Sassounian: Armenia Supports Catholicosate’s Lawsuit Against Turkey

More than 1,000 attendees of the Armenia-Diaspora Conference in Yerevan this month, organized by the Diaspora Ministry, cheered loudly when Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia made the surprising announcement that the Catholicosate would file a lawsuit in a Turkish court

demanding the return of its properties confiscated during the 1915-23 genocide. His Holiness explained that before taking this important decision, he had consulted with international legal experts over the past two years.

Remaining indifferent towards the violation of Armenian rights is tantamount to treason, the Catholicos said, and urged Armenians to take the genocide issue out of the narrow confines of genocide recognition and condemnation, and transcend the mindset that genocide recognition is the ultimate goal of the Armenian Cause. Saying that it is high time to transfer Armenian demands from Turkey to the legal field, His Holiness announced that the See of Cilicia would be filing a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court of Turkey, seeking the return of its erstwhile headquarters, the Catholicosate of Sis.

Should the Turkish Court reject the lawsuit, which is likely, the Catholicosate will then appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, said the Catholicos. He also expressed the hope that this lawsuit would pave the way for other legal demands from Turkey for the return of public, private, and religious properties belonging to Armenians.

While this is great news to all those who have been for years advocating taking legal action against Turkey, such lawsuits require painstaking preparation by top-notch international lawyers. Moreover, regardless of how just one’s cause may be, no one can guarantee a positive outcome in court, given various external influences on the judiciary, and technicalities used as an excuse for rejecting a lawsuit emanating from a century-old grievance.

The Catholicos hinted at some of these obstacles in his remarks, acknowledging that “the framework of international law is not that favorable to our Cause.” More alarmingly, he seemed to dismiss the devastating effect the loss of such a court case would have on the Armenian Cause, claiming that “if we lose the lawsuit, we would still be winners, because we would have reminded the genocidaire and the international community that the Armenian people continue to demand [their] rights, no matter how much time has elapsed since the genocide.” The Turkish government would certainly exploit such a negative judgment by misrepresenting its victory around the world as a rejection of all Armenian Genocide claims.

Going beyond the Catholicosate’s initiative, His Holiness urged the Armenian government to file its own lawsuit against Turkey in the International Court of Justice (World Court), where only states have the right to sue. At the international Armenian lawyers’ conference sponsored by the Diaspora Ministry last year, a task force was formed under the auspices of Gagik Haroutunyan, the chief justice of Armenia’s Constitutional Court, to study the legal ramifications of filing a lawsuit against Turkey in the World Court. The task force is reportedly assessing the various legal options available to the Republic of Armenia.

Given the Armenian government’s cautious approach to suing Turkey, it was quite surprising that Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, when asked by a reporter during the conference for his reaction to the news that the Catholicosate of Cilicia would file a lawsuit against Turkey, enthusiastically and without hesitation responded that “there could be no two opinions about it. Such an important initiative must only be supported.”

Coincidentally, the conference attendees were handed the executive summary and introduction of a lengthy report titled, “Resolution with Justice: Reparations for the Armenian Genocide.” Funded initially by a grant from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the report was prepared by the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group, which is comprised of Alfred de Zayas, Jermaine O. McCalpin, Ara Papian, and Henry C. Theriault; George Aghjayan served as a consultant. The extensive report examines the case for reparations from legal, historical, and ethical perspectives.

It is clear that on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, several serious efforts are underway to seek justice through various courts for the massive human and economic losses suffered by the Armenian people during the 1915-23 genocide.

Harut Sassounian

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 one billion dollars 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. Get it right once and for all.

    Genocide Acknowledgment with Accountability. Accountability for Land, Reparation, and Restitution.

    For those who think accountability for Land is unrealistic, what do you think of Artsakh? Isn’t that Land? Turkey is openly threatening and asking Armenians to abandon Artsakh and warning Armenians on intervention in the case of Nakhichevan.

  2. turkey get on your knees & start praying the sword of Gideon is coming to …serve YOU Justice …. WE can not trust terrorists remnants of seljuks,tatars & ottoman-mongol barbarians …they only understand one language ….the one they used to invade our beloved Asia minor & in 500 yrs destroyed Byzantium .Greek ,Armenian & Assyrian cultures churches & holy relics .cemeteries & help ISIS destroy holy memorial in Der Zor..

    • you cant nothing if there are reality if you trust yourself go and live in armenia and be ready to fight with them it is easy sitting in beirut cornische and written these

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