well as for the many earlier massacres, including those of 1896 and 1909. Bearing in mind that there is no prescription in international law in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity, the Armenian entitlement for reparation has certainly not lapsed. Therefore, it is only normal that Armenians should continue to press their demand for reparation in the form of restitution of their cultural and religious heritage, including 2538 churches and 451 monasteries, compensation for destroyed property as well as for the immense moral suffering endured, and a measure of satisfaction in the form of an effort at finding mass graves and the remains of the murdered relatives, an official apology from the Government of Turkey and recognition of their status as victims of genocide. This right to the various levels of reparation can and should be invoked by the survivors of the descendants of the Armenian genocide both in Armenia and in the diaspora.
The Norms of international law, which I shall briefly outline, are fairly clear. Nevertheless, these norms are not always self-executing and may require legislative action in order to identify the specific legal basis and establish the proper forum where claims for restitution and reparation may be adjudicated.
What is most needed is the political will of governments throughout the world to ensure that appropriate legislative and judicial measures are taken in order to implement the applicable norms of international law. For this political will to materialize, it is necessary to mobilize civil society in all countries, to educate through the universities, high schools and the media, and to appeal to the overarching principle of human dignity from which all human rights derive. To discriminate among victims of genocide is inacceptable and entails in itself a separate and distinct violation of human dignity.
Now, the Principle of reparation for violations of international law is not a new normative development attributable to the work of the League of Nations, or of the United Nations or of the International Law Commission. The obligation to make reparation for violations of international law is a general principle of law as referred to in article 38, paragraph 1c of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Already the Permanent Court of International Justice stated in its 1928 Judgment in the already mentioned Chorzow Factory Case:
“It is a principle of international law, and even a general conception of the law, that any breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation.” Similarly, article 31 of the Draft Articles on State Responsibility, which essentially reflect pre-existing international law, stipulates that “the responsible State is under an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by the internationally wrongful act.”
Article 34 stipulates further that “full reparation for the injury caused by the internationally wrongful act shall take the form of restitution, compensation or satisfaction, either singly or in combination.”
More concretely, in the Armenian case where enormous destruction was visited on the cultural heritage of thousands of years, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property of 1954[6] and its Protocols give us guidance.
Among other general principles of law that apply in the context of the obligation to make reparation are the principle of “good faith”, the prohibition of “unjust enrichment” and the rules on “estoppel”. Bearing in mind that genocide and crimes against humanity are the most grievous offences against international law, it is obvious that the murderer cannot keep the fruits of the crime. International ordre public or public order imposes this conclusion.
Some will object that the Chorzow Factory Case Judgment, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property, the Genocide Convention and the International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility are all subsequent to the Armenian genocide and that therefore they cannot be applied retroactively. This is wrong.
The fact is that the Armenian claims did not arise with these instruments and judgments, but were already in existence in 1915 and were recognized internationally in the already cited article 144 of the Treaty of Sevres of 1920, which was signed by the representatives of the Sultan but not ratified after the Kemalist revolution. The non-enforcement of article 144 does not mean that the entitlements did not exist, but rather that the illegal use of force by Mustafa Kemal Attaturk prevented the implementation of applicable norms of international law.
The non-enforcement of norms, even for a prolonged period of time, does not detract from their validity. And Armenians should not be discouraged because of the reluctance of some journalists and politicians to endorse their legitimate claims.
As far as compensation is concerned, Article 36 of the Articles on State Responsibility[7] stipulate the obligation of a State “to compensate for the damage caused … insofar as such damage is not made good by restitution.”
As far as satisfaction is concerned, Article 37 stipulates “The State responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to give satisfaction for the injury caused by the act insofar as its obligation cannot be made good by restitution or compensation. Satisfaction may consist in an acknowledgement of the breach, an expression of regret, a formal apology or another appropriate modality.”
In this connection it is useful to recall that in 1993 President Bill Clinton issued an apology[8] to the people of Hawaii for the crimes and abuses committed in connection with the overthrow of the legitimate government of the Hawaiian Kingdom one hundred years earlier, in 1893. Similarly, on 13 February 2008 the Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd issued an apology to the Aborigines of Australia (9) for the many injustices visited upon them. It should be noted that title to huge areas of Australia has been returned to the Aborigines, who are now administering these territories in cooperation with Australian authorities. Even President Barak Obama signed a little publicized Apology to the American Indigenous on 19 December 2009 (10).
Thus, even “historical inequities” can be partly redressed provided that there be a modicum of good will. Indeed, over the past decades the various governments of Germany have issued countless apologies to the governments and peoples of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Israel, etc. in connection with the Holocaust. Germany has also made meaningful reparation in the form of both restitution and compensation to the survivors of the victims of the genocide.
