Sassounian: Turks and Germans: Partners in Crime and Allies in Court

Last month, when German life insurance companies requested a rehearing from a Federal Court of Appeals, contesting its decision in favor of Armenian claimants, the Republic of Turkey filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) petition in support of the German defendants.

This was an intriguing development. The heirs of now-deceased Armenian policyholders were suing German insurance companies, and Turkey—not a party to the lawsuit—was shamelessly siding with the delinquent firms. No one was demanding payment from the Turkish government! Why would Turkey, a foreign country, interfere in a U.S. lawsuit against German companies?

The Turkish petition is a 15-page-long propaganda piece that denies the facts of the Armenian Genocide. It describes the United States and Turkey as working “shoulder-to-shoulder,” adding that 120,000 Turks reside in the United States, and that 700,000 Americans visit Turkey every year. The Turkish brief does not explain, however, how any of these assertions have any relevance to the failure of German insurance companies to compensate the heirs of Armenian policyholders.

The Turkish petition attacks the California law extending the statute of limitations on Armenian claims against insurance companies by heirs of genocide victims. It alleges that the California statute “offends Turkey’s sovereignty by legislating Turkish history and by declaring Turkey and its predecessor state guilty of the crime of genocide.” The petition goes on to state: “Turkey resents having any U.S. legislature or other official formulate its own definition of genocide specifically to declare that Turkey or its predecessor state is guilty of this crime.” Ironically, the Turkish government never expressed any resentment or complaint when 42 U.S. states and many American cities were recognizing the Armenian Genocide in recent decades. Ankara justified its inaction by claiming that its counterpart is the federal government, not individual states or cities.

The Turkish petition lamely claims that foreign states cannot “monitor and react to the individual actions of fifty state legislatures and governors. Rather, Turkey’s interlocutor with the fifty United States is the U.S. federal government.” It then quotes from Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy’s letter to the Court of Appeals on Dec. 4, 2008, stating that “Turkey has not as such protested state proclamations on this historic controversy because it conducts it (sic) foreign affairs directly with the U.S. Federal Government, primarily the Executive Branch. We do not have similar relations with the states.”

The petition falsely refers to the genocide as “mutual suffering of Ottoman Armenians and Turks” and “wartime misery.” It flippantly dismisses President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Proclamation acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, and omits any reference to the two Congressional resolutions of 1975 and 1984 recognizing the genocide. Instead, the Turkish government proudly proclaims that no new resolutions were adopted on this subject during the Obama Administration.

The Turkish government drops a bombshell by revealing in its petition that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had written to Obama on Dec. 19, 2010, complaining about the Federal Appeals Court’s decision that “the position of the US administration is not against the recognition of ‘genocide’ at the state or federal level.” This is yet another blatant attempt by a foreign leader to intervene in U.S. court proceedings. Interestingly, the petition discloses only a portion of Erdogan’s letter to Obama, claiming that “the balance of this letter constitutes a confidential diplomatic communication.”

The appeals court should either reject the Turkish petition as unwarranted interference by a foreign power in American judicial proceedings, or demand the release of the full text of Erdogan’s letter to verify the accuracy of the quoted portion and to confirm if it includes any other reference to the lawsuit. The Turkish government cannot hide behind “diplomatic confidentiality,” as it has waived the claim of “privileged communication” by selectively disclosing portions of the letter.

In their petition, Turkish officials make the misleading suggestion that the Armenia-Turkey protocols, signed over a year ago, “will seek to overcome all hurdles in their present relations, and jointly consider the historic controversy.” The authors of the disingenuous Turkish petition cleverly conceal from the federal judges the fact that they have not ratified the protocols and have no intention to do so. Ankara is attempting to exploit the now-defunct protocols to quash a legitimate lawsuit against German insurance companies.

The Turkish government has attached two letters to its petition, one signed by its ambassador to the U.S., and the other by the chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. The Federal Appeals Court should promptly disregard both letters, along with the petition, as propaganda materials lacking any legal merit or standing.


Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. The thought crossed my mind that Turkey might try this but I didn’t think they would actually do it. It makes no sense. Specially since a similar lawsuit against another insurance company was won a few years ago.

  2. Mr. Sassounian,

    You seem to have a problem with the Turkish amicus curiae. Yet, when the Armenian diaspora has been doing even more for decades, I don’t recall you making any comments about the “fairness” of their actions against Turks and Turkic peoples. Sir, you simply can not have it both ways!  

  3. Armenian Diaspora was formed as a result of genocidal Turkish actions and for decades was demanding justice for the millions of slaughtered and deported Western (Ottoman) Armenians. What are Turks and Turkic peoples demanding for the sake of “fairness”?!

