Sassounian: Switzerland Must Appeal European Court’s Verdict on the Armenian Genocide

The European Court of Human Rights issued last week a critical Armenian Genocide-related ruling in the case of Dogu Perincek vs. Switzerland.

Perincek, the leader of a minor Turkish political party, had traveled to Switzerland in 2005 with the intention of daring the Swiss authorities to punish him for denying the Armenian Genocide. He brazenly called the Armenian Genocide an “international lie.”

In response to a criminal complaint filed by the Switzerland-Armenia Association, Perincek was tried and fined for racial discrimination by the Lausanne Police Court in March 2007. A Swiss Appeals Court confirmed his sentence, ruling that he had violated Article 261bis of the Criminal Code. The National Council (parliament) of Switzerland had already recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2003. Perincek then appealed his case to the Federal Tribunal, the highest court in Switzerland, which reconfirmed his sentence.

On June 10, 2008, Perincek appealed his sentence to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming that many of his rights, including freedom of expression, were violated by the Swiss courts. He demanded a compensation of 140,000 euros for moral and financial damages, and court expenses.

On Dec. 17, 2013, the European Court dismissed most of Perincek’s claims (Articles 6, 7, 14, 17, 18 of the European Convention) and rejected his demand for compensation. However, five out of the seven Judges ruled that Switzerland had violated Perincek’s right to free expression (Article 10).

This was a highly unusual ruling since freedom of expression is not an absolute right in European jurisprudence. Many European states impose restrictions on free speech, including imprisonment for denying the Holocaust. Punishing Holocaust denial, while condoning rejection of the Armenian Genocide, is an unacceptable double standard. Either denial of both genocides should be outlawed or neither.

The European Court’s 80-page ruling was not easy to read, not only because it was in French, but more importantly, the five Judges who ruled in Perincek’s favor misinterpreted almost all issues. A whole book could be written to rebut their countless factual mistakes. The Judges misrepresented Perincek’s allegations, Swiss laws and court rulings, facts of the Armenian Genocide and its international recognition, while repeatedly contradicting themselves. To make matters worse, the four-page press release issued by the Registrar of the Court last week further distorted the Court’s verdict, thereby completely confusing the international media about the details of case.

The five Judges who endorsed Perincek’s false accusations were: Guido Raimondi (Italy), Peer Lorenzen (Denmark), Dragoljub Popovic (Serbia), Andras Sajo (Hungary), and Helen Keller (Switzerland). The opposing Judges were: Nebojsa Vucinic (Montenegro) and Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque (Portugal). In a seven-page addendum to the verdict, Judges Raimondi and Sajo contradicted themselves again, while making excuses for ruling in Perincek’s favor. Having raised questions about the veracity of “the Armenian massacres,” after claiming that their task is not to assess the facts of the genocide, the two concurring Judges assert that the destruction of the Armenian people was government-sponsored, thereby acknowledging its genocidal nature. Yet they insisted on referring to the Armenian Genocide as “Mets Yegherrn” (sic) which they translate as “the Grand Crime.” Dissenting Judges Vucinic and Pinto de Albuquerque, on the other hand, attached to the verdict their 19-page well-researched comprehensive report on the Armenian Genocide. This valuable study should be translated into several major languages and disseminated worldwide.

More urgently, Armenian government officials and major diaspora organizations have asked the Swiss government to appeal the European Court’s fallacious verdict to its 17-judge Grand Chamber before the 90-day deadline. Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan has called on Armenians worldwide to protest the Court’s verdict by contacting their governments and sending letters of complaint to the Court. The Armenian National Committee in Europe pledged to take all necessary measures to object to the Court’s ruling, urging Switzerland to file an appeal.

If left unchallenged, the European Court’s ruling would have a chilling effect not only on efforts to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide in other European countries, particularly France, but more importantly, on the forthcoming Centennial of the Genocide. The Court’s verdict, as it stands, is an endorsement of the denialist stance of both Turkey and Perincek, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Turkish jail for engaging in criminal activity! Turkey had directly intervened in this case by submitting extensive testimony to the European Court. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a bold statement shamelessly applauding the Court’s verdict and boasting about its support for freedom of expression! Under Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code, telling the truth about the Armenian Genocide is a crime, while in Switzerland lying about the Genocide is an offense!

For the sake of truth and justice, it is imperative that the Swiss government appeal the Court’s verdict and not succumb to Turkish political and economic pressures.

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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.

12 Comments

  1. There is an old Turkish saying, who knows maybe of Armenian origin, “you can’t fit a javelin into a sack”. Would it not be a better and more productive way to spend this time and energy on building bridges and erasing hate and prejudices between the two societies, instead of looking for ways to prevent people excercising their democratic rights in an effort to re-write history?

