THE ARMENIAN QUESTION TODAY. II – 1

THE ARMENIAN QUESTION TODAY.  II – 1

Previous Part: #41 (159)

II. International Legal Level

The Strategic Problems of the Armenian State: A Summary

Before analyzing the international legal level of the Armenian Question, we must briefly summarize what has been said in the previous section of this study (see Hayastani Zrutsakits, # 41 (159), November 26, 2010).

Though the content of the Armenian Question, namely, the need for territorial and political liberation of Armenia remained the same after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it took new forms that crystallized primarily in the following strategic problems of the restored Armenian state:

    a) liberation and strengthening of Artsakh, including the area around the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR);
    b) preservation and strengthening of the Armenian Javakhk, which is vitally important to Armenia’s security;
    c) international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, the struggle against denialist campaigns, as well as identification and neutralization of international manipulations of this issue;
    d) the resumption of the Turkish-Armenian conflict after the collapse of the Soviet Union, including both the need for overcoming the consequences of the Armenian Genocide carried out by the authorities of the Ottoman and Republican Turkey and the hostile policies of modern Turkey that result in a multi-year blockade of Armenia, full support of military aggression by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) and Republic of Armenia (RoA), denial of Armenian Genocide, all-inclusive falsification of the history of Armenia at the international level, systematic destruction of Armenian historical and cultural heritage, psychological and information war against Armenia and Armenian Diaspora, etc.

All these component parts of the Armenian Question are tightly linked, each of them perilous on its own, and failure in any one of them is fraught with serious consequences for Armenia and all Armenians. The aforementioned problems have military, demographic, economic, international legal and other aspects, which, in turn, have their own specific weight and importance.

The International Legal Portfolio of the Armenian Question

Accordingly, the international legal portfolio of the Armenian Question consists of a combination of the following cases:

1. The Case of the Armenian Genocide of 1893-1923

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide will lead to tangible positive outcomes for Armenia only if it is a legally binding act, and not just a political declaration, as it has been in the vast majority of cases in parliamentary resolutions and statements in over twenty countries around the world. Such declarative recognitions did not lead even to the slightest policy changes on the part of Genocide recognizing countries with respect to the pressing security issues of Armenia; while it is only that kind of outcome which could be most helpful, precisely because it was the Genocide that brought to the fore modern Armenia’s security nightmares. Thus, for instance, Italy, Canada, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands recognized the Armenian Genocide, but no positive move has been noted in the policies pursued by these countries with regard to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moreover, the changing geo-political situation led to a de facto devaluation of previously adopted parliamentary resolutions of some countries about the Armenian Genocide. For example, in 2008 the main square in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, was renamed in honor of the architect of the first stage of the Genocide, “bloody sultan” Abdul Hamid II, despite the fact that the Lebanese Parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide twice – in 1997 and 2000. Any day now the mayor of the Greek city of Thessaloniki plans to unveil a memorial in honor of the leaders of the Young Turks, natives of this city, and the resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide adopted by the Greek Parliament in 1996 and by the European Parliament (of which Greece is a member) in 1987 and 2002, can not stop this blasphemous intention. Another example: even after the 1998 French Parliament resolution on the Armenian Genocide, for years the semiofficial Agence France-Presse (AFP) continued to speak about the genocide in subjunctive mode (the situation was corrected only in the last couple of years). Swedish Parliament twice changed its position on the Armenian Genocide. Hence, parliamentary resolutions, as well as statements by heads of state on the Armenian Genocide, though important, are unreliable and unproductive (the multitude of factual errors that these resolutions and statements commit are an entirely separate topic of discussion), because they are constantly subject to political manipulations and geopolitical horse-trading.

In fact, the case of the Armenian Genocide of 1893-1923 belongs within the jurisdiction of and is the prerogative of national and international courts, in particular – the International Court of Justice or a specially created tribunal on the Armenian Genocide similar to International Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. However, starting from the 1970s this case has been included in the agenda of the parliamentary debates (hence becoming controversial) in several countries and having remained outside of any effective control of the affected parties – namely, Armenia and the Armenians – often turned into an instrument for helping those foreign states to solve their own problems with Turkey at the expense of exploiting the Armenian Genocide. (A stark examples of this shameful phenomenon are the sickening public violations by U.S. Presidents of their campaign promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide). Thus the existing international recognitions of the Armenian Genocide in the form of parliamentary resolutions, decisions and statements are today clearly anachronistic. From the moment when Armenia became an independent state, at the latest, the question of overcoming the consequences of the Armenian Genocide (and not just its recognition) should have been concurrently raised as a legal issue in national and international courts and legal systems that are less prone to international political bargaining.

