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Justice seen from Armenia

  Standpoint of Armenia

Justice seen from Armenia

Lilit Gasparyan


Lilit Gasparian

Journalist from Armenia

The Armenians all over the world, both in Armenia and Diaspora, are preparing for commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide through various events in 2015. In general, a tribute paid to the Armenian Genocide in the Armenian society has been accompanied by restitution, especially territorial claims. The absence of a half-word about restitution in the bills and laws stating the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by different parliaments has created a false impression that Armenians have no other claims to raise besides that of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey.  

The very claim of restitution has had different definitions in different time periods and by different circles, such as “restoration of a historical justice", “claiming”, “and elimination of consequences” etc.     

In 1920-30s April 24 was commemorated by holding ecclesiastical mourning rites mostly in Diaspora. In the early years of Sovietization of Armenia, April 24 was also commemorated in churches, and in future up until 1965, the commemoration day of the victims of the Great Genocide was recalled only within the families as the commemoration day of the relatives and kinsmen. Mainly political organizations demanded restitution, territorial claim in particular, from Turkey through the applications presented by various international summits, political circles.               

By the end of the WWII, in 1945, Armenian political parties and directions operating in Diaspora turned to the newly established United Nations and other summits requesting support in taking back from Turkey the territories belonging to Armenians, the borders of which were defined by Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, under the Arbitral Award on 22 November 1920.

In 1946 People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Armenian Soviet (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) prepared a N “410 special purpose” envelope, entitled “Armenian territories conquered by Turkey”, where one could find lots of substantiations why the Soviet Union should have demanded a number of Armenian territories from Turkey.  

In the early years of the Cold War, such claims by the Armenian people somewhat decreased, but never stopped. From the political point of view it was not easy for the Armenians living in the west to say that they were claiming a land from the NATO member state Turkey, in order to make it the part of one of the republics of the Soviet Union - Soviet Armenia. Without neglecting the issue of restitution, it was easier to speak about the necessity to punish the criminals of the Armenian Genocide, declared as genocide by Raphael Lemkin - the “father” of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN on 1948.

On 24 April 1965 the commemoration day of the victims of the Armenian Genocide was officially commemorated in Soviet Armenia for the first time on the 50th anniversary of the Great Genocide. Thousands of people marched through Yerevan with the capital-letter-written posters in their hands with the following writing thereon “Our Lands, Our Lands”.       

In the same year the issue on international recognition of the Armenian Genocide was raised in the UN and was recognized under the Uruguayan Law. At the same time the denial policy of Turkey was spinning up.      

Since 1973 the issue of mentioning the Armenian Genocide in the professional statement has been the issue under consideration in one of the UN subcommittees and was eventually approved in 1985.     

Within this period the fact of Genocide was mainly spoken about. And when it was demanded from Turkey to recognize it, like the bill of the Council of Europe dated 18 June 1987 did, they said that today's Turkey cannot be considered responsible for the tragedy the Armenians faced in the Ottoman Empire, pointing out “that neither political, legal nor material claims arising from the recognition of this historical event as Genocide can be raised against the present-day Turkey. This “warning” comes to prove that there has always been the issue of raising claims against Turkey, which the Council of Europe has tried to hinder.  

It was in this general atmosphere that the Armenian SSR Supreme Council (parliament), on 23 September 1989 set up a “committee of political and legal assessment of the Russian-Turkish Agreement dated 16 March 1921”, which would make a draft resolution on declaring illicit the Treaty of Moscow (Russian-Turkish Agreement) dated 16 March 1921 and the copy thereof, the Treaty of Kars, imposed upon Armenia on 13 October. (Turkey considers the legal base of the present-day border to be the Treaty of Kars).

Adopted by the Supreme Council of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic on 23 August 1990, the Declaration of Independence says: “Aware of its historic responsibility for the destiny of the Armenian people engaged in the realization of the aspirations of all Armenians and the restoration of historical justice”; […] “The Republic of Armenia stands in support of the task of achieving international recognition of the 1915 Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia”. “This Declaration, according to RA Constitution, recognizes as a basis the fundamental principles of the Armenian statehood and national aspirations”.

On 24 April 1998 the message of the RA President Robert Kocharyan addressed to the Armenian people said: “We don’t want to be the slaves of the past, but the way out will be when the world gives a right assessment of the past. Genocide recognition as an implementation of our claim will serve for the establishment of tranquility and peace in the region. Therefore, our priority issue today is, by consolidating all humanitarian efforts of all Armenians and the world, to establish victory of the historical justice and ensure our country’s quiet development and strengthening”. On 20 April 2005 President Kocharyan asserted: “Because of the Genocide the Armenian people became refugees and were scattered all over the world. The necessity to condemn the Armenian Genocide and restore historical justice was sacrificed to the great politics”.     

Approved in 2007, “the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Armenia says: “Armenia aspires for the universal recognition and condemnation, including by Turkey, of the Armenian Genocide, and sees it both as a restoration of an historical justice and as a way to improve the overall situation in the region, while also preventing similar crimes in the future.”

