The following article of amazing impartiality was
written by Bertil Dunér, of the
Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden. It appeared in
the International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 217–233,
(The "hw" footnotes are Holdwater's.)
|What Can Be Done about Historical Atrocities?
The Armenian Case
ABSTRACT The global human rights regime is not equipped to deal with historical
atrocities. When engaged politicians want to take matters in their own hands it is clear
that this alternative is problematical. In the case of Armenia, the campaign for the
recognition of the Armenian massacres in 1915 has addressed the questions involved in a
simplistic way, both with respect to juridical points of departure such as definition of
the crime and the status of the accused party, and with respect to the assessment of
evidence. If proclamations which bear any similarity to juridical assessments are to be
made at all the best alternative would be the creation of an international expert body
representing both the history and the legal professions. Establishing the guidelines for
this body to work, however, seems a daunting task. Can a generally accepted retrospective
time limit be established? To what extent should court-like functions be performed for
events which, at the time they happened, were not covered by international criminal law?
In 1914 Ottoman Turkey was drawn into the war between the European alliances and was soon
engaged in a battle on four fronts. Russian troops marched in from the north, and Turkey
maintained that the intervention was supported by Armenians and that an internal revolt
was imminent. As the Ottoman army retreated a massive deportation of Armenians in the war
zone started, degenerating into massacres. The number of dead is not known, but estimates
generally varying between about half a million and two million, and much lower figures as
well, have been presented.
The allied powers pressured the Turkish authorities to arrest a considerable number of
Turkish leaders but the consequences were modest, for many reasons, including the
difficulty of obtaining evidence. Interestingly, in
the final peace document, the Treaty of Lausanne, amnesty was given for all offences
committed during the war and after. 
The Armenian massacres were strongly condemned in Western Europe at the time. In recent
times condemnations have become a burning question again, and great efforts have been made
in several countries to achieve some kind of official recognition of the massacres as
The dominant aspects of the discussion have concerned the historical circumstances and
facts, the moral need to remember and to show sympathy, and the need for official
recognition. It is typical that the distinguished French daily Le Monde, the day
after the French Parliament adopted its Armenia bill, carried an editorial under the
caption ‘Arménie, devoir de mémoire’ (Armenia, a duty to remember).[hw1]
It is surprising that the concept of human rights has appeared so little in this debate. A
global human rights regime has been in place for many years and its significance is
routinely hailed by leading representatives of state powers and civil societies the world
over: human rights have variously been praised as the idea of our time, a new standard of
civilisation, and a framework for a world order of human dignity. For the UN
Secretary-General human rights are the ‘common thread’ running through all UN
activities. Furthermore, there is a global human
rights convention against genocide, of 1948, which is in fact the first and the seminal
human rights treaty of the global regime, its approval preceding (although by only one
day) the adoption of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Thus, there is all the reason in the world for discussing the Armenian question in human
rights terms. A number of questions suggest themselves. Is the ongoing campaign for the
recognition of the Armenian massacres as genocide fully compatible with the tenets of the
global regime? Is it a deviation from regime thinking – for instance, since it focuses
on events that took place long before the convention was signed – but a positive
widening of horizons which should be carried even further? Are there incompatibilities
between the campaign and the concepts of the genocide convention, and, if so, how could
these be resolved?
In order to analyse these questions we do not have to go into the issue that has come to
the fore more than any other aspect: what really happened with the Armenians? We need a
background for the analysis, however, which is what we will turn to first. It is only
natural that this background will deal more with the history of the campaign than with the
historical object of these campaigns. The word ‘campaign’ here means pressure or a
drive towards an objective (recognition) with actions that are to a degree interconnected.
The Rise of Demands for Recognition
From time to time the Armenian massacres have been called genocide by political entities.
However, in the 1990s a distinct upsurge took place. The Armenian National Institute,
based in Washington, DC, documents ‘international affirmations’ of the Armenian
genocide and lists several categories of these, which are posted on its home page:
resolutions and declarations by parliaments (or part thereof), provincial governments
(including US state governments), municipal governments, heads of state and international
governmental organisations (IGOs) or non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Most striking, perhaps, is the increase in the number of resolutions and declarations by
peoples’ representative bodies. In all, two dozen national parliamentary bodies are
listed as having affirmed the genocide, more than half of them since the 1990s, and many
Italian communes and North American cities have also done so in recent years. It should be
noted that exact figures are not very important in this context, and the listings are
A recognition of genocide can be understood as a goal in itself in faithfulness to
historical truth. According to a French parliamentary report (for the Foreign Affairs
Commission), ‘Reconnait l’existence d’un génocide s’impose à tous, car un tel
forfait interpelle l’humanité dans son ensemble. Nier son existence atteint directement
les survivants, insulte la mémoire des victimes et les assassine une seconde fois’.[hw2]
However, recognition is clearly also thought to fulfil instrumental functions. It was
stated in the discussion in the International Relations Committee of the US House of
Representatives that: ‘What we are saying is that this time in history needs to be
remembered because what has passed is often prologue, and failure to remember, failure to
recognize, sweeping under the carpet of history is a mistake that ultimately we are doomed
to repeat time and time again’. ‘If we believe that unrecognized genocide contributes
to future genocides, don’t we have an obligation to assure that our diplomatic staff and
those who advise our leaders learn about this history, learn about this genocide?’ The inherent function of peacemaking in this argument
can be given a much more contemporary touch. Parliamentarians in France and Italy have
maintained that recognition would contribute to peace and stability in the Caucasus
region, and in particular to lasting peaceful relations between Turkey and Armenia, which
should be based on a solid foundation, not on denial.
"Producing historical horrors
from under the carpet seems a questionable prevention mechanism, precisely because the
event in question lies far back in history: present genocide situations are generally
generated by today’s complexities."
There may also be self-interest involved (which we will
come back to) but let us here just point out that the peacemaking arguments do not seem
very solid. Producing historical horrors from under the carpet seems a questionable
prevention mechanism, precisely because the event in question lies far back in history:
present genocide situations are generally generated by today’s complexities. The alleged
peacemaking function in today’s world is no less questionable. If Turkey were to make an
acknowledgement of its own free will, this might serve to build peace, but if Turkey is
unwilling to take such a step and rather feels that it is being put under illegitimate
pressure, this situation does not seem to add to a peace-building potential – more
likely the contrary.
The term ‘campaign’ has been used here in order to emphasise a certain
interconnectedness between declarations and resolutions in different fora. Thus, for
instance, similar references and cross-references are found in bills introduced to
parliaments, in parliamentary debates and in resolutions.
Armenian campaign, however, there is a considerable definitional frivolity."