  4. I think this article should be exemplified to all Turkish commentators posting in these pages, who incessantly try to tilt our minds in a typically sugar-coated, sly Turkish way as to what friendly, tolerant, and open-minded modern Turks are and what “revengeful” and “vindictive” the Armenians are. If Turks are so sincerely ready for rapprochement, why would they interfere in a lawsuit between the heirs of forcibly deported or slaughtered Armenians and German insurance companies? I’d like to invite all those who post under the names of Murat, Robert, Istanbul, Kurt, Ahmet, and the ilk, to read this article and try to self-evaluate their state: an unrepentant, denialist, unremorseful, distortionist, and self-centered formation. Any Turk who’ll be posting stupid comments about the peace-loving, appeasable nature of modern Turks towards Armenians and non-Turks in general must be directed to read this article as a demonstration of the opposite, so well known to Armenians and the rest of the world.

  5. Robert,

    Armenians can always rely on Turks and Turkey for publicizing the Armenian Genocide. This particular case is between Armenians and German insurance companies. Turks do not even have to present or mentioned anywhere. Genocide doesn’t have to have occured for Armenian claimants to receive what’s due from German companies. Yet you can’t help but insert yourselves and start denying Genocide. If there was no Genocide what’s in this for you? Why would you care? What are you afraid of?

  6. Why are you wandering on Turkic action?  They have become quite predictable by now, since they continue to act, faithful, to their barbaric Turkic traditions and roots.  Turkish administration is so near to civilization today as the moon is to earth.  This is why they are not really welcomed in western societies.  No one believes their lies about improvements in democracy and justice in Turkey anymore since they continue to suppress millions of poor people and ethnic and religious minorities.  Additionally, they continue to transfer over their western borders thousand of young Muslim targeting western societies.  It is sad but TURKEY IS A BIG BIG LIE.

  7. Harut  is to be commended,nay praised for again pinpointing turkish ¨massals¨and this ,no doubt  he is doing means his mind is set to  corner those lie-mongers.
    I also like Arsen´s Gina´s comments.Robert, must be Robert College or so educated turk,pretending to be Euro or Anglo. Neither is suitable to him.He continues to think UYGHUR-What Turkish FM  zquite recently admitted  in China- he,they are from.Very cunning  old ¨Schola¨schooling seen statesmen but  UNETHICAL,non-compromising .
    The fight  is to the end  dear Harut, you know  it like the rest  of  us Hayortis  here or elsewhere on the Armenian political scene.We must carry on,for that  was the legacy of our ancestors. We shall SUCCEED, I believe  in that.So Kudos to you and your like and to all of  us who will not give  up until we WIN OUR CASE..

  8. The Brief does the German defendants no good. It also might harm them by trying to make a connection between undeniable and indefensible Genocide, and technical policyholder claims.
    The real audience for the Brief is the patrons of its writers, not the Court.

  9. Parev Harut,
    Let as think and be faresighted in politics in order to accelerate our demands for our ancestral lands in Turkey.
    Switzerland accepted the Genocide to the Armenians and I thanked the Swiss consule general in special accasion in UCLA, about the Cyclotrone in their capital.
    If we try to expand our farsighted demand for reclaiming our land by more detailed documents that the Germans have and convince them to confront the Turkish Republic to return our lands as rightful citizens at the time of Genocide would more fruitful .
    The Armenian Genocide started around 1850 and escalated because we were not making proper contacts with the Europeans and Russians as peaceful Christians to confront the Turks who were exploiting the war for their burtality and theft.
    By geting angry will not lead to peaceful confrontation to gaining our land, so we should act psychologically, philosophicaly and politicaly to accelerate our demands and fillout the vacancies and mistakes, in our previous political endeavors in the age of electronic communications. 

  10. Dear Mr. Sassounian.  Thank you for another excellent article.  It is clear that the Turkish propaganda machine is laughably amateurish.  This is compounded by a mountain of evidence against the Turkish lobby not only regarding the Armenian Genocide issue, but also their sub par government and system of justice in their own country.  As much as they try to portray themselves as a civilized European nation and country the truth leaks out.  A clear example is murder of Hrant Dink.  The murderer is being treated as a national hero by the police.  The world is not blind to this behavior.  They see the Turkish government for what they are “blood thirsty anti-Armenians”.  They have destroyed, killed and stolen anything and everything they could find from Armenians and now they would like nothing better than Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians to disappear so they can continue with their lies about themselves and their self aggrandizement.  Every step of the way we remind them of their past and what they really are.  I hope you continue doing what you are doing so they don’t think that they are getting away with their lies.