In obtaining reparation the Armenians should also appeal to international solidarity and to the erga omnes obligation not to recognize the effects of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Article 10 of the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Illegality of Population Transfers of August 1997 stipulates:
“Where acts or omissions prohibited in the present Declaration are committed, the international community as a whole and individual States, are under an obligation: (a) not to recognize as legal the situation created by such acts; (b) in ongoing situations, to ensure the immediate cessation of the act and the reversal of the harmful consequences; (c) not to render aid, assistance or support, financial or otherwise, to the State which has committed or is committing such act in the maintaining or strengthening of the situation created by such act. “[11]
Of particular relevance to the Armenians are the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted by the General Assembly in its Resolution 60/147 of 16 December 2005.[12] Section VII, paragraph 10 of the Basic principles stipulates: “Remedies … include the victim’s right to the following as provided for under international law:
“(a) Equal and effective access to justice
(b) Adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered,
(c) access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.”
Section IX, paragraph 15 stipulates:
“Adequate, effective and prompt reparation is intended to promote justice by redressing gross violations of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law. Reparation should be proportional to the gravity of the violations and the harm suffered.“
Paragraph 16 stipulates:
“States should endeavour to establish national programmes for reparation and other assistance to victims.”
Paragraph 17 stipulates:
“States shall, with respect to claims of victims, enforce domestic judgments for reparation against individuals or entitles liable for the harm suffered and endeavour to enforce valid foreign legal judgments for reparation in accordance with domestic law and international legal obligations. To that end, States should provide under their domestic laws effective mechanisms for the enforcement of reparation judgments”
Paragraph 19 stipulates:
“Restitution should, whenever possible, restore the victim to the original situation before the gross violations of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law occurred. “
Paragraph 20 stipulates:
“Compensation should be provided for any economically assessable damage as appropriate and proportional to the violation and the circumstances of each case… such as “(a) physical or mental harm, (b) lost opportunities, including employment, education and social benefits, (c) material damages and loss of earnings, including loss of earning potential; (d) moral damage; (e) costs required for legal or expert assistance, medicine and medical services and psychological and social services.”
Section XI is of particular relevance. Paragraph 25 stipulates “the application and interpretation of these Basic Principles and guidelines must be consistent with international human rights law and be without any discrimination of any kind or on any ground, without exception.”
Another significant United Nations document that gives support to the Armenian Claims is the report of the Independent Expert Sergio Pinheiro known as United Nations Principles on Housing and Property Restitution, or simply as the Pinheiro Principles[13].
Principle 2 stipulates clearly: “All refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land and/or property or which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived, or to be compensated for any housing, land and/or property that is factually impossible to restore as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal.”
In this context it is relevant to cite once again the final Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Dimensions of Population Transfers, Awn Shawkat Al Khasawneh. The Declaration appended to the Report, which was formally adopted by the Commission on Human Rights and by ECOSOC stipulated in article 8:
“Every person has the right to return voluntarily, and in safety and dignity, to the country of origin and, within it, to the place of origin or choice. The exercise of the right to return does not preclude the victim's right to adequate remedies, including restoration of properties of which they were deprived in connection with or as a result of population transfers, compensation for any property that cannot be restored to them, and any other reparations provided for in international law. “
Ladies and gentlemen,
I could continue citing norms of hard law and soft law that apply to or are of particular relevance to the case of the Armenian genocide. Suffice it to say that international law is on the side of the Armenians.
Another issue is that of implementation, and the Armenians know better than anyone else what an uphill battle it has been to obtain recognition of the historicity of the genocide. Here again the United Nations can strengthen the Armenian claims through its increasing insistence on the right to truth[14], including historical truth. This may be a right de lege ferenda, but a right that Armenians can already invoke in the form of pertinent United Nations resolutions and reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
I do not underestimate the obstacles before you in obtaining reparation for the injuries suffered in connection with the genocide and its sequels. One problem is that of non-self-executing international norms. This is why Austria and Germany have adopted laws related to the restitution of objects to victims, as has the United States in the form of its Law on Restitution for the World War II Internment of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Aleuts.
It is the responsibility of politicians to propose such legislation in Congress, e.g. to make Armenian claims against Turkey justiciable in United States courts. The United States has adopted the Federal Alien Tort Claims Act pursuant to which Jewish claimants have been able to obtain redress.