Many actors – primarily, it seems, of Armenian origin – have been involved in
efforts to increase the number of accusations. Needless to say, the Republic of
Armenia is in favour of recognition of the genocide and has been so ever since it
was founded. The issue is actually included in its Declaration of Independence,
which states that: ‘The Republic of Armenia stands in support of the task of
achieving international recognition of the 1915 Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and
The Armenian lobby in the USA sees itself as an influential force, in fact as the
second most powerful lobby in the country (after the Jewish lobby, which is beyond
comparison more influential). [hw3] Before Armenia achieved independence its
main objective was to obtain recognition of the Armenian genocide. Following
independence, the genocide has remained one of the main issues, but the activities
of the US Congress concerning Azerbaijan and Turkey have been added. In spring 2000
the genocide issue became a hot topic for the Republican Party when the Armenian
diaspora decided to make candidates for the US presidency recognise the genocide. [hw4]
Contributing to the success of the lobby is the fact that Armenian–Americans have
reached high positions, mostly through the Republican Party. [hw5]
The Armenian lobby is also active in many other countries, including France and
Italy, although less visibly so. The fact that the Armenian lobby was the driving
force behind the French Senate’s recognition of the genocide in 2000 is
acknowledged by the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
Likewise, the French Ambassador to Armenia has spoken of the role of many
Armenian-French organisations and private individuals who contributed to the
adoption of the resolution.  Armenia’s
ambassador to Italy was reportedly very active in promoting the recognition by the
Turkey does not deny the reality of the massacres, although it maintains that the
campaign has seriously exaggerated the death toll. However, Ankara categorically
refutes the accusation of genocide. It maintains that the Armenians were victims of
inter-communal conflict during the Ottoman Empire’s dying years in the midst of
the First World War and stresses that Turks as well died en masse in this
internecine war. Moreover, it maintains that there is no proof that the killings
were organised or financed by the state: on the contrary, it suggests that the lack
of central organisation was to blame.
The Definition of Genocide
In the 1948 convention on genocide the
contracting states confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in
time of war, is a crime under international law and undertake to prevent and to
punish it. Article II defines genocide as follows:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious
group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III stipulates that not only the act of genocide shall be punishable but
also conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
attempts to commit genocide; and complicity in genocide.
A look at the role model
for the genocide
scholar, Raphael Lemkin
In the Armenian campaign, however, there is a
considerable definitional frivolity. Some bodies unequivocally state that their
resolutions are in accordance with the UN Convention, for instance, the Russian Duma
(1995) and the European Parliament (1987). Others make oblique references or seem to
use their own definition. The Belgian Senate resolution (1998) mentions in a listing
of introductory considerations that the UN convention provides a concept of genocide
and also talks of the ‘organized and systematic murder of the Armenians’,
suggesting that these definitions were synonymous. In a resolution by the Committee
on International Relations of the US House of Representatives (2000), an Armenian
genocide during the period 1915–23 was affirmed. A definition suggested by an
international law scholar, Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term ‘genocide’ and
was one of the forces that inspired the development of the 1948 convention, was
used, rather than the conventional definition.
It certainly makes a difference if the definition given in the 1948 convention is
strictly applied or not. As can be seen, the definition excludes political acts and
mentions explicitly the existence of intent, not just any kind of destructive intent
but the intent of destroying a group as such. If we apply, for instance, Belgium’s
formulations, the set of properties or stipulations we have in mind will be much
less restrictive and the number of potential situations that would merit the label
‘genocide’ will be considerably increased, and the matter of verification
becomes much less complicated. Thus, if in scrutinising a horrendous situation it is
not possible to establish whether a given group was (intentionally) massacred
because of its ethnic characteristics or because of its political opposition, this
is certainly a stumbling block in terms of the genocide convention, but not at all
in terms of the Belgian formulation.
R. J. Rummel : "Fails to adopt the definition provided by the
convention." (But of course; that is why he came up with
his own fancy term, "democide." Dr. Rummel tells us
every single Armenian who died was "murdered.")
In practice, it may turn out to be very
difficult to ascertain intentions in the conventional meaning, and it is therefore
no surprise that the problem involved is frequently dodged. The mass killings in the
former Soviet Union, in particular during the Stalin years, provide an illustration.
In the enormous population mosaic that this communist empire constituted, death and
terror seem to have struck most socio-economic, cultural or political strata, the nomenklatura
itself not excluded. In a work that is frequently consulted, R.J. Rummel sets out to
quantify the killings and finds that the regime was probably responsible for the
deaths of no less than 62 million people. He quotes from the convention on genocide
to underscore the relevance of the concept in this connection (also using it in the
title of the book) but fails to adopt the definition provided by the convention. He
resorts to a prior resolution on genocide by the UN General Assembly in which the
nature of the motive for the killings is declared irrelevant.
The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre dodges the problem in a different way. In
connection with the so-called International War Crimes Tribunal arranged by the
Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation to try the US warfare in Vietnam, Sartre maintains
that the US government was guilty of genocide in the sense of the genocide
convention. Sartre’s method is to unveil the USA’s ‘hidden intention’ by
making a Marxist-inspired analysis of societal and military history and their
interconnectedness. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, he says, Western
nations have had to choose between peaceful approaches towards their opponents or
total war – tertium non datur – and in Vietnam the USA obviously opted
for the liquidation of an entire people (to establish a Pax Americana). This method of identification of genocidal intent is more than
questionable, and the flaws in his conclusion are striking. [hw6]
|"...Silence on this point seems difficult to defend: an accusation is
made about actions which are frequently called the worst of all crimes, and yet the
meaning of the crime is not clarified."
However, more often than not the political resolutions seem to avoid definitions
altogether. Those passed by the Argentinean Senate (1993), the Italian Chamber of Deputies
(2000), the Swedish Parliament (2000) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe (2001) are but a few examples. Generally
speaking, when there is no mention of a definition, it seems reasonable to assume either
that the actors for all practical purposes do not have a definition or that they have one
(probably different from that contained in the convention) which for some reason they are
not willing to disclose. In either case, silence on this point seems difficult to defend:
an accusation is made about actions which are frequently called the worst of all crimes,
and yet the meaning of the crime is not clarified.
The genocide convention has been variously evaluated and many negative opinions have been
voiced concerning the specification of protected groups (the fact that it excludes
political, economic and similar groups), the enumeration of punishable acts and several
other aspects. However, these are well-known
shortcomings, hardly more serious than shortcomings in other human rights instruments.  We should be aware, of course, that no document of
international law is likely to make full justice to all possible demands, since it is a
product of negotiation between states.
The point to be made here is, quite simply, the following. The fact that a convention on
genocide was adopted and, moreover, gained wide acceptance by the word’s states  makes problematical the neglect of the definition
it provides. It seems strange, in fact arbitrary, to use other definitions or none at all.
Arguments for Denunciation
The major reason offered for resolutions on the genocide is often not an argumentum ad
rem but references to the positions taken by others. For instance, the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Swedish Parliament argues in its proposal to the full
Parliament: ‘An official statement and recognition of the genocide of the Armenians is
important and necessary. In 1985 the UN and the European Parliament established the fact
that the Ottoman Empire had committed genocide against the Armenian people at the
beginning of this century’. 
the European Parliament is not known be a reliable authority in the matters under
discussion here. Being a purely political body it does not have greater authority than
the Swedish Parliament itself."
References to precisely these two bodies are common. Citing others’
decisions, however, is a valid argument only if these other sources are reliable
authorities in the field under discussion. Otherwise this reasoning only amounts to the
well-known ad verecundiam fallacy. The
European Parliament resolution the Swedish Parliamentary Committee refers to establishes
that the ‘Armenian genocide’ is ‘historically proven’ and ‘believes that the
tragic events in 1915–17 involving the Armenians living in the territory of the Ottoman
Empire constitute genocide within the meaning of the convention on the prevention and the
punishment of the crime of genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948’. However, the European Parliament is not known be a
reliable authority in the matters under discussion here. Being a purely political body it
does not have greater authority than the Swedish Parliament itself.