In an international court, Armenia will claim moral and cultural compensation, material and financial reparations, as well as territorial restitution from Turkey. The case can be considered in accordance with the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (hereinafter, the Convention), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948, as well as other international legal acts. In particular, as a signatory to the Convention since 23 June 1993, RoA has exclusive rights to invoke Article VIII of the Convention against Turkey (a signatory since 31 July 1950). It provides that any contracting party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action as they consider appropriate for the “suppression” of genocide. Respected international lawyers, specifically Professor Alfred de Zayas, contend that: “’suppression’ must mean more than just retributive justice. In order to suppress the crime, it is necessary to suppress, as far as possible, its consequences. This entails, besides punishing the guilty, providing restitution and compensation to the surviving generations.” That is, these measures could include also compensations in the form of territorial concessions. RoA may apply also Article IX of the Convention, which states: “Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.”

In this respect it is worth noting that in Article II of the abovementioned Convention, the concept and the term genocide were formulated by the world-renowned jurist Raphael Lemkin, who based his definition, particularly and especially, on the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, Raphael Lemkin directly refers to the Armenian Genocide in the Preparatory Report, which is an integral part of the Convention. On March 9, 2007 this very reference was sufficient for a Court in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland, to declare that there is no need for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Court of International Justice, since the Convention makes a direct reference to the Armenian Genocide. The Lausanne Court emphasized that this reference demonstrates that the Armenian Genocide is no longer subject to a dispute, since it has been implicitly, if not explicitly, and internationally recognized by forming the basis of a fundamental international legal act. Accordingly, the Court convicted Doğu Perinçek, the Chairman of the Worker’s Party of Turkey to a 90-day suspended sentence and a fine of 3000 Swiss francs for the denial of the Armenian Genocide. Besides, looking at this formally, it can be argued that having signed the Convention on July 31, 1950, Turkey itself has implicitly recognized the Armenian Genocide.

Another important international legal area where Armenia and the Armenians should put much effort into is to criminalize the denial, questioning, or diminishing of the fact of the Armenian Genocide in national legislatures and judicial practices of various countries. Unfortunately, in these respects the situation is extremely bad in RoA itself.

As for raising the issue of the Armenian Genocide in the parliaments of foreign countries and other non-legal international fora, it is long overdue for Armenia and Armenians to assess such resolutions in accordance with their own criteria, which would correspond to the historical facts and both national and state interests of Armenia (there is no contradiction between the two, despite years of efforts to mislead and confuse us on this important issue!).

Below we propose five main criteria for an assessment:

• Accurate mentioning of the time frame of the Armenian Genocide: from 1893 to 1923;

• Necessity to state the fact that the Armenians were annihilated in their own homeland, mainly in the western part of Armenia and in some parts of Eastern Armenia;

• A clear pointing out of the state that committed this crime against humanity – Ottoman Turkey, as well as a direct condemnation of its legal successor – the Republic of Turkey, for the denial of the Armenian Genocide and hostile policies towards present-day Armenia (land blockade, anti-Armenian propaganda and psychological warfare, refusal to establish diplomatic relations, the military assistance to Azerbaijan, etc.);

• Recognition of the responsibility of the Turkish state before the Armenian state as the ultimate expression and representative of the interests of the Armenian people, as well as the acceptance of compensation to Armenia as an absolute requirement (primarily in regards to territorial compensation);

• Mandatory linkage of the consequences of the Genocide with the current geopolitical situation in the region.  In other words, acknowledgement of the negative impact of the Armenian Genocide on the security of Armenia and the region. This is of utmost importance: how far do those resolutions ameliorate Armenia’s most urgent grave security problems and guarantee Armenia’s security?

The Armenian Genocide has created a territorial and existential problem for the survival of the Armenian people, diminishing their living space to a dangerously exposed, marginal and vulnerable strip of land. It is precisely from this perspective that we should view both the liberation of Artsakh (thanks to which only Armenia acquired defendable frontiers – to its East – and minimally necessary strategic depth) as well as the guaranteeing of the secure development of the Armenians of Javakhk.

The task of Armenian diplomacy is to competently link the international condemnation of the Armenian Genocide to a just resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and achievement of lasting peace in the region. Recognizing the Armenian genocide, the international community must take the next logical step: recognize the rights of Armenians to all the territory of Artsakh, including the liberated territory.

The above mentioned criteria regarding liability and compensation have not yet been recorded in any of the resolutions adopted by international legal entities. And how could it, when RoA itself has never set such a task for itself, never developed such programs and, naturally, has never come forward with the appropriately substantiated claims!

(To be continued)

Armen AYVAZYAN

Doctor of Political Sciences

This article was first published in Armenian and Russian in the “Sobesednik

Armenii/Hayastani Zrutsakits” weekly (Yerevan), #45 (163), December 23, 2010

Continued: 2011 #1 (164)

This post is also available in: Russian, Armenian