UCLA Reparations Conference Looks at Legal, Ethical, Political Aspects of Justice for Genocide

LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The International Human Rights Law Association (IHRLA) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) hosted a conference entitled, “Genocide and Then What? The Law, Ethics, and Politics of Making Amends” on Saturday, October 23, 2010 at UCLA’s Dodd Hall.

Organizers and presenters of the UCLA conference. From left to right they are; Rev. Dr. George Leylegian, Aleta Sprague (IHRLA), Keiara Auzenne (IHRLA), Dr. Armen Marsoobian, Ara Papian, Natalie Samarjian (IHRLA), Ayda Erbal, Dr. Jermaine McCalpin, George Aghjayan, and Dr. Henry Theriault.

The conference featured a soon to be released report which explores the legal, ethical, and political aspects of justice for the Armenian Genocide.

The authors presented at the conference and were joined by fellow scholars in related fields who gave comment on the subject and the report’s findings.

“The International Human Rights Law Association is very interested in bringing in topics that are of interest not only to our student population, but also the law school community at large,” noted Keiara Auzenne, President of the IHRLA.

The report study group was led by Dr. Henry Theriault, Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Worcester State University. Theriault’s work explores the ethics of reparations for crimes against humanity. He joined Auzenne in opening the conference with an introduction to the reportand its authors.

Following the introduction, Dr. Alfred de Zayas, presented his work on the legal backbone for justice and restitution for the Armenian Genocide. De Zayas is the former chief of petitions at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, retired secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee, and former senior counsel with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He recently published “The Genocide Against the Armenians, 1915-1923, and the Relevance of the Genocide Convention.”

Ara Papian, another of the report’s authors, discussed treaty law and its impact on Armenian Genocide. His work focusing on the Wilsonian arbitration following the genocide generated several follow up questions from audiencemembers and fellow conference panelists.

Drawing in his field expertise in long-term as well as transitional justice, Dr. Jermaine McCalpin, another of the report’s authors and Professor of Government at the University of the West Indies, noted that truth and justice are the cornerstones of reconciliation in the case of the Armenian Genocide. McCalpin has conducted research in this field covering cases from US slavery, Native American extermination, and the Armenian Genocide.

Several noted specialists commented on the report’s findings during the second, third, and fourth panels.

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Holocaust reparations and human rights legal scholar, Michael Bazyler discussed the pursuit of restitutional justice for and by victims of the Holocaust.

The afternoon panels featured ethicist Dr. Armen Marsoobian from Southern Connecticut State University who discussed the issues of trans-generational response to the Armenian Genocide as well as the important implications between accepting responsibility versus taking responsibility for this crime against humanity.

Graduate students and doctoral candidates, Khatchig Mouradian (Genocide and Holocaust Studies at Clark University) and Ayda Erbal (Department of Politics at New York University) discussed Turkish efforts, from the government to civil society, to address the Armenian Genocide and engage the Armenian community within its own borders, in the Republic of Armenia, and the diaspora.

George Aghjayan presented his research into the demographic overview of theOttoman Empire prior to and following the Armenian Genocide while Rev. Dr.George Leylegian, a specialist on church properties and cultural heritage, discussed the losses in this regard during the Armenian Genocide.

In concluding the event, Dr. Theriault invited academics on the panel and the audience to continue to provide comment on the report in advance of its formal release. The event was made possible by the generous support of on-campus funding boards. The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region also supported the event with an educational grant. The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

21 Comments on UCLA Reparations Conference Looks at Legal, Ethical, Political Aspects of Justice for Genocide

  1. avatar Seervart Kevorkian // November 5, 2010 at 9:31 am // Reply

    I highly command all the wonderful preparations and the good works that all the above educators and intellectuals are instilling and structuring for the Armenian Genocide and especially to start reparations to a befallen and an annihilated nation, the Armenians who are scattered all around the globe for 95 years since 1915.


  2. Many thanks to all the presenters and to the organizers of this important conference. Please keep us all informed of any published  papers or journals.