Reference to the UN could be much more relevant, since it is the Sub-Commission of Human
Rights that is intended, in other words a body which is composed of experts and is not a
purely political body (although it is certainly not free from political bias). However,
what happened at the Sub-Commission meeting in 1985 was not a (UN) recognition of the
Armenian genocide, although it is frequently portrayed that way – far from it.
A member of the Sub-Commission, appointed as special rapporteur, submitted a report on
genocide which was debated. [hw7] This debate, in which divergent views were expressed about the
content of the report, did not result in any kind of recognition of individual human
tragedies mentioned, nor even in the adoption of the report as such, but resulted in the
Sub-Commission’s ‘taking note’ of the special rapporteur’s study. It should be
emphasised that neither was there any recommendation to the superior Commission on Human
Rights to adopt a resolution.
The special rapporteur’s study also lacks weight for a different, perhaps even more
important, reason. The special rapporteur does not seem to stick to the definition of
genocide given by the 1948 convention. After listing a number of cases of genocide during
the twentieth century, including the massacre of Armenians in 1915–16, he concludes: ‘It
could seem pedantic to argue that some terrible mass-killings are legalistically not
genocide, but on the other hand it could be counter-productive to devalue genocide through
over-diluting its definition’.  The inevitable
conclusion is that we do not know which of the examples would be genocide within the
meaning of the genocide convention.
The force of an argument, of course, all depends on the material evidence that can be
demonstrated. The fact of the killings of Armenians is not at issue. The number of people
slain is not known, but the exact dimensions of the disaster would not affect the
substance of an accusation of genocide. The
fundamental question relates to the intent behind the killings. Documentary evidence shows
that the Ottoman government ordered a displacement of the Armenian population in Eastern
Anatolia. Evacuations could of course be undertaken for different purposes, in particular
to cripple the actual or assumed political or military role of a particular group. What
has to be demonstrated in the first instance is the nature of the massacres – that these
were designed to destroy the Armenians because of their nationality, or ethnic, racial or
religious characteristics, rather than for politico-military considerations, purely ‘practical’
considerations and so on.
The main evidence to this effect is assertions by foreign observers, for instance, of the
kind mentioned in the 1985 Sub-Commission report. The German Ambassador, Wangenheim, on 7
July 1915 wrote: ‘The government is indeed pursuing its goal of exterminating the
Armenian race in the Ottoman Empire’. It is
certainly a delicate question how such statements, typically based on the observation of
patterns of action, can be a sufficient basis for us to draw indisputable or correct
conclusions about intent within the meaning of the 1948 convention.
We should, moreover, be aware that the formulations used by eminent people at the time are
not necessarily compatible with the terms and connotations that appear in the genocide
convention: for natural reasons, the genocide convention was not known to them. Tellingly,
Turkish political leaders and ministers who were court-marshalled were found to be guilty
to the crime of ‘massacre’.
High expectations are sometimes entertained that more archive materials could become
accessible, primarily in Turkey, which would considerably improve the possibility of
drawing safe conclusions. However, the existence of relevant archives in Europe seems a
rather obscure point. It has been claimed, for instance, that no materials from this
period exist in the United Kingdom. It should
also be kept in mind that the identification of intent presupposes that the identity of
the accused is not shrouded in mystery. A notable development has taken place since the
Second World War: the principle of individual criminal responsibility has been firmly
established. The so-called Nuremberg Principles, adopted by the UN General Assembly in
1946, are a landmark document in that respect. The first principle opens by stating that
‘Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is
responsible therefore and liable to punishment’.
The genocide convention certainly reflects this thinking. Although genocide may be linked
to state offices, only individuals are held responsible, as expressed in Article IV: ‘Persons
committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished,
whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private
the Armenian campaign this principle for [state] criminal responsibility has de facto
been deserted since the responsibility is generally laid on a rather abstract and
diffuse collectivity, or none at all."
During the process of drafting the convention, the United Kingdom
wanted to introduce the concept of state responsibility, but its amendment was defeated. In the Armenian campaign this principle for
criminal responsibility has de facto been deserted since the responsibility is generally
laid on a rather abstract and diffuse collectivity, or none at all. 
principle of universalism is of the utmost importance for the modern human rights
It is certainly a flaw in itself that the question of the identity of the
respondent(s) tends to be obscured in the Armenian campaign. Moreover, since
accusations which concern intent are generally not directed towards individuals they
tend to become meaningless or at least non-logic. It is reasonable to guess that the
perspective of individual responsibility has been neglected in the Armenian campaign
because of the quality of the materials at hand.
The principle of universalism is of the utmost importance for the modern human
rights regime – in fact the key word ‘universal’ is to be found in the Human
Rights Declaration of 1948. Universalism means that rules are the same everywhere
and, ipso facto, that violations are uniformly assessed and addressed.
is so full of horrors that the Armenians do not seem uniquely entitled to
international campaigns on their behalf."
History is so full of horrors that the Armenians do not seem
uniquely entitled to international campaigns on their behalf. Since the UN
Sub-Commission report of 1985 has been so important in the Armenian campaign it is
appropriate to mention other cases which it cites. The report lists, besides the Armenian case and, of course,
the Holocaust, the German massacre of Hereros in South-West Africa in 1904; the
Ukrainian pogrom against the Jews in 1919; the Tutsi massacre of Hutus in Burundi
in 1965 and 1972; the Paraguayan massacre of Ache Indians prior to 1974; the Khmer
Rouge massacre in Kampuchea between 1975 and 1978; and the Iranian killings of
More examples could be found in the serious/professional genocide literature. In
his well-known and esteemed book on the political use of genocide during the
twentieth century, up to 1981, when it was first published, Leo Kuper includes,
among others, the following cases: actions against the Chechens, Kalmyks, Ingush,
Karachai, Balkars, Crimean Tatars and others in the Soviet Union in the 1940s; the
genocide against the Serbs during the Second World War; the genocide between
Hindus and Muslims in India after the Second World War; the actions in Pakistan in
1970–71; and the actions in Burundi in 1972.
Whereas these are called genocide, others are being called genocidal massacres, for instance, those in Sudan in 1955–72
and those during the decolonisation of Algeria in 1954–61.
A case which deserves particular mention is the US decision to drop the atomic
bomb on two Japanese cities at the end of the Second World War. Historians
generally seem to accept the official US view that the bombs were dropped because
the USA wanted a quick end to the war. However, so-called revisionist historians
have maintained that there was an element of showing off the USA’s military
potential. Irrespective of such military objectives, it seems difficult to deny
that the actions must have included an intent to destroy Japanese populations
precisely because they were Japanese. It
would therefore not be far-fetched to conclude that these actions deserve just as
much consideration as any others that are mentioned here – perhaps even more.
The use of nuclear weapons was later discussed by the International Court of
Justice, which is the United Nations’ chief advisory organ on matters of
international law. The ICJ concluded in 1996 that the genocide convention
certainly was relevant in this context:
The Court would point out in that regard that the prohibition of
genocide would be pertinent in this case if the recourse to nuclear weapons did
indeed entail the element of intent, towards a group as such, required by the
provision quoted above. In the view of the Court, it would only be possible to
arrive at such a conclusion after having taken due account of the circumstances
specific to each case.