I should also like to mention the possibility of entrusting the United Nations with the responsibility to administer a Fund for Victims of the Armenian Genocide and their Descendants. Already the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights administers several funds, e.g. for the Victims of Torture, for Indigenous Populations, etc. and this experience would provide a blueprint for an Armenian United Nations Fund.
Let me alert the Armenians to an important opportunity to disseminate information about the Armenian case. I was secretary of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva and dealt with the examination of State party reports and the drafting of concluding observations with concrete recommendations to States parties for correcting violations of human rights and for providing remedies to the victims.
Turkey ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 23 September 2003 and has just recently submitted its initial report to the Committee (15). The report, of course, presents the sunny-side of Turkey and there is no discussion of the grave problems associated with the Government’s denialist policies and the prosecution and imprisonment of authors and editors who write about the Armenian genocide. The new Turkish Penal Code of 2005 still contains provisions such as Article 301, which are clearly incompatible with article 19 of the ICCPR, both in doctrine and in practice.
In preparation for the examination of this report (probably in March 2013 in New York) the Human Rights Committee will draft a list of questions in July 2012 which will be sent to Turkey well in advance of the examination. The Armenian claims should be reflected in this questionnaire. It is now for Armenian civil society and for non-governmental organizations to send information to the Secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee, Ms Kate Fox,, for distribution to the 18 independent experts of the Committee. Armenian ngo’s should also come to Geneva and be present when the questions are being drafted in July 2012 and ask for the opportunity of briefing Committee members about the major problems and omissions of the Turkish report. The report can be downloaded from the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Moreover, Turkey has ratified the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR on 24 November 2006, which means that individuals can submit complaints to the Human Rights Committee following the exhaustion of domestic remedies in Turkey, if any. Admittedly, the Committee lacks jurisdiction to pronounce on the genocide itself, because the events are ratione temporis outside its scope of competence. But there are sequels to the genocide that constitute in themselves violations of the ICCPR by Turkey, including the persecution of Christians and the denial of the use of Churches for worship (article 18 ICCPR), murder and intimidation of Christians and Armenians (art. 6, art 9 ICCPR, including the murder of Hrank Dink, whom I personally knew and invited to a UN Panel in 2004), continued discrimination on the basis of ethnic or religious origin (article 26), the denial of the right to return to one’s homeland (art. 12), the denial of the right to speak and publish about the Armenian genocide (art. 19), the refusal of turkey to open its archives to allow investigation of the disappearance of millions of Armenians (Arts. 7 and 9), also the right to truth and to identity (article 17).
Turkey must also report to the new Human Rights Council in Geneva in the context of the new Universal Periodic Review procedure. This procedure frequently addresses the issues of disappearance of persons and of the right of relatives of the victims to demand from the governments concerned an investigation of the disappearance of their relatives, and a right to historical truth. Armenians should be present whenever Turkey is called to account before international instances, including before the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
Thus, ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by encouraging all Armenians to make use of United Nations and other international and national mechanisms established to redress injustices. It is the civic duty of all victims to articulate their complaints. It is wrong to keep silence about human rights violations, because this renders future violations less costly and feeds into a culture of impunity.
Since there is no statute of limitations applicable in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity, the Armenian claims to restitution and compensation continue to be valid to this day. Most importantly, however, the Armenians have a right to recognition as victims of genocide. They have a right to truth and a right to historical memory. Such recognition is a fundamental human right and a sine qua non for reconciliation. For decades the Armenians were victims of silence. And indeed, the crime of silence is worse than that of negationism. Indeed, it is a matter of fundamental justice to break once and for all the walls of silence. As Ovidius observed: Gutta cavat lapidem. The drop will eventually pierce the stone.
I thank you for your attention.


[1] Alfred de Zayas, “The Genocide Against the Armenians 1915-1923 and the Relevance of the 1948 Genocide Convention”, Haigazian University Press, Beirut 2010. Also available in Spanish translation, El Genocidio contra los Armenios, Catalogos S.R.L., Buenos Aires 2009.
[2] Vahakn Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus, ISBN 1571816666; “The Armenian Genocide and the Legal and Political Issues in the Failure to Prevent or Punish the Crime”, 29 U. West L.A. Law Review, 43.
[3] Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice, Series A - No. 9; Collection of Judgments, A.W. Sijthoff’s Publishing Company, Leyden
[4] Cf. Geoffrey Robertson, «Was there an Armenian Genocide?» Legal Opinion, 9 October 2009, London, ISBN 978-0-09564086-0-0.
[5] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/23
[8] Resolution 19, 103d U.S. Congress, 23 November 1993.
[11] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/23
UN Doc A/HRC/12/19, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Right to the truth (2009).


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