Turkey May Fall in its Own Trap By Taking Genocide Issue to Court
by Harut Sassounian
Exasperated by the international community's ever-growing acceptance of the Armenian Genocide, and discouraged by its failed attempts to quash any mention of this issue, the Turkish government has decided to embark on a bold new adventure, according to Turkish newspapers last week.
Admitting that Turkey has nothing to show for after spending millions of dollars on anti-Armenian propaganda, Erdal Safak wrote in Sabah: "Turkey will be waging a tooth-and-nail struggle in the international arena rather than exhausting its breath on symposiums that the West doesn't heed." He went onto state:
"Sources say Turkey is even considering taking the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration [the International Court of Justice]." Acting as if he had just discovered a magic wand, Safak wrote: "We wholeheartedly support this plan. There is no other way to put an end to the allegations that bothered us just in April in the past, but recently have been bothering us from the first day of each year. This is the only way to save our nation from this huge trauma and the damage caused by the increasing feeling of being faced with an 'international conspiracy,' fanned by new links in the chain of countries which officially recognize Armenian claims [of genocide]." The newspaper Hurriyet reported this new initiative under the following colorful headline: "Ankara is getting ready to say: 'let's slug it out.'" Ugur Ergan, the reporter for Hurriyet, wrote that the Turkish government's "Coordination Committee to Fight Against Alleged Genocide Claim" had met onDec. 26, 2006 and decided to change Ankara's policy on the Armenian Genocide. This Council's membership consists of the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice, National Education, and Culture, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the Higher Education Council, and representatives from various universities and organizations.
Stating that "brochures, symposia, and newspaper ads were not giving the desired result in fighting the genocide claim," the Committee decided to pursue all legal avenues against the Republic of Armenia as well as the Armenian Diaspora.
In his remarks in Parliament on Nov. 14, 2006, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reportedly declared: "Genocide claims can be taken to International Courts.
Work is being carried out along those lines and Turkey's point of view, being accurate, should be approved through the decision of an international judicial body." Gul reportedly discussed the possibility of taking France to the European Court of Human Rights in order to block a proposed French bill that would make the denial of the Armenian Genocide a crime.
The article stated that Turkey, after getting advice from domestic and foreign jurists, would submit the Armenian Genocide case to the International Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, under the provisions of the U.N. Genocide Convention of 1948. Turkey and Armenia would supposedly select three arbitrators each and these arbitrators would then appoint an independent and neutral president.
Turkish officials propose that all archives, including those belonging to Turkey, the ARF in Boston, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Istanbul, and all foreign missions that operated in Turkey during the genocide, be compiled. They suggest that "a wide-scale forensic study" be conducted, in order to determine if there were any demographic changes and diseases during that period. According to Hurriyet, after these documents are submitted to the court, the two sides would present their respective cases and then wait for the court's judgment.
The Turkish government, according to this article, believes that the Armenians "will be cornered" because they will be obliged to prove that in 1915 they were subjected to genocide. "The Armenians have no documents in their handsto prove this, whereas there are, in Turkey's hands, very strong documents demonstrating that the deportation was justified by legitimate self-defense," Hurriyet said.
If this report is accurate, it is simply amazing that the Turkish government would approach such a serious matter so childishly. To begin with, Turkey assumes that Armenia would fall for such an obvious ploy. Are Turkish leaders foolish enough to believe that the Armenian government would accept going to court in order to prove the genocide? The only reason Armenians would want to go to court is to demand reparations and the return of the Armenian territories currently occupied by the Republic of Turkey.
The key issue here is whether Turkey would agree, before the start of the arbitration, to comply with the eventual decision of the arbitrators and return all looted assets and occupied territories to Armenians, should the court so decide. Unless Turkish officials accept this condition, their bluff would be called long before they can brag about "cornering the Armenians."
I don't believe the Turks are serious about taking the Armenians to court over the genocide issue. This Turkish threat is just a public relations ploy in order to tell the world that they were ready to go to court, but Armenians refused to do so.
We already have one recent example of Turkey talking tough first and then quietly eating its words. Several months ago, the Turkish Foreign Minister pledged to take the issue of the Armenian Genocide to the United Nations. Shortly after making that statement, the Foreign Minister declared that Turkey would not go to the U.N., as he was afraid that the Armenian side would win in what he called a "highly-politicized body." I will not be surprised if the Turks very shortly also withdraw from this foolhardy notion, lest they lose not just a court case, but also a large chunk of territory!