  11. Can anyone, who considers him or herself farsighted in politics, kindly explain as to why a truthful article depicting the Turkish unacceptable behavior in a matter that pertains strictly to the descendants of massacred and deported Armenians and liable German insurance companies is considered the expression of “anger”? Why political activism for the Genocide recognition is viewed as “farsighted,” but any mentioning of a legal matter is perceived as “shortsighted”? Is it because political activism suits the world power centers, whereas a possible lawsuit can have undesirable repercussions for these “political” big shots? There are behind-the-scene sinister forces that prefer this issue to remain political, therefore irresolvable, rather than legal. Genocide recognition has become politicized beyond measure, but is in no way a political issue by definition. It belongs in the international courts based on the 1948 UN Convention (a legal document) and deals with murders, forced deportations, and acquisition of property—all of which are criminal acts that need to be addressed in a legal order.
    Sami:  The Germans know too well what happened in 1915-1923 because they were the instigators of Armenian slaughters. Although in 2005 Bundestag has accepted the guilt of the Germans and denounced Turkish atrocities, it stopped short of using the G-word. Because calling the Turkish crime by its name would qualify Germans as instigators of the second genocide (actually chronologically first before the Holocaust). I don’t think that at this stage we can do anything about Germans even if we dig out detailed documents that their own archives contain. They know that Turks committed genocide and Germans were their accomplices. They just can’t use the word for political reasons, because Armenians never attempted to raise the issue as legal.
    Also, Armenians actually were making proper contacts with the Europeans and Russians as peaceful Christians Starting with Israel Ori in the 17th century, Hovsep Emin in the 18th century, and many messengers, diplomats, and patriots in the 19th and early 20th centuries—all were peaceful, politically clear-headed missions.
    I fail to see why a possible peaceful legal action may be viewed as something beyond the realm of “psychological, philosophical and political” measures?

  12. Mjm jan well said..

    Robert— of course.. something has to be wrong with you… i just don’t know what it is.. maybe Anti-Armenian fever?

  13. Genocide is a crime recognized by all civilized countries, even Turkey.  So Robert, what is unfair in the Armenian efforts to have this crime properly adjudicated, victims and survivors recompensed and descendants extended their rights?  As long as Turkey fails to face her obligations to the Armenian nation, the word ‘fairness’ is meaningless coming from your lips.  Just saying…

  14. as said earlier, nothing else matters to you all except your own circled thought.   A turkish saying in order to judge some one and blame you need to prickle the pin to yourself first…
     armenians must look at themselves first.  Yes, we are in Istanbul, we are in Kars, we are in Van, We are in Malatya and Kayseri.  We ae Turkey.
    My grandfather was expelled from Gumru.  He was a Turk. 

  15. Kurt.. just like Robert you also have something wrong with your logic.. I just wonder what hospital you both go to to get checked up because apparently you have been given a very strong Anti-Armenian medicine…

    Are you out of your wits just like Robert…..??? Armenians need to check themselves first? Armenians have to prickle the pin on themselves first? WOW..Please do not degrade yourself by such have Robert doing that already..

    You know why your people are everywhere? You are everywhere because you were put there by your ancestors who wiped out the Armenians from their homelands… without Armenians gone, your people would not have the lands you occupy right now… second grade knows the history better than you and some of your kind sir… it is embarassing..

    Boyajian jan.. lav asetsir.. apres…


  16. Kurt,
    Almost no Turk posting here, yourself included, ever answered a simple question: what is it that Armenians need to “pricle the pin to themselves.” Do us a favor, explain. What is it that Armenians should blame themselves? For annihilating almost entire Turkish race? For stealing their ancestral lands in Central Asia? For desecrating their cultural monuments and transforming them mosques to cherches or sheepcots? For forcibly deporting, torturing, and butchering millions of innocent men, women, children and the elderly? What is it that Armenians must look at themselves first? Please, continue your posts and enlighten us in what historical instance Armenians have exterminated almost entire Turkish nation and stole their ancestral lands?

    You maybe in Istanbul, but the city is historically known as Constantinople, the capital of Christian Byzantine Greek empire, and it was never Turkish until you seiged it in the 15th century. Yes, you are now in Kars, in Van, in Malatya and Kayseri, but these provinces were Western Armenian lands that you colonized, wiped out the indigenious peoples and settled in. And now you “proudly” proclaim “We are Turkey!” Is this the limit of Turkish mentality. Aren’t you all capable of assessing your own history, admit the wrongdoings against so many peoples, and apologize for them? What kind of people are you?