  2. is this what they mean by “kangaroo”. I think so.
    why can’t someone go to the turkish parliament and say that the denial of the Armenian Genocide is a blatant lie.

  3. {“….erasing hate and prejudices between the two societies,”}
    (Murat @AW)

    Go tell it to your denialist Anti-Armenian fascist compatriots first, Denialist Murat.

    Some examples: there are hundreds like this, but this should suffice for now.
    Carefully note the dates of these acts of hate and prejudice against Armenians.

    [Controversial text book about Armenians sparks stir in Turkey]
    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/controversial-text-book-about-armenians-sparks-stir-in-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=24224&NewsCatID=339
    {Penned by Yunus Zeyrek, the book, titled “Bu Dosyayı Kaldırıyorum: Ermeni Meselesi” (“Closing this File: The Armenian Issue”) defines Armenians as “dishonorable and treacherous” …} (June/28/2012)

    [‘Armenians created their artificial state on native Turkic lands’]
    http://news.az/articles/politics/71489
    {Armenians in the Caucasus are alien people who created their artificial state on native Turkish lands, and therefore they have no right to talk about their ancient roots in the region.}(Secretary General of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey, Haluk Ipek. 07 November 2012)

    [ANCA Condemns Anti-Armenian Protests in Turkey]
    http://armenianweekly.com/2012/02/26/anca-condemns-anti-armenian-protests-in-turkey/
    “All Armenians are bastards”
    “We will bury you on Mt. Agri (sic)”
    “Today Taksim, tomorrow Yerevan”
    {Among the speakers at the demonstration in Turkey’s famous Taksim Square was Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin, among other leaders of Erdogan’s AK Party.}

    Aaannnnd, some choice examples of hate and prejudice from the keyboard of the Denialist himself.

    {Murat 12/15/2013 5:16:00 PM (@HDN)
    Among good hearted and naive people here there is a mistaken belief that only if Turks submit to Armenian version of reality, this hate and animosity will come to an end. Nothing can be further from truth. Look up history of ARF, which rules and ruins lives in Caucuses today. This is a blood feud that no handshake will end. This is not about facts and figures, it is about Greater Armenia, has been for 150 years. As long as their church stands, all powerful hate machine, no real peace is possible.}

    {Murat 12/13/2013 4:03:03 PM (@HDN)
    What deportations? Ottomans moved masses of Armenians mostly away from the Russian front areas, where with Armenian help, ancient Ottoman vilayets were falling one after another to Russians, and resettled them in another part of the the empire. Deportation implies moving accross borders, and another state taking them in. Many Armenians in the East were forcibly relocated to areas that later became Syria and Lebanon.}

    {Murat 12/13/2013 3:58:50 PM (@HDN)
    Here is a fact: Ottomans had never had a policy of exteminating a whole group, there was no such startegy, decisions, orders to anyone, no such documents, no evidence anywhere, not a single Ottoman officer or governor ever received such instructions, there were no concentration camps, no gas chambers, furnaces, no rape camps, no mass graves, no 1.5M Armenians dead or alive anywhere in the Ottoman Empire at any time, but millions of hateful descendants.}

  4. 1: there is a symbolic value to 2015. You guys have to stop building it up. 2015 will be like 2013, 2012, 2011…. You will be disappointed.
    2: European courts seemingly always rule in favor of Turkey in regards to the Armenian Genocide when push comes to shove. You guys keep trying the same things and hope for different results.

    • I will have to agree with you on that one, sad as it is. However, we are hopeful that we will get some “surprises” for 2015, for example Genocide recognition from “Islamic” nations like Syria, Egypt and Iran. One of these countries has the opportunity to show that Islam and truth are not mutually exclusive… thus far no Islamic majority nation has recognized the Armenian Genocide, presumably in the name of “Muslim solidarity”. Lebanon has, but it is ‘supposed’ to be a Christian country based on its constitution.

  5. While I support the call for all Armenians to urge the Swiss government to appeal the decision, our efforts will only be half-effective without a democratic Armenia. The impact of our efforts could have been multiplied if the state of Armenia took the lead. However, in the absence of a democracy and legitimacy among the people, the Armenian government responds to pressures from the outside (such as the protocols) instead of feeling pressure from and responding to the desires of the Armenian people. Which is why, as I have said repeatedly, they key to the achievement of our national aspirations is the establishment of democracy in Armenia.

    And now, on a lighter note. While my namesake Vahagn was the god of fire and lighting (Turkish: “Yıldırım”) among the ancient Armenians, and we Armenians did quite well as a non-Christian nation, I nevertheless want to wish a very merry Christmas to all Armenians as well as non-Armenians (especially those who are named Yıldırım).