The list of possible cases of genocide can certainly be made far longer. In fact,
Turkey could argue that genocide has also been directed against Turks. [hw8]However,
our purpose here is only to demonstrate that there are certainly many historical
cases for which there is obviously or apparently no less reason for international
castigation than in the Armenian case.
While the world takes much less interest in cases such as those mentioned above,
the Armenian campaign seems to go against the principle of universality. Note that
this is not to question that it is easier to exercise pressure on some, relatively
weak, states than on others, and that the strength of the target and the power
resources available have to be considered when the kind of action to take is
decided upon. Here, we are talking only
of manifested interest, in terms of resolutions and statements, which is not a
matter of strength and resources available.
Could the objection be raised that in some of these cases the underlying conflicts
were resolved a long time ago and, in fact, no demands or campaigns have been
initiated by victims or later generations? This would seem to be a dubious
argument for selecting cases. It is difficult to determine the degree of
resentment or potential demands, particularly among the populations in general,
since the dismantling of conflicts is by and large a matter for the state powers
Moreover, as, for instance, Richard Falk has pointed out, the generation of
international concern frequently depends on the existence of a powerful
transnational constituency. As examples of indifference Falk mentions allegations
of genocidal behaviour on the part of the Indian government in its
counterinsurgency actions against the Naga and Mizo peoples in 1956–64 and
genocidal campaigns in Latin America.
A more recent illustration of these problems is provided by disclosures in 2001 by
a former French general concerning the war in Algeria in 1954–62. Although the
general revealed that torture and execution were routine, the reaction from the
French government (which expelled the ageing officer from the military reserves)
was weak, and that from the Algerian side even weaker – probably not for the
same reasons. A spokesman for the Committee Against Torture and Disappearances
during the National Liberation War suggested that the current Algerian government
did not want this question to come up since it is itself accused of severely
maltreating its own people.
It would seem morally devastating and quite unacceptable from a human rights
regime point of view for the world’s concern for cases of genocide (historical
or present) to be contingent on factors such as the political clout of the victim
or the willingness of governments.
Why is it that precisely the historical tragedy in Turkey has been so decisively
brought to the fore? It is beyond our aim in this article to answer this question,
and a proper answer may be beyond reach. However, some relevant factors may the
—By and large, Turkey is not a highly esteemed country, nor is its
history highly regarded. This would tend to lend accusations a priori credence.
—The Armenian lobby is relatively strong, with influential emigrant
societies, whereas the Turkish counter-lobby, and particularly its emigrant
societies, seem relatively weak.
—Turkey is not considered a very important country: thus, for instance,
the positive contribution it could make to the European Union (EU) as a future
member is not often spelled out. Its
strategic value is appreciated in the West considerably more by the USA than by
—Turkey is anxious for EU membership, and this has given the West
Europeans a strong leverage for influencing it. EU demands on candidates for
membership are generally motivated in terms of what are called the Copenhagen
criteria, and pro-Armenian forces in West Europe are seeking to utilise this as
leverage to get Turkey to acknowledge the genocide. The European Parliament, in
its resolution in 1987, listed a number of conditions for Turkey’s joining the
EU and believes that the ‘refusal by the present Turkish Government to
acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people committed by the Young Turk
government’ is an ‘insurmountable obstacle’ to consideration of Turkey’s
However, a link in the reverse direction should perhaps not be excluded, the
Armenian question being an instrument rather than a goal. For instance, the
president of the rightist Mouvement pour la France has stated that: ‘Le refus
obstiné de la Turquie de reconnait les massacres de 1915 est un élément
supplémentaire pour refuser l’entrée de la Turquie dans l’Union européenne.’ It can be assumed that for this
organisation the more pressing question is to keep Turkey out of the EU and the
Armenian question is an instrument to this end.
Implementation of the Universality Principle
The consistent use of the principle of universalism would seem to be potentially
destabilising, making for an increased level of animosity in the international
system. This is so first of all because attempts to bring up historical cases may
become entangled with manifest or latent conflicts of interest of various kinds, as
is well illustrated by the Armenian case. In October 2000 the International
Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives passed a resolution which
labelled the Armenian massacres as genocide. This resolution went to the House of
Representatives for a full vote, which, however, never materialised, being cancelled
by the Speaker of the House. It is generally understood that the genocide resolution
came up in the first place because of politicking in the election race that was
going on at the time and the endangered situation of a Republican in a district with
a huge Armenian– American population. The
reason for the cancellation was no less politically coloured. The Speaker came under
intense pressure from the President, the Secretary of State and the Secretary for
Defense as well as the military, who presented security policy arguments against the
resolution (no doubt under the influence of Turkey, which had lobbied heavily
against the resolution). Explaining his decision not to bring it to the floor, the
Speaker said that he had little choice: ‘The President believes that passage of
this resolution may adversely impact the situation in the Middle East and risk the
lives of Americans’.
To political concerns which were clearly manifest should be added suspicions about
the role of political interests. In the Armenian case there are indeed suspicions in
Turkey. It is widely thought that the campaign for recognition is intended to pave
the way for certain demands on Turkey (which we will consider again below).
for the recognition of historical atrocities as genocide may risk upsetting
sensitive processes of healing, which many would consider a much less reasonable
Can we demur that increasing animosity would perhaps be a
reasonable price to be paid for truth and humanitarian principles?
Campaigns for the recognition of historical atrocities as genocide may risk
upsetting sensitive processes of healing, which many would consider a much less
reasonable price. As is well known, world history is full of lingering
sensitivities, for instance, in East Asia, indicated by the strong reactions
against Japan when its unwillingness to recognise historical misdeeds against its
neighbours (such as the ‘Rape of Nanking’ in 1937) comes to the fore. There is even the possibility that
accusations of genocide would add fuel to live conflicts which are difficult to
resolve. Cyprus has been a dangerous hot spot in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Countless efforts by the parties themselves and the international community to
resolve the conflict there (which started in 1963 according to the Turkish side,
in 1974 according to the Greek side) [hw9]
have been in vain. A number of intricate issues are involved, including security,
popular representation and territory. Negotiations started again in early 2002 in
what has been widely called a last-ditch effort. What consequences would a
(possibly reciprocal) genocide recognition campaign concerning atrocities in the
early 1960s have for peace in the region?
The events in Ottoman Turkey have been discussed (by parliaments and other popular
assemblies) in terms of crimes and culprits, not seldom with some reference to
international law, and, of course, the resolutions passed are intended for
international audience. Actions taken have, of course, no force in international
law; nevertheless it seems accurate to say that parliaments and others de facto
attribute themselves tribunal-like functions.
Is the global human rights regime well served by the fact that tribunal or
quasi-tribunal functions are exercised with respect to historical events? Assuming
that it is, although much could be said to the contrary, let me make some points
on the appropriate way of meting out historical justice.
It follows from what has been said above that parliaments are less than suitable
for the function because of the risk of inappropriate concerns intervening. The
handling of the genocide bill in the US Congress is of course an example of
political contamination. In the French parliamentary setting strong solidarity
sentiments have manifested themselves. The point has been made that recognition of
the genocide would be a way of honouring the French engagement for the Armenian
community living in France and a way of strengthening the bond of friendship
between France and Armenia.