  3. Is this another pipe dream people in Armenian establishment are building up for the consumption of Diaspora Armenians, to keep them occupied and busy with issues that are actually non-issues? Diverting people’s attention and little time they can afford onto things that are not going to bear any fruit, but just help keep the status qua in the Diaspora?
    Who in their right mind believes that any resolution or mandate by the United Nations will be carried through without real force and power behind it? How many mandates and resolutions have there been passed by the United Nations and various human rights committees against Israel, the US, Iran, etc which have not led to any results of any kind?
    We are again relying on paper documents and the good will of other states to deliver what we want, as if the Sevres treaty and the admonition of Khremyan Hayreek did not happen. Aren’t we suffering because we relied on paper documents and other nations to hand to what belongs to us?
    Pleeeaz. Another waste-of-timer, any diversion from the real, essential, imperative issues.

  4. You’re right Amb, but spell it out, please.  What are ‘the real, essential, imperative issues’ and how do we address them?  None of us wants to waste our time or watch Armenia lose precious time.  If you have a vision, share it.  We Armenians are great at cogitating amongst ourselves because for centuries we lacked the political power to bring about real change, as a nation, for our nation.  What we need is some solid leadership with a solid plan.  Then we need to work together to achieve our goals.
    One of Armenia’s biggest problems today (if not the biggest) has to do with the relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan and the fact that we are surrounded by neighbors that see us as being in the way.  In the current issue of Today’s Zaman, the Azeri Ambassador remarked about Turkey and Azerbaijan’s rock solid relationship stating that Turkey and Azerbaijan are “one nation in two states.”  Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!  The trick for Armenia is to figure out how to hold our ground (literally!) in the face of neighbors who would be happier if we weren’t there.  This is the issue that our brain trusts need to be working on.  How do we maintain peace in such an inhospitable neighborhood?  Can it be achieved without military might?  What are the diplomatic avenues and political allies we need to establish to bolster our position?  Will alliance with Russian help protect us or will we sacrifice our independence and our Armenianism?   Is there a better time than now to reunite with Artsakh?

  5. avatar gaytzag palandjian // November 9, 2010 at 5:51 pm // Reply

    To amb and Boyajian,
    Firstly these conferences are on the rise lately.have been there for a long time.No,not a waste of time,but also not instrumental in solving problems ,as you have well understood.
    They do educate people who are  incognizant of events that occurred during Armenia’s road to independence during past 100/120 yrs.Just some thoughts put into writing and discoursed pronounced,friendships established etc.Let us say Academia at work.
    As to solutions,it looks like that on November 20th some Armenian dignitaries will again congregate in L.A. to discuss ways  for  UNITY !!!!
    Unity- ARE  WE NOT UNITED.If  ref. is to Armenian political parties  these did demonstrate unity more than two decades ago in Lebanon during civil War and will surely do so again in case of danger/necessity.Then what is  there  to be achieved…
    They will indeed like above  conference emerge with little  more  than what above conference  did. AMB  and Boyajian,we need to be SOCIALLY FORMED foremost.
    Ask me how  and I will gladly expand further on that.  Otherwise  the Armenity*please do not use Armenianism…try to  drop  “ISM”  write ,please…Armenity…

  6. “we need to be SOCIALLY FORMED foremost. Ask me how  and I will gladly expand further on that.”

    May I ask you to expand?

  7. What is real, essential, imperative and urgent is the survival, growth and advancement of Armenia, I believe. It is not the foreign relations of the country. Foreign relations is one factor in the complex dynamics of the life of Armenia but not the highest or most important one.
    It is a typical Diaspora-ian thinking that foreign relations is or must be the most important concern of Armenia. It is not and it mustn’t be.
    We have to understand that Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora have  different set of priorities. Number one on Armenia’s list of priorities is its survival and progress. Below that, in whatever ranking, is the relations with foreign powers and its neighbors, however hostile or friendly those neighbors or foreign powers may be. The issue of the Genocide and its recognition is also below the number one concern.
    In the Diaspora, the number one issue on the list of priorities is the recognition of the Genocide and all the consequences following that recognition. The survival and advancement of the country of Armenia falls below the first priority for Diaspora Armenians.
    This doesn’t mean that the issues below the top priority for each side – by side I mean Armenia and the Diaspora – are not important to that party. The number two and below issues are simply not the top priority.
    I think Armenians in the Diaspora have to synchronize their priorities with that of Armenia because I believe the survival and advancement of Armenia MUST BE THE TOP PRIORITY for every Armenian living in the world.