    • Democratic…..blah…blah…Democratic Armenia….blah…blah…blah…

      go and spread your fake democracy in your fake homeland of Turkbeijan, Yıldırım քոչվորoğlu.

      and the terrorist entity is your own fascist terrorist homeland of Turkbeijan, քոչվորoğlu.
      and the aborted-fetus is your own fascist terrorist abortion called Turkbeijan, քոչվորoğlu.

      Happy New Year, nomad.
      (I know you Muslim Turkbeijanis do not celebrate Christmas)

  6. With regard to the European Court of Human Rights (sic!) and Dogu Perincek:

    Dogu P., the Turkish denialists, and the politically impotent Armenian factions should all learn how to read.

    This “Court”, inept and venal as it is, does not rule that the Armenian Genocide did not happen.

    It merely says, in craven and hypocritical diplomatic Newspeak, that they uphold “freedom of speech.” But for that to be an honest position, Holocaust deniers should also be free to speak their own hateful delusions.

    This inept ruling leaves unaddressed a fundamental point for human civilization that there is a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. Nice job.

    If Dogu P. were actually such a champion of “freedom of speech”, he would be challenging the Orwellian criminalization in Turkey of any free speech or scholarly exposition with regard to the real Armenian Genocide.

    Vincent

  7. Dogu Perincek is in jail. Which is where Armenia’s current rulers need to go, if the good people of Armenia are to prevail.

  8. “Vahagn”

    How about if you cover Axeri Yildrim flag and and have an Armenian Christmas celebration in your Sultan’s popular palace. I am sure Mihraban will hand you an Heydar Aliyev gold yildrim coin, with a warm and sincere “oily” kiss!!

  9. The 3 million Armenians living in the todays Armenia, 7 million Armenian diaspora and 2 million Assyrian diaspora and 18 million greeks worldwide . we will never ever forget the genocide that began in 1915 and the massacres of over 1.5 million Armenians, .5 million Assyrians, .5 million Greeks. This does not take into account the additional Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians who sacrificed their lives fighting with the allied forces to defeat the ottoman empire to bring an end to WW1. the Armenian people were the largest christian population living in the region known today as Turkey and therefore were the main target of the Turks. These are facts that are well documented by the allied forces and Germany. The people who dispute these facts are the Turks. Although the allied powers did betray the Armenians for their own political gains and strategy and they will need to redeem themselves at some point in the future for their betrayal of the Armenian people. The first step to lasting peace is for the turks to come clean. Although the Turkish government has had some success in rewriting their history and misleading the turkish people, they cannot escape the real history that the rest of the world documented at the time. Light is light and darkness is darkness. You can tell yourself that darkness is light and after a while you may even begin to believe it, but everyone else will always know darkness for what it is even if they do not have the courage to tell you to your face today. In time everyone will find the courage to stand up and set the record right. Recently the Kurds and the Germans who supported and even had a hand in the 1915 Genocide are standing up and taking responsibility to set the record right. The turks will need to follow suit before any lasting healing and peace can begin. If justice cannot be achieved by peaceful resolution and forcing the leaders of a broken people to sign a treaty at gun point after you have slaughtered peaceful men, women and children of a minority christian people does not resolve the issue. The first step must be a sincere effort to gain the forgiveness of the people and that cannot be achieved until the truth is set free.
    azerbaijan is a puppet state of turkey and has been migrated by turks and azerbaijan preying on Armenian christians and forcing Armenians out of the region since the time of Stalin and the soviet union. Basically another attempt at cleansing the Armenian people from the region, but done quietly over time with the support of the Russians who were concerned mainly for their own selfish strategic interests since the end of WW1 and continued to do so during the cold war much like the remaining allied forces did at the end of WW1. The Armenians are simply reclaiming what is rightfully and historically their homeland and beginning with the areas were they have not yet been driven out by the invading turks. Armenians are a peaceful and loving people at heart but enough is enough and it is time that our suffering and pain caused by the 1915 genocide and then the betrayal by our so called allies who we fought alongside to conquer the ottoman empire. It is time that the world stand with us and redeem the injustice that they had a hand in dishing out. This includes the Russia, Europe and the United States who promised Armenians restitution for the 1915 genocide during the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. President Warren G. Harding failed to honor on the promise to the Armenian people during his presidency and Stalin used the opportunity to use the Armenians as pawns to negotiate terms with the Turks that satisfied the soviet union’s interests. The turks must apologize for the innocent men, women and christian children they massacred beginning in 1915 and they have a moral obligation to restore justice for the Armenian people that will satisfy the entire world especially the Armenian diaspora. This is one of the absolutes that must be achieved before we can have lasting world peace for all mankind.

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