Moreover, because parliamentarians are elected on their political merits rather
than for their competence in matters of international politics – much less
international law – their knowledge of the subject can be questioned, or at
least should not be taken for granted, the more so as legislatures, typically, are
not given a major role in the making of foreign policy. It is important to realise
that juridical competence includes the competence to make appeal to authority.
It is common in Turkish milieus to refer to historians. President Ahmed Necdet
Sezer, hailed abroad for his concern for the rule of law and respect for human
rights, has stated that ‘the question of genocide should be left to historians’. Professional Turkish historians agree, for
instance, Halil Berktay [hw10]of Sabanci
University in Istanbul, who, moreover, maintains that by leaving it to the
academics the Turkey of today could wash its hands of the question: republican
Turkey is not a continuation of the Ottoman state.
Not only Turkish historians have made this point,
and not only Turkish statesmen. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is
reported to have discussed the fate of Jews and Armenians during the Second and
First World Wars, respectively, and maintained the following: ‘Genocide is a
much wider term. It is not the business of a state to judge history. States create
history, but should not judge (it). It should be left to the historians’.
This position is sometimes viewed with greater or less scepticism, apparently because this
issue is so politically loaded. In the Swedish Parliament’s resolution on the Armenian
genocide the importance of ‘unbiased independent and international research’ on the
Armenian massacre was underscored.
This seems a rather weak recommendation since, at the same time, it was stated repeatedly
that the genocide is a fact. It has been reported that Armenia showed distrust when the
Turkish authorities took the initiative to set up a commission consisting of seven Turkish
scholars to study the purported genocide. In
fact, on the side of the Armenians this ‘historians thesis’ tends to be refuted
altogether. President Robert Kocharian of Armenia, for one, has made clear that he does
not agree that the Armenian massacre is a matter for historians. If there were any doubt
regarding the genocide, he has said, then it could be a matter for historians; but it is a
fact free from any doubts. [hw11]
A strong case can of course be made for genocide claims being left to historians. They
would be much better equipped than parliamentarians, not only because of their command of
historical method but also because of a professional ethic that helps to protect against
political interests, considerations or bias. [hw12]
However, the limitations of historians must be stressed here. They may be helpful in
providing data and documentation which bear on the case and in assessing the
trustworthiness of documents. What is just as important, however, is the legal assessment
of evidence, primarily with respect to the aspect of intent, which is fundamental in the
genocide convention. This is a matter for professional juridical expertise. On that
account historians can, at most, serve as consultants the jurists need.[hw13]
We might think of situations when juridical and other expertise would perhaps do best to
refrain from making a thorough investigation of a possible case of genocide. In a
particular urgent situation demands for an investigation might possibly be mitigated if we
consider that expressions of a belief that certain acts are of a criminal nature would
have the force to prevent or halt a criminal policy.
However, here we are discussing historical events for which such a point of view seems
It seems that accusations quite easily provide the seed of demands for compensation.
Consider, for instance, the NGO declaration made at the World Congress against Racism in
2001. This document addresses grave crimes such as racism, crimes against humanity and
genocide (which is mentioned 26 times). Culpability and compensation are twins. In a
section entitled ‘Reparations’ (articles 238–47), dealing with crimes against
humanity, par- ticularly slavery, the declaration takes up far-reaching demands such as
the return of land, monetary compensation and debt cancellation. However, demands for the
public acknowledgement of these crimes and the correction of history are also included
(articles239,244).  Those who call for
recognition of the Armenian genocide sometimes find it necessary to clarify that only the
Turkey of the past is impugned. A well-known French political figure, Philippe
Douste-Blazy, has stated: ‘Je crois qu’aujourd’hui il faut lever une ambiguit: la
reconnaissance de la responsabilité du gouvernement de 1915, n’entrain pas la
culpabilité des Turcs de 1999. Il n’existe pas en matie`re criminelle, même pour le
plus odieux des crimes, celui contre l’humanité, de culpabilité héréditaire’. Another well-known French politician, Bertrand
Delanoë, makes a similar point: ‘La Turquie moderne ne peut évidemment être tenue
pour responsable des faits survenus dans les convulsions de la fin de l’Empire Ottoman.
Au contraire, la paix entre les peuples ne peut que reposer sur des fondements solides et
jamais sur l’occultation du passé’.
If the Turkey of today is not held responsible for the imputed crime, can it then be held
responsible for giving or having the duty to give compensation to later Armenian
generations? From a logical point of view a strong case can be made for an answer in the
negative (although the matter is rather complex). From a political point of view this does
not seem to be a dead issue. The European Parliament in the 1987 resolution cited above
recognises ‘that the present Turkey cannot be held responsible for the tragedy
experienced by the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire and stresses that neither political nor
legal or material claims against present-day Turkey can be derived from the recognition of
this historical event as an act of genocide’.
However, the resolution also states that ‘the historically proven Armenian genocide has
so far neither been the object of political condemnation nor received due compensation’.
Ambiguity with respect to the question of compensation is even more pronounced in the
following examples. In its request to the Italian government to acknowledge the genocide
of the Armenian people, the Commune of Milan states that Turkey ‘must assume the
responsibility for this genocide, and that the recognition of the crime committed is also
in the interest of the Turkish people, which will in that way free itself from an
unbearable moral burden’. Furthermore it expresses its ‘full solidarity with the
Armenian people in their fight for the acknowledgement of the historical truth and the
defence of their inviolable rights’. The last
two words seem to suggest something beyond mere recognition, possibly some kind of
The position taken by Armenia in this matter is of course crucial. The Armenian President
has asserted that Armenia and the Armenian diaspora around the world are more interested
in Turkey’s recognition of the Ottoman massacre than in compensation. [hw14] He has stated that Turkish recognition will not result in Armenian
claims for compensation; there is no legal basis for this, since the state of Armenia did
not exist at the time.
However, such a statement must be put in context. First, we can certainly not ignore the
existence of lingering, unexpressed territorial demands in Armenia. In any case, Armenia
has given rise to suspicions about possible irredentism. Some fundamental documents make
mention of Turkish territories; the Declaration of Independence – dubiously – mentions
Western Armenia; and the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia describes the coat of
arms with Mount Ararat in the centre. Second,
linkages have been made between irredentist territories and the issue of compensation. In
an interview for an Armenian news agency, an Armenian special envoy who has carried out
important missions in the UN makes some reflections on the Turkish denial of the Armenian
genocide. One cannot expect Turkey to change its position, he states, unless it knows the
consequences thereof. It has to know beforehand what territorial, financial and property
consequences it would have to face. Therefore, Armenia should think of drawing up the
rough outlines of possible agreements. This
diplomat evidently presupposes that some form of compensation should ensue. [hw15]It is also notable that he says that the
territory where the Ararat Mountains are situated should under all circumstances be
returned to Armenia; this is a separate issue, which does not refer to the territories of
former West Armenia. [hw16]
It seems obvious that the recognition campaign is, nolens volens, part of a
realpolitik setting and, given the murkiness of Armenian foreign policy ambitions, it
cannot be excluded that the dynamics of the campaign will make this even more obvious. The
workability of this realpolitik would, in fact, paradoxical though it may seem, be
facilitated by a certain indistinctness in the genocide convention. Individual
responsibility is not in focus in this campaign (although the convention makes it
absolutely clear that only individuals own liability). At the same time, however, Article
IX seems to attribute a diffuse ‘responsibility’ to the state. It seems that this
discrepancy would make it easier for Armenia to pursue demands for compensation once it
has been more generally accepted that Turkey has committed genocide, even though the
principle of individual responsibility of international criminal law has been deserted.