  8. Amb, I can’t disagree with you, that survival, growth, and advancement of Armenia is essential, imperative, and urgent, but I don’t really like the RA-Diaspora dichotomy as a construct.  I think it is polarizing.  I don’t deny that Diasporan Armenians have a tendency to focus more on the genocide recognition issue, but diasporans also want to see Armenia as a thriving, modern nation which is vibrant in all fields of human endeavor.  When we focus only on survival and relations with threatening neighbors, we miss opportunities to use our creativity and ingenuity to contribute to art, literature, and technological advances.  Armenia faces many challenges today including promoting advancement through education, job creation, social justice, good government, women’s rights, good nutrition and medical care, good roads, good public transport, improved infra-structure in general.  But we can’t ignore the very real threats around us either.  Nor can we simply allow injustice to prevail.  Working out the proper balance in all these arenas is also one of the Armenian nation’s (both RA and Diasporan) greatest challenges today.

  9. avatar gaytzag palandjian // November 10, 2010 at 11:45 am // Reply

    Before I respond to  Gina,I would like to state to both amb and Boyajian,especially latter  that all that  he is wishing for  ,is being implemented  in Armenia.Though at a slow pace, but continually,road being built , underground passages more underground pkgs,one with 400 car capacity around Opera house and indeed  bldgs not only in downtown Yerevan ,but also in suburbia and in the provincial towns i visited  ,like Abovian,Gyumri Vanadzor adn even Artsakh.yes in Nk construction is being done on new bldgs for cultural, governmental and sportive bldgs.True repair jobs on Shushi old good school hospital bldgs is stioll at standstill,becausse  of lack of funds,but then some..
    Also be assured  that  ten times more  would  have been done  if we had  the “national Investment Trust Fund’  that I envisage will come to life  after the PCA’s  “Professional Colleagues Associations  with 15  fields..are formed then through these the Fund comes to life.No not the Armenia fund,which is doing its  share.But this one to be formed by our magnates and millionaires,in order to haves  the Nucleus by them so that then all can participate  INVESTING  not giving  monies  as  AID.Governmental funds recived from this that foreign Governments  as Loans or aid  are being channelled  and partially funneled,as you all know quite well, to some,like in any country of the Western hemisphere as well as in the East. All  are similar  ,but some part  of it goes to real construction  works .Plenty can be done if we the Diaspora are organizesd into one Supreme Council  with 5 depts  and supervise  the National Investment Trust Funds ..investrments ,to be conducted by our  own elected  experts in Hayastan.Diaspora Ministry needs  to have 5 delegates one each from main such i.e/,. N.America, S.America,EU,Russia and Middle east  in yerevan for one year periods,to be reelected further to stay there or new ones,alongside  Ministre as co Ministre,For these also have to intermingle.The B/Aires delegate has to get to know what the russian armenian delegate from moscow is thinking as to RA. So the EU one from N.America and all to cooperate with RA Ministre. For how can the local Ra Ministre  know  the mentality of the say…French Armenian or  Argentinian mentality…I shall continue later…
    Believe  it  or not I wrote so fast  that part of it by hitting wrong button disappeared…
    best to all

  10. Gaytzag Palandjian, yes please expand on the idea of ‘being socially formed foremost.’

  11. avatar gaytzag palandjian // November 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm // Reply