The newly-elected president Serzh Sargsyan in his massage dated 24 April 2008 says: “Armenia, the capital of all Armenians, should double its painstaking efforts directed towards restoration of an historical justice.” A year later on the same day he said: “International recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide is an issue of restoration of a historical justice both for the Armenian people and the Republic of Armenia.”      

On 14 December 2010 the president of the Republic of Armenia said at the international conference, titled “The Crime of Genocide: Prevention, Condemnation and Elimination of Consequences”: “We are confident that the road from recognition to forgiveness, from justice to peace, as well as tolerance and coexistence have no alternative.” “The conference is also important in the context of developing defined approaches and conceptual documents on the elimination of the consequences of genocides.” concluded Serzh Sragsyan.  

Although the founder of the Heritage Party and thefirst Foreign Minister of Armenia Raffi Hovhannisyan spoke on the Armenian Genocide and responsibility of Turkey on different occasions, in 2013 as RA presidential candidate he stated in his pre-election program: “On April 24, 2015, the centennial anniversary of the Genocide and Great Dispossession of the Armenian people and its patrimony, the Republic of Turkey will find the political courage and moral fortitude to surmount the Turkish-Armenian divide, to recognize that unprecedented crime against humanity, and to deliver reconciliation through truth and normalization through meaningful restitution.” 

On 24 April 2013 Former Foreign Minister of Armenia and currently a member of Prosperous Armenia parliamentary faction Vartan Oskanian wrote: “It is high time we went from recognition of the Genocide to the elimination of its consequences. It means being ambitious in defending our own rights, in claims for compensation for the material, spiritual, intellectual and moral losses.” 

On the same day two Catholicoi of the Armenian Apostolic Church came out with joint statement and demanded from Turkey to “1) fully compensate for the losses and violated human and national rights of the Armenian people; 2) immediately return Armenian churches, monasteries, church estates and spiritual-cultural values to the Armenian people as legal successors.           

Chaired by RA president Serzh Sargsyan, the fourth meeting of State Commission on Coordination of the events dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide took place in Yerevan on 27 May 2014. In his speech the president said: “Armenian lawyers are compiling a legal package on the Armenian Genocide covering issues at individual, community and national levels”. “Let no one hope that the Armenian Genocide Centenary is the endpoint of our cause. It is a particular destination to mourn our sorrow, to become morally stronger and to achieve justice. The Armenian Genocide Centenary will give birth to renewed objectives, a new Pan-Armenian agenda and plans to build a more powerful statehood and more consolidated Diaspora. With the Centenary we will sum up a historical period and will herald a new phase of struggle for the restoration of justice.” concluded Serzh Sargsyan.

On 19 September 2014 the final report of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group (AGRSG) was published: “Resolution with Justice – Reparations for the Armenian Genocide.” The AGRSG makes the following recommendations for reparations for the Armenian Genocide, based on the five elements of a comprehensive reparations package:

(1) Punishment

“In the case of the Armenian Genocide, however, no direct perpetrators are alive for prosecution, and so this aspect of repair is not applicable.”

(2) Recognition, Apology, Education, and Commemoration

“The Turkish government and complicit non-governmental entities should officially recognize and apologize for the Genocide.”

(3) Support for Armenians and Armenia

“The Turkish state should provide political and other support for the long-term viability of the Armenian state and Armenian identity globally.”

(4) Rehabilitation of Turkey

“Beyond an end to all denial activities and promotion of respect for Armenians and all non-Turkish groups in Turkey, the Turkish state and society should extirpate from all institutions, cultural elements, etc., vestiges of the attitudes and practices connected to the genocidal ideology and process of genocide against Armenians, such as Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.”

(5) Return of Property and Compensation for Property, Death, and Suffering

Amounts ranging from 70 billion to 105 billion US dollars are mentioned.  The Study Group thinks that the territory determined under the Woodrow Wilson Arbitral Award is the best political transfer option, but it also considers an alternative option.

At the closing ceremony of the 5th Armenia-Diaspora Conference, which was held on 20 September 2014, the President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan addressing to over 700 participants said: “Many of you are involved in the regional committees coordinating the events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. You all have one common goal - to reestablish justice and victory of the human mind over the darkness and ideologies of human hatred.” 

One of the four main topics of the same conference referred to the “process of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, condemnation and elimination of the consequences thereof.”  About 40 participants made speeches, most of whom came out with offers, accepting the recovery of the rights of the Armenian people, demand for justice and compensation as a key goal on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Armenia's National Assembly Standing Committee head on Foreign Affairs and member of RPA Council Artak Zakarian said that the recognition of the Great Genocide is not the endpoint, since the Armenian people are also claimers. 

A few days after this conference, at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly President Serzh Sargsyan said in his speech: “It was an unprecedented crime aimed at eliminating the nation and depriving it of its homeland: a crime that continues to be an unhealed scar for each Armenian. The president of Armenia spoke about “dispossession” from the UN tribune for the first time, although he had many times covered these issues from many other tribunes previously.   

“Justice”, ”Recovery of a historical justice”, “Elimination of the consequences of the Armenian Genocide” and “Repatriation” – these are the words Armenians often use when speaking about the solution of the Armenian issue. 100th anniversary seems to be an opportunity for the international public and Turkish society in particular to hear those words.    

Armenian genocide : recognition and reparations


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