History on Trial
The global human rights regime is not equipped to deal with historical atrocities,
and when engaged politicians want to take matters in their own hands it is clear
that this alternative is problematical.
The Armenian campaign has addressed the questions involved in a simplistic way, both
with respect to juridical points of departure such as definition of the crime and
the status of the accused party, and with respect to the assessment of evidence.
Moreover, this campaign is undermined by the apparent neglect of the universality
principle which is fundamental in human rights thinking. On the other hand, a wider
application of this principle would seem to open up a Pandora’s box, particularly
since retrospective shaming can easily feed demands for compensation or retribution.
A laissez-faire approach may seem the best and most natural solution. Moreover, if
proclamations which bear any similarity to juridical assessments are to be made at
all, it seems evident that they should not be made by politicians. A much more
palatable alternative would be the creation of an international body to deal with
possible historical cases of genocide, composed by experts with solid expertise and
reputation for their impartiality. Necessarily, both the history and the legal
professions should be duly represented.
While it would seem natural to link such an organ to central UN structures, such as
the General Assembly, any such attachment to the world organisation would also
create risks of political contamination. Attachment to learned societies might be a
better option. However, whatever affiliation is sought, funding would be a
fundamental problem, given the need to heed the principle of universality.
Establishing the guidelines for this body to work may be no less problematical; can
a generally-accepted time limit to the period its investigations are to cover be
agreed on or established? If developments during the early years of the past century
should be of concern, why not events at the end of the century before or even
Going backwards of course also raises the issue of nullum crimen sine lege. To what
extent should court-like functions be performed for events which, at the time they
happened, were not covered by international criminal law? The principle of
non-retroactivity is a fundamental tenet in modern human rights thinking.
I am indebted to Edward Deverell of the Swedish National Defence College for
research assistance in the preparation of this article.
Correspondence Address: Bertil Dunér, Swedish Institute of International Affairs,
PO Box 1253, S-111 82, Stockholm, Sweden. ISSN 1364-2987 print; ISSN 1744-053X
online # 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080=1364298042000240870
(Thanks to Hector for making the article available. Most of
all, thank you, Mr. Bertil Dunér, for your honesty and integrity. King Charles XII would have been proud
of you as an example of the finest Swedish nobility.)
1. For a valuable discussion of varying estimates,
see Rudolph J. Rummel, Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900
(Münster: Lit Verlag, 1998). Professor Yusuf Halacoglu, President of the Turkish History
Association, has stated that the true number was 57,610; see Turkish Daily News, 5
Feb. 2001. Rummel gives 300,000 as the lowest figure. [hw17]
2. William A. Schabas, Genocide in International
Law: The Crime of Crimes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp.20ff.
3. Ibid., p.22.
4. Le Monde, 19 Jan. 2001.
5. See Bertil Dunér, The Global Human Rights
Regime (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2002), p.169.
6. For example, the list includes a statement by
the Prime Minister of Canada in 1996. However, the Prime Minister only ‘recognizes and
deplores the fact that a great number of Armenians were killed during the wars’ and ‘extends
his sympathy to the Armenian Community’. Speech as reproduced at the Armenian National
Institute home page, http://www.armenian-genocide.org.
7. René Rouquet, ‘Rapport fait au nom de la
Commission des Affaires Etrange`res sur la Proposition de loi de M. Didier Migaud et
Plusieurs de ses Colle`gues (no.895), relative a` la reconnaissance du génocide arménien
de 1915’, no.925, Assemblée Nationale, Onzie`me Législature, mis en distribution le 28
mai 1998, Introduction.
8. ‘Markups before the Committee on International
Relations, House of Representatives, 106th Congress, 2nd session, September 28 and October
3, 2000’, Serial no. 106–96 (accessed on the home page of the US Government Printing
Office), quotations by Representatives Menendez and Rothman, respectively.
9. Cf. Rouquet (note 7); Mozione Pagliarini ed
altri n. 1-00303 concernente il riconoscimento del genocidio del popolo armeno, Allegato
A, Seduta n. 707 del 3/4/2000; and Mozioni Fei ed altri n. 1-00481 e Giovanni Bianchini ed
altri n. 1-00482 concernenti le vicende del popolo armeno durante la prima guerra
mondiale, Allegato A, Seduta n.799 del 26/10/3000.
10. References such as those made by the Swedish
Parliament, cited here (see the section on Denunciation Arguments), are quite common and
have also been made by the Italian and French parliaments, which, moreover, have referred
to each other. Cf. the ‘Mozione Pagliarini e altri’ in the Italian Camera dei
Deputati. Mr Pagliarini presents a long list of bodies that have recognised the Armenian
genocide, including the Swedish and French parliaments. Resoconto Stenografico dell’Assemblea,
Seduta n. 707 di lunedi` 3 aprile 2000.
11. The Declaration of Independence of 1990 was
accessed on the home page of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
12. Rooben Shoogharyan (Armenian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs), ‘The Armenian Lobby Abroad’, Newsletter of the Lecture Series
Program, American University of Armenia, 25 May 2000.
13. There are several important Armenian advocacy
groups in the US, including the Armenian National Institute (ANI) in Washington, DC. Its
overarching goal (presented on its home page) is proclaimed to be the ‘affirmation of
the worldwide recognition of the Armenian Genocide’, and its formal founding in early
1997 happened to coincide with the most decisive phase of the recent upsurge of
14. Shoogharyan (note 12).
15. BBC Monitoring Service, ‘Armenian Foreign
Minister Calls for Dialogue with Turkey without Preconditions’, 4 Oct. 2000.
16. BBC Monitoring Service, ‘Armenian Foreign
Ministry Welcomes French Senate’s Resolution on Genocide’, 9 Nov. 2000.
17. ‘Yerevan Urges Italy to Recognize Armenian
Genocide’, from the home page of the SNARK news agency, Yerevan (as of 4 May 2000).
18. See ‘The Armenian Allegation of Genocide:
the Issue and the Facts’, from the home page of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
19. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General
Assembly on 9 December 1948.
20. ‘Markups before the Committee on
International Relation, House of Representatives’ (note 8), pp.137ff.
21. R.J. Rummel, Lethal Politics: Soviet
Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917 (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers,
1990), pp.xivff. and 243.
22. Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘On Genocide’, in Prevent
the Crime of Silence, Reports from the Sessions of the International War Crimes
Tribunal founded by Bertrand Russell, selected and edited by Peter Limqueco and Peter
Weiss, with additional material selected and edited by Ken Coates and a foreword by Noam
Chomsky (London: Allen Lane, Penguin Press, 1971), part II, chapter 17, pp.350–65.
23. The war prosecuted by the US cannot have been
genocide within the meaning of the convention: for one thing, the US government was
apparently not fighting a particular ethnic group since its Vietnamese allies belonged to
the group in question.
24. The resolution was what is called a Written
Declaration, which commits only the members who have signed it. Recognition of the
Armenian genocide, Doc. 9056, 2nd edn, 14 May 2001, Written Declaration no. 320, 2nd edn,
originally tabled on 24 April 2001.