    As brief  introduction. We became a Diaspora people/not nation,after Ani’s destruction,a thousand years go,immigrating  to West,mainly Poland and Russia.Poland’s such disappeared,melt  away.Not quite so in Russia,this being near abroad,the Armenian old immigrants there ,around  churches maintained their ethnicity,more  or less.
    Our present Diasporas,thanks to assiduous work by our Spiritual/church leadership as well as compatriotic,cultural,sportive and indeed political parties have been  instrumental in preservation  of our Armenity outside its native lands.
    However,due to especially latest important massive immigrations,that  after the Genocide,viz.1915 then  the Middle East second home country Exodus in the 50’s 60’s the Armenian became rather self centered, struggling to keep family intact and earn  first enough to survive  then by and by forge ahead.The offshoot of these latter day immigrants or even those of the 1895’s to the Americas and Europe and Russia,began to have their children placed in higher learning institutions.Nonetheless their attention was concentrated on FAMILY  not teamwork.Granted some 3/4% did join up with blossoming establishments/entities such as above mentioned,thus socializing with compatriots.These do have Social Formation and have also formed Rank and File.
    Enter  the huge collectivities of our present day non/participating majority ,who have been dubbed  in the past as “Silent majority”, unfortunately  ,especially by our politico,have kept way and dedicated themselves to their professions and family only.
    Since I joined  with the First Armenian Congress  in 1979 in Paris and prior to that in Lyon France in 1978,a futile try by some 20 of  us trying to establish  a diaspora body that  would eventually become France’s Armenian Central Council,much waters  have passed. AT that point  of time the friction amongst our ideological/political factions were very much  polarized and they did not in any way wish to have ,say, an umbrella entity.This stance, after  Civil war in Lebanon has changed quite a bit and there is tolerance amongst  mentioned. However, our huge collectivities,the compatriots  working in  nowadays much more advanced fields  of professions are left to drift away and consequently again remaining FAMILY centered and/or on a plane that  I like to call as “Individual progressiveness”. These good people can be “harnessed”..Please excuse the  adjective  to TEAMWORK, thence enter into the national affairs arena.
    My over 30 years  study in this connection has been to tap into these Collectivities through  a method  that best  suits  us Armenians.That  of the establishment of “Professional Colleagues Associations”,5 on the scene alread ,by the by.Wherein these good people will get to meet with their work,profession type.Like The Health Medical,The Engineers and sciences,The BAR, The  Sportive, The Jewellers*this should enlap furnishings also,then to be formed  ,The Banking and Finance,The Construction field,The industries  and mines, The Education and culture/amalgamation of these, The Food and Catering,The Communication  IT,the Press and Advertising,The Environmental and forestry,The Agricultural and perhaps one  or two more.
    These should be formed in all Armenian dense townships such as Boston and surrounding area,S.Franciso and surrounding,L.A.,paris,Beiriut Sydnez,etc., etc., this is where the Backbone of our people are to be sought,the huge collectivities and get them organized,Then from these we can receive their Elite,as reps. to central Bodies of each  township, from there  to delegate to Central Council of each community country..on to a Supreme council in diaspora.
    I believe  I have diverted  my explanation as to Civil Societies  of  V.Oskanian “the Civilitas” and or similar  non Armenian so, introducing my own version of forging moulding an Armenian homologue  that  better suits  us .
    By the by ,in the interim, to be more methodical and with an almost fault proof organization when the PCA’s all 15 fields are formed.I suggest  that  these besides  having their elected Boards/ as NOVELTY  by this servant of the Armenian people, they also elect  3 person delegates to the Central body of Township as Inter Professional Grouping,to which later the politico 3 person and one each from our S[iritual denomination clergy would join up,thus for the first time having a Real Representation and Participation from all walks  of today’s Armenian collectivities .Not self elected, or so elected  by force  of money.Latter  will go on since it is being practiced all over the world,but we Armenians come up  in PARALLEL   with that old unjust,if you will method with our own “A  New Concept of electoral system and Governance” this by the by my 3 page intellectual property registered both in D.C. and Yerevan.I also lately registered only in Yerevan…”Projections on A New Statute for the Armenian Diaspora’ which is the more detailed format of above .Please forgive Errors and omissions,I usually type  very fast.
    best to all

  12. avatar gaytzag palandjian // November 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm // Reply

    I explained further that the 3/person Delegates from the 15 fields of PCA’s/above mentioned are ELECTED  for one  of the following Merits>/
    1.One, Who has advanced more  than all others in his/ her  field of profession,this  person, unanimously elected by all  the others,
    2.One, who has  in his/her free time dedicated himself/herself to national international culture studies, a politicized person with networking capacity.
    3.One who in free  time  has occupied  with his her natural ability of advancing economically,say ,besides working in a hospital,established  his/her private Clinic or just plain invested  with saved  money  in correct investments,thus ,please  note>/
    One compliments  the other two.Also there is no Fourth Merit in a person working  in professions that can be further developed. once again…
    A. Professionally,  B. Culturally and politically.C. Economically…
    Hama Haigagani SIRO,
    Gaytzag palandjian

  13. Boyajian,
    You don’t like  “the RA-Diaspora dichotomy as a construct”?!!!  It’s already polarized my friend. What we like or don’t like has nothing to do how things are.
    To iterate, it is not that the number 2 and below items on the list of priorities for RA and the Diaspora are not important to each party, it is just that they are not the most important.

