Remarks at House of Commons, Demanding Justice for Armenians
At the invitation of the British-Armenian All-Party Parliamentary Group (BAAPPG), I spoke on May 7 at a special conference on the Armenian Genocide held at the House of Commons, Committee Room 3, the British Parliament, London.
Dr. Israel Charny, Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, was also invited to speak at this conference. Regrettably, due to a last minute illness, Dr. Charny could not attend. His prepared remarks titled, “Denial of Genocide is not only a political tactic, it is an attack on decent people’s minds and emotions,” was read by Peter Barker, a former broadcaster of BBC Radio.
The conference was chaired by House of Lords member Baroness Cox, Chairman of BAAPPG. In attendance were: Members of the House of Lords, the Armenian Desk officer of the Foreign Office, representatives from the Embassies of Greece, Kuwait, Serbia, Slovenia, and Syria, non-governmental organizations, scholars, journalists, and other distinguished guests.
In my remarks titled, “Armenian Genocide and Quest for Justice,” I cited the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations, European Parliament, legislatures of more than 20 countries, U.S. House of Representatives, Pres. Reagan, 42 out of 50 U.S. States, and the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
I concluded that “after so many acknowledgments, the Armenian Genocide has become a universally recognized historical fact.”
I expressed regret that the United Kingdom remained one of the rare major countries that has yet to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. I pointed out that “Britain’s siding with a denialist state is not so much due to lack of evidence or conviction, but, sadly, because of sheer political expediency, with the intent of appeasing Turkey.” I urged British officials to heed the cautionary words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill who said: “An appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
I suggested that Armenians no longer needed to convince the world that what took place during the years 1915-23 was “a genocide.”
Here are excerpts from my May 7 speech:
“A simple acknowledgment of and a mere apology, however, would not heal the wounds and undo the consequences of the Genocide. Armenians are still waiting for justice to be meted out, restoring their historic rights and returning their confiscated lands and properties.
“In recent years, Armenian-American lawyers have successfully filed lawsuits in U.S. federal courts, securing millions of dollars from New York Life and French AXA insurance companies for unpaid claims to policy-holders who perished in the Genocide. Several more lawsuits are pending against other insurance companies and German banks to recover funds belonging to victims of the Armenian Genocide.
“In 1915, a centrally planned and executed attempt was made to uproot from its ancestral homeland and decimate an entire nation, depriving the survivors of their cultural heritage as well as their homes, lands, houses of worship, and personal properties.
“A gross injustice was perpetrated against the Armenian people, which entitles them, as in the case of the Jewish Holocaust, to just compensation for their enormous losses.
“Restitution can take many forms. As an initial step, the Republic of Turkey could place under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul-based Armenian Patriarchate all of the Armenian churches and religious monuments which were expropriated and converted to mosques and warehouses or outright destroyed.
“In the absence of any voluntary restitution by the Republic of Turkey, Armenians could resort to litigation, seeking ‘restorative justice.’
“In considering legal recourse, one should be mindful of the fact that the Armenian Genocide did neither start nor end in 1915.
“Large-scale genocidal acts were committed starting with Sultan Abdul Hamid’s massacre of 300,000 Armenians from 1894 to 1896; the subsequent killings of 30,000 Armenians in Adana by the Young Turk regime in 1909; culminating in the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 to 1923; and followed by forced Turkification and deportation of tens of thousands of Armenians by the Republic of Turkey.
“Most of the early leaders of the Turkish Republic were high-ranking Ottoman officials who had participated in perpetrating the Armenian Genocide. This unbroken succession in leadership assured the continuity of the Ottomans’ anti-Armenian policies. The Republic of Turkey, as the continuation of the Ottoman Empire, could therefore be held responsible for the Genocide.
“An important document, recently discovered in the U.S. archives, provides irrefutable evidence that the Republic of Turkey continued to uproot and exile the remnants of Armenians well into the 1930’s motivated by purely racist reasons. The document in question is a ‘Strictly Confidential’ cable, dated March 2nd, 1934, and sent by U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Skinner from Ankara to the U.S. Secretary of State, reporting the deportation of Armenians.
“In the 1920’s and 30’s, thousands of Armenian survivors of the Genocide, were forced out of their homes in Cilicia and Western Armenia to locations elsewhere in Turkey or neighboring countries. In the 1940’s, these racist policies were followed by the Varlik Vergisi, the imposition of an exorbitant wealth tax on Armenians, Greeks and Jews. And, during the 1955 Istanbul pogroms, many Greeks as well as Armenians and Jews were killed and their properties destroyed.
“This continuum of massacres, genocide and deportations highlights the existence of a long-term strategy implemented by successive Turkish regimes from the 1890’s to more recent times, in order to solve the Armenian Question with finality.
“Consequently, the Republic of Turkey is legally liable for its own crimes against Armenians, as well as those committed by its Ottoman predecessors. “Turkey inherited the assets of the Ottoman Empire; And, therefore, it must have also inherited its liabilities.
“Finally, since Armenians often refer to their three sequential demands from Turkey: ‘Recognition’ of the Genocide; ‘Reparations’ for their losses; and the ‘Return’ of their lands, Turks have come to believe that once the Genocide is recognized, Armenians will then pursue their next two demands.
“This is the main reason why Turks adamantly refuse to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. They fear that acceptance of the Genocide would lead to other demands for restitution. They believe that by denying the first demand, they would be blocking the ones that are sure to follow.
“The fact is that, commemorative resolutions adopted by legislative bodies of various countries and statements made on the Armenian Genocide by world leaders have no force of law, and therefore, no legal consequence.
“Armenians, Turks and others involved in this historical, and yet contemporary issue, must realize that recognition of the Armenian Genocide or the lack thereof, will neither enable nor deter its consideration by international legal institutions.
“Once Turkish officials realize that recognition by itself cannot and would not lead to other demands, they may no longer persist in their obsessive denial of these tragic events.
“Without waiting for any further recognition, Armenians can pursue their historic rights through proper legal channels, such as the International Court of Justice (where only states have such jurisdiction), the European Court of Human Rights and U.S. Federal Courts.
“Justice, based on international law, must take its course.”
Following an extensive question and answer period, Armenia’s Ambassador to Great Britain, Vahe Gabrieliyan, delivered the closing remarks. Based on the speeches of the two speakers, the BAAPPG issued a statement calling on the British Government to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.