25. Cf. the discussion of omitted groups in
Nehemiah Robinson, The Genocide Convention: A Commentary (New York: Institute of Jewish
Affairs, World Jewish Congress, 1960), part V.
26. Cf. Dunér (note 5).
27. The United Nations reported 133 parties to
the convention as of 9 Oct. 2001.
28. Substituting an earlier UN resolution for the
convention (as Rummel does) is of course also arbitrary. UN resolutions may be
stepping-stones for the subsequent hammering out of international law instruments, but of
course a piece of law which has been widely adopted and ratified by UN member states takes
precedence over prior resolutions. Two researchers have complained that ‘although it
marked a milestone in international law, the UN definition is of little use to scholars’.
Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonasshon, The History
and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies (New Haven, Conn.: Yale
University Press, 1990), p.10. This sounds somewhat presumptuous given the widely
diverging views taken by different scholars. An inverse formulation would not seem to be
exaggerated: whereas the conventional definition marked a milestone, scholarly definitions
are of little practical importance.
29. Swedish Parliament, Utrikesutskottet
(Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs), Utrikesutskottets Betänkande [Report of the
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs] 1999/2000:UU1The European Parliament meeting was in
fact in 1987, not 1985.
30. Cf. James D. Carney and Richard K. Scheer, Fundamentals
of Logic, 3rd edn (New York: Macmillan, 1980), pp.41ff.
31. European Parliament, ‘Resolution on a
Political Solution to the Armenian Question’, Doc. A2-33/87, 18 June 1987.
32. United Nations, ‘Review of Further
Developments in Fields with which the Sub-Comission has been Concerned’, UN document
E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/6, 2 July 1985.
33. United Nations, ‘Report of the
Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its 38th
Session’, UN document E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/57, 4 November 1985, Resolution 1985/9, pp.88ff.
34. Ibid., article 24.
35. Cf. the discussion in Tim Dunne and Daniela
Kroslak, ‘Genocide: Knowing What It Is that We Want to Remember, or Forget, or Forgive’,
International Journal of Human Rights, Special Issue, Vol.4, Nos3/4 (autumn/winter
36. United Nations, ‘Review of Further
Developments in Fields with which the Sub-Commission Has Been Concerned’ (note 32
above), para. 24, note 13.
37. Schabas (note 2), p.21.
38. According to Justin McCarthy; see Turkish
Daily News, 16 March 2001.
39. For the evolution of the application of
individual criminal responsibility, see, e.g., M. Cherif Bassiouni, Crimes Against
Humanity in International Criminal Law, 2nd rev. edn (The Hague: Kluwer Law
International, 1999), chapter 10. The Nuremberg Principles are reproduced on
40. One of the delegations stated that the
UK proposal was superfluous since it gave ‘the impression that a State could be
held guilty of the commission of a crime’. See Schabas (note 2), pp.419ff.
41. The Swedish resolution speaks of
massacres on Armenians ‘in the collapsing Ottoman Empire’ but no guilty party is
identified. Utrikesutskottets Betänkande 1999/2000:UU11 (note 33).
42. United Nations, ‘Review of Further
Developments in Fields with which the Sub-Comission has been Concerned’ (note 32),
43. Leo Kuper, Genocide: Its Political
Use in the Twentieth Century (Harmondsworth, UK: Pelican Books, 1981).
44. The line drawn between ‘genocide’
and ‘genocidal massacre’ is obscure; by the latter concept Kuper probably
intends massacres with fewer victims. Ibid., p.32.
45. New revelations about French atrocities
in Algeria in 1954–62 made in 2001 by a retired French general might lead to a
more exact assessment of French behaviour during the conflict.
46. It has been suggested that US President
was not informed about the decision to drop the second bomb, which he did not want
because of the consequences for innocent civilians. Stanley Goldberg, ‘What Did
Truman Know, and When Did He Know It?’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
Vol.54 (May/June 1998), p.3.
47. International Court of Justice,
Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion of 8 July 1996.
48. Primarily in Cyprus in 1963. See, e.g.,
Harry Scott Gibbons, The Genocide Files (London: Charles Bravos, 1997).
49. Cf. K. Anthony Appiah, ‘Grounding
Human Rights’, in Michael Ignatieff et al., Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry
(Princeton, N.J. and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001), pp.101–16,
50. Richard Falk, Human Rights and State
Sovereignty (New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1981), pp.159ff.
51. International Herald Tribune, 19 June
2001. In both countries, however, political parties and NGOs reacted vigorously: cf
Le Monde, 8 May 2001.
52. For an unusually clearcut example of
this lack of estimation see a statement made in the Swedish Parliament by the
chairperson of the Swedish Support Committee for Human Rights in Turkey (which
includes members from all the political parties represented in the Parliament) on 1
Feb. 2001: ‘We should be aware that Turkey almost always speaks with a double
53. Cf. Bertil Dunér, ‘Why Let Turkey
In?’, in Bertil Dunér (ed.), Turkey: The Road Ahead? (Stockholm: Swedish
Institute of International Affairs, 2002).
54. European Parliament, ‘Resolution on a
Political Solution to the Armenian Question’ (note 31), article 4.
55. Philippe de Villiers, ‘Le Blocage au
Sénat Est De Fait Imputable au Gouvernement Jospin’, Nouvelles d’Armenie En
56. The Republicans had hopes of keeping
control of the House. ‘Were it not for Jim Rogan that resolution would never be
coming up’, the head of the Republican campaign committee told reporters, adding
that the resolution was ‘part of the process’. Reuters, ‘Political Fallout for
US House Vote on Armenia’, 27 Sept. 2000.
57. Reuters, 20 Oct. 2000, reporting from
the Washington Post that same day.
58. Relations with South Korea improved
considerably after 1988, when Kim Dae Jung accepted Japan’s apology for its
occupation of Korea (1910–45), but this did not stop the flaring up of passions in
2001 when a non-apologetic Japanese history textbook was published; South Korea
recalled its ambassador to Tokyo and cancelled official visits. International
Herald Tribune, 19 April 2001.
59. Rouquet (note 7), Conclusion.
60. Cf. above on the evaluation of the
Sub-Commission report of 1985 made by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of
the Swedish Parliament. The full Parliament later confirmed the Committee’s
61. Time Europe, 11 June 2001.
62. Neshe Düzel, ‘Ermenileri Ozel Orgüt
Oldürdü’, Radikal, 9 Oct. 2000 (interview).
63. Cf. Justin McCarthy, ‘Let Historians
Decide on So-Called Genocide’, Turkish Daily News, 10 April 2001.
64. ‘Holocaust Yes, Armenian Genocide No!’
Cyprus Weekly (Nicosia), posted on the Internet 27 April 100Cf. also interview with
Günter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enlargement: ‘I must say that I prefer
leaving that to the historians’, Turkish Daily News, 7 Feb. 2001.
65. Utrikesutskottets Betänkande
1999/2000:UU11 (note 29).
66. BBC Monitoring Service, ‘Armenia
Hails Setting Up of Turkish Genocide Commission, But Doubtful of Aim’, 31 Oct.
67. Interview by Mehmet Ali Birand under
the title ‘Armenia Has No Land Demand from Turkey’, Turkish Daily News, 1 Feb.