  14. Amb, what I am saying is that Diasporans also want to see the RA thrive.  It is not a goal held exclusively by those living in Armenia proper.   And it is not good for our morale as a community to overemphasize polarities as if there is no overlap and we are only at odds with each other.  We need to hold together and focus on what is good for the entire nation.  Do you consider diasporans part of the nation, I wonder?

  15.  The notion that the “advancement of Armenia MUST BE THE TOP PRIORITY for every Armenian living in the world” as stated by amb is divisive and non-productive. The top priority should always be to stand behind the common good for all Armenians, irrespective of where they live, whenever the opportunity arises. The common good most certainly includes the right to continue to demand reparations. It is not limited to the advancement of Armenia, nor is there any order of importance . The common good comes from responding to every opportunity that benefits all Armenians, wherever and whenever it presents itself.
    This UCLA conference was an outstanding opportunity to keep our demands before the world, to make clear to the perpetrators that issues of importance to all Armenians are not, and will not, be forgotten.  The presenters of papers at this conference are acknowledged international experts in their fields, respected by their peers. Their opinions are not simply idle chatter; they are based on years of research and presented in good faith. Their research is documented and published. It is studied by their peers and cited by students in their own research. Their work is viewed with respect by politicians and historians and is not regarded as mere time wasters by academia, as has been suggested here. These conferences further the cause of all of us.
    I am extremely grateful to Professor Alfred de Zayas for making his paper available and to the Armenian Weekly for publishing it. I look forward to the publication of other papers that were presented at this conference. Thanks also to those who funded and organized this very important event.

  16. I really appreciate Perouz’s comments.
    We Armenians are so practiced at making adversaries amongst ourselves, as if our natural adversary, our precarious geographic location and our economic woes aren’t enough trouble for us! The UCLA conference and others like it serve the important purpose of reinvigorating our resolve to pursue justice and to inform the public.  This is not a waste.  But we really need to make a conscious effort to pull together for our common goals, to help ‘grow’ the nation and to stand up for justice.  The diasporan communities have done a good job of keeping the flame of Armenianess alive while the lanterns were forced to dim in the homeland during our Soviet period.  But we are now independent!  We need to remind ourselves that we are a nation which has endured through centuries of invaders and changing empires and we will not quit now. And we should remind our leaders not to squander this independence nor sell it cheaply to the Russians.

  17. Well, I guess I’ll stop contributing to this story’s commentary thread, we can’t go on forever arguing the same thing. But what Boyajian expresses, his/her way of reasoning and rational, is a common, prevalent way of thinking amongst Armenians. Delusional, self-deceiving, wishful thinking will not get us anywhere but sink us more and more into the hole. Reality is looking at us squarely, demanding better responses for our dilemmas.

  18. avatar gaytzag palandjian // November 12, 2010 at 7:56 pm // Reply

    Gina  and Boyajian,
    Have  I been able to throw a bit more light on “Social Formation”.If  not please let me know. i do expect  that you have the courtesy to reply….even negatively,but not with silence….which abodes  very bad..

  19. avatar gaytzag palandjian // November 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm // Reply

    Please  excuse error   in word  “abodes” should read BODES///
    I type fast  and am a advanced  in age…

  20. Dear gaytzag,
    sorry for a late reply. I was focused, as you say above, on my family the two past days.   
    I agree that being in the same profession should give people stronger motivation to get together. However, are you sure we have enough people in each profession, taken separately, who are both advanced in their field and willing to get involved, in every place that you mention?

    Also, among the merits of delegates that you mention, I would think that number 2 is the most important. I am not sure that number 1–being more advanced in your field than all others, is that important. Isn’t it good enough just to be advanced or somewhat advanced?   

  21. Dear Gaytzag, I did not mean to be rude.  I honestly had trouble understanding your ideas.  On the surface it appears to be an interesting proposal of a method to organize our diasporan communities into a cohesive group with a mechanism to pursuing our common goals.

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