    I never heard of a geographical placename “Gumru.” Is it an Armenian city of Gyumri you’re ferring to? If yes, don;t follow the best Turkish tradition to Turkify names, it’s Gyumri not “Gumru”, just as it’s the Biblical Mount Ararat, and not “Agri Dag”, just like it’s the Armenian Plateau and not “Eastern Anatolia.” What was your grandfather doing on an ancient Armenian land where Gyumri is situated. Was he living there for millennia? Why are you surprised when indigenious nations like Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs, Arabs, Albanians, etc. rise to expell occupiers, who were Ottoman Turks? Are your brains programmed at understanding only what’s profitable for the Turks or you can widen your mental horizons, eventually?

  17. Karo et al,

    It’s quite apparent that it’s getting more difficult (soon impossible) for any post from a Turk to get posted here!  I therefore invite ALL of you (including all the members of the editorial board) to come to the Turkish sites and freely post whatever is on your minds, sans fear of censorship and/or deletion. The only thing is that your posts must be written in a civilized and adult manner (no vulgarities or overt defamation of others and/or their family members). In such a free environment, you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished!

  18. Actually, Robert, I remember trying a couple times to post in Today’s Zaman, and none of my comments, which are normally non-derogatory and balanced, were ever posted. But let’s try again. Which online publication do you suggest? Also, please explain as to what manner does a Turk consider “civilized and adult”? I’m having trouble with this definition. Whatever is related to historical truth uncomfortable for the Turks may be considered “uncivilized and immature”? Is this what you’re implying? I also LOL at the “free environment” that you brought up… You mean a society where a person, even a Nobel laureate, can be tried and deported for calling Turkish atrocities against Armenian a genocide, a journalist of Armenian origin killed for demanding to admit the historical truth, or a Christian priest be hanged simple because he’s non-Muslim, can be viewed as an “open environment”?! Laughable, honestly…

  19. Robert… don’t fool yourself and pretend that TUrkish forums are the epicenter of knowledge and freedom…. pleaseeeeeeeee….actually those who experienced with such forums were down right disgusted….the writings are ugly, dirty and down right bad..and the site I was unfortunate enough to visit and right now can’t think of the name.. (are you surprised) included very vulgar language as well as profanity, and i don’t want to be part of that why don’t you go and post there if you like and leave us who write without vulgar language or without profanity be…Thank you..

    At least on AW the language is clean and the comments are true which are hurtful for you. ..i know.. you can’t handle it… but how can one not point out how Anti-ARmenian and unintelligent you and your likes sound most of the time ..not only that.. you people have the audacity to come in here and tell us we are at wrong? Wow…

    Thank you and have a nice day sir..

  20. Where are all the Turkish commentators? Why have they all of a sudden become hushed on this issue? Can any one of them give any explanation as to why the state of Turkey would interfere into a U.S. lawsuit against German insurance companies? Where are all those cynical, no-matter-what anti-Armenian Turks posting in these pages? All those “know-it-alls” with their primordial thinking “whatever Turks say is right–whatever Armenians say is wrong.” Or  they’re just following a typically Turkish mode of behavior: attack defenseless individuals in hordes and hide as cowards when there is jeopardy?

  21. No Arsen,Not when there is jeopardy,if you will permit me to add or rectify..but when there is equally well armed Armenian(s)…
    Those ,who-I wrote that  here on another section  probably,when one  of these wrote upholding turkish forces  in Korean war…
    I wrote-Had read and seen photo in TIME  magazine then…that when turkish regiment in Korea, they would cut off  the ears  of the fallen North Koreans and dangle them on their belts  to show the naive yanks, that they were good fighters and that  they had each killed  a dozen of so..
    Anyone who wishes can dig into TIME  magazine(of those days) and brign to light or see fpor them TURKISH BRAVERY…
    Whereas our JanFidas  in old days would each really take  care  of their regular  armies in hundreds or thousands.Also what our Protestant Verabedv ely REv. in Moussa Ler(Dagh) held of  their 4000 counting hordes,untill french battleships appeared jupon Bonfirdes  made by our people and took them to Alexandria Egypt, then to lebanon etc.,

  22. Interestingly, the Federal Appeals’ court rules state:
    “The United States or its officer or agency or a state may file an amicus-curiae brief without the consent of the parties or leave of court. Any other amicus curiae may file a brief only by leave of court or if the brief states that all parties have consented to its filing.”
    Any American lawyers here? Can you explain whether the term “state” refers to one of the states of the USA or a state in general (ie. any country in the world?). My view is that is refers to a US state… Which would mean that the court actually granted leave to Turkey to file this amicus brief. Why would the court do that? Because, surely, the parties did not consent to this filing.
    Third parties do file amici briefs regularly before courts around the world, but usually, they do so upon invitation.
    The last option is that Turkey filed without being invited to do so, in which case the court should simply reject it and not consider the content of the “petition”.

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