68. See also Adriaan Bos, ‘The
International Criminal Court: A Perspective’, in Roy S. Lee (ed.), The
International Criminal Court: The Making of the Rome Statute: Issues, Negotiations,
Results (The Hague, London and Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1999), chapter
69. World Congress against Racism (WCAR)
NGO Forum Declaration, 3 Sept. 200This document is described as the outcome of an
international process before and during the NGO forum of the WCAR held in Durban,
South Africa, 28 Aug.–1 Sept. 2001.
70. Philippe Douste-Blazy, ‘Pour
Rejoindre l’Union, la Turquie Devra Reconnait le Génocide Arménien’, Nouvelles
d’Arménie. En Ligne, http://www.armenews.com/nam/Sommaire.asp.
71. Bertrand Delanoë, ‘Au Nom de l’Avenir’,
Nouvelles d’Arménie En ligne, http://www.armenews.com/nam/ Sommaire.asp.
72. European Parliament Resolution, 18 July
1987: European Parliament resolution on a political solution to the Armenian
question, Doc. A2-33/87.
73. Mozione del Cons. Massimo de Carolis ed
altri: Genocidio del popolo armeno, Consiglio Communale Di Milano (submitted and
accepted in November 1997).
74. ‘Armenia Won’t Ask for Compensation
If Turkey Recognizes “Genocide”’, CIS Online, 2 Feb. 2001.
75. A considerable number of articles with
references to the Armenian territorial claims have been published by the Turkish
press (e.g., by Milliyet, Hürriyet and the Turkish Daily News). Cf.
in particular ‘Two Ambassadors Discuss Armenian Question’, Turkish Daily
News, 22 Oct. 2001.
76. ‘Recognition of Armenian Genocide Is
A Matter of Time’, interview with Ashot Melik-Shakhnazarian, from the home page of
the SNARK news agency, Yerevan (as of 4 May 2000).
77. The question of material compensation
can also be brought up in civil society. An Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister has
urged Armenians to take up the issue with American insurance companies and fight for
compensation in courts worldwide. See Shoogharyan (note 12).
78. There is no consensus on the legal
status of the crime of genocide before the 1948 convention. The Charter of the
Nurenberg trials (1945–46), included a provision on ‘crimes against humanity’
(article 6(c)), which is closely related, but not identical, to genocide. The
legality of Article 6 has been very much discussed and it is frequently seen as
innovative rather than a reflection of international law at the time. See, e.g.,
Bassiouni (note 39), Concluding Assessment; and Margaret McAuliffe de Guzman, ‘The
Road From Rome: The Developing Law of Crimes Against Humanity’, Human Rights
Quarterly, Vol.22 (2000), pp.335–403, at 344. Interestingly, in 1945, before
the start of the trials, the US government recognised that the pre-war atrocities
committed by the Nazis were not offences against international law. See Benjamin B.
Ferencz, An International Criminal Court: A Step Toward World Peace: A
Documentary History and Analysis (London, Rome and New York: Oceana
Publications, 1980), Volume I, document 12.
hw1.: Will the day
come when newspapers like "Le Monde" remind the honorable French
people that if it wasn't for the support France, along with Britain and Russia,
provided for their "seventh"
WWI ally, the Armenians would have never suffered their fate of resettlement (i.e.,
what dishonorable genocide advocates call a "genocide")?
hw2.: Wasn't it nice for the author, Mr.
Dunér, to not underestimate the intelligence of his readership? For those of us
whose French is not up to par, however, this roughly translates to the tired old bit
about not recognizing the genocide amountng to the insult of the memory of the
victims, killing them a second time... without analyzing how most became victims in
the first place. The vast majority of Armenians who died, same as with the majority
of the 2.5 million other Ottomans who died — the ones these hypocrites never
consider — perished non-violently, mainly from famine, disease, and exposure. It's
frightening how such mindless and bigoted politicians (from the French Parliament in
this particular example) can take statements from a propaganda sheet and apply them
hw3.: For an analysis of the Armenian
lobbies, see "Divided
hw4.: Some media reports on this episode.
hw5.: When one visits Internet forums
dominated by extremist Republicans, it's striking how the tone can be similar to
Armenian forums: rude, crude, loud, arrogant and, most importantly, with little
concern for the facts. Not to say hyper-liberals can't be guilty of the same,
particularly human rights activists, wrapped in a shroud of sanctimony. One reason
why this honest article, published in a human rights journal, is so pulse-poundingly
refreshing. For more on this "neo-conservative Republican"-Armenian
parallel, read The Creationism of the
hw6.: This is why philosophers and
writers of fiction generally cannot be relied upon to make judgments of history; the
same as with "genocide scholars," whose backgrounds often have nothing to
do with history.
hw7.: For a detailed analysis, read 'The Truth About the ‘Whitaker Report.’
hw8.: Naturally, even very fair articles
as this one, and fair books such as Dr. Guenter Lewy's "The Armenian
Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide," must always give the
suffering of the Armenians the limelight. The fact of the matter is, it's not
"Turkey" that can make the argument that Turks were victims of systematic
genocidal campaigns, but any truth-seeker who can shed his or her prejudices and
look at the facts objectively. Justin McCarthy's "Death and Exile" outlines how 5.5 million
Turks/Muslims were killed and another 5 million exiled, in the century ending circa
WWI. During WWI, one half million mostly Muslim Ottomans were directly slaughtered
by the Armenians, with a little help from their Russian allies. Many more
"Turks" were murdered by Armenians than the other way around (and usually
in the most hideous of fashions), but the world is much too prejudiced to consider
the equation in a fair manner. See here
hw9.: We can understand that the writer,
particularly since he has been brave to go against the mindlessly popular
"Turks are evil" view, would have felt the need to tread carefully.
However, as with the "Armenian genocide," what the "Turkish
view" or the "Greek/Armenian view" says is irrelevant. The only thing
that matters is the side of objective, factual history. Anyone who can put their
anti-Turkish prejudices aside can see that the division of Cyprus did not start in
1974, nor for that matter did it start in 1963. Greek Cypriots were gaga for
"enosis" (union) with Greece at least a decade earlier, and began their
ruthless campaigns of oppression and ethnic cleansing accordingly. That is why the
1960 Treaty of Guarantee was established, giving both Turkey and Greece the right to
legally intervene if the existence of their respective populations on the island
became threatened. It was clear that the Greek-backed coup in 1974 would have led to
the extermination of Turkish Cypriots in little time, as the leader of the coup
himself admitted years later. These events do not exist in a vacuum. For more, see
TAT's Cyprus page.
hw10.: If the definition for a
historian, let alone a professional historian, is one who considers all relevant
information before arriving at an objective conclusion, Mr. Dunér was being
excessively gracious in classifying Halil Berktay (whose academic degree, I do not
believe, was in history), as a "professional historian." Since
Halil Berktay, in the case of the "Armenian genocide" at least, arrives
first at his conclusion and then utilizes whatever selective "evidence" to
prove his thesis, it would be more correct to classify Berktay as a "professional
hw11.: And what impartial person would
argue that the only reason why President Kocharian prefers this slippery route is
because he is deathly afraid of what the hoodwinked world will discover if they
really paid close and objective attention? Since the "Armenian genocide"
is such a hot button subject, regaardless of how deceptively pro-Armenians would
like to declare it a done deal, if Kocharian
were certain of his facts, he would have welcomed an honest committee getting to the
bottom of the matter, once and for all... and teaching those filthy
"denialists" the lesson they long had coming.
hw12