Lewis ruling article from Le Monde in English
LE MONDE/FRIDAY JUNE 23, 1995/Page 11
Bernard Lewis condemned for having denied the reality of the Armenian genocide
According to the court, the historian committed a "fault".
THE COURT of first instance in Paris sentenced the American historian on Wednesday, the 21st of June, to pay 1 franc of damages and intrest to the Forum of Armenian Associations and to the International League Against Racim and Anti-Semitism. The first Civil Chamber, presided by Jacqueline Cochard, ruled that he had committed "a fault" by declaring, on the 13th of november 1993, to the daily "Le Monde" that the qualification of Genocide, given to the massacres perpetrated by the Turks in 1915, was nothing more than "the Armenian version of this story". Although the trial had proceeded in a tense atmosphere (see "Le Monde", 19 may), the sentence was accepted in the greatest calm by the 6 Armenian activists who had come. A bit of applause, a few hugs in the hall, nothing more. An attitude to the image of a decision, which, even if it constitutes a first, is certainly not moderated.
The judges refrained from judging history : "It is not up to the court to decide or to state wether or not the massacres committed >from 1915 to 1917 constitute the crime of genocide", the sentence underlines, "as this concerns events which belong to history, courts do not have the mission of arbitrating and resolving polemics." Especially because, they add, "the historian, in principle, has all the liberty to present the facts according to his personal views".
This liberty, however, has a limit : that of responsibility. Thus, someone who commits a "fault" and causes damage to a third party must compensate for it according to article 1382 of the civil code. Like others, maybe even more than others, a historian must tell the truth and nothing but the truth. And, especially, the whole truth. Thus, writes the tribunal, "it is only by hiding elements which go against his thesis that the defendant was able to state that there was no 'serious proof' of the Armenian Genocide". The sentence refers to the declaration, in may 1985, of the sub-commission of the United Nations charged with the repression and prevention of Genocide, the resolution of the European Parliament in june 1987, or the work of the International colloquium in Paris in August of 1984... A number of elements which, even if they are not indisputable, had to be mentioned in any case, and, absolutely exclude giving any credit whatsoever to the idea that "the reality of the Armenian genocide results from nothing more than the imagination of the Armenian people."
Thus, by ignoring these "elements with converging conclusions", which reveal that "the thesis of the extermination of the Armenian people is not only defended by [the Armenian people]", Bernard Lewis has committed a fault. The Tribunal refused, however, to follow the Armenian associations which accused the eminent orientalist of having acted as a "real propagandist". "Nowhere has it been established that he followed an aim foreign to his mission as an historian", the judges insist. Simply, "he failed in his duty of prudence and objectivity, by expressing himself so one-sidedly on a subject as sensitive as this one.". "His statements, prone to unjustly reviving the pain of the Armenian Community, are erroneous and justify damages." Minimal damages, much less than what was demanded by the Armenian forum. But on wednesday, not one of the activists, present at the Palace, was thinking of accounts. They were only there for the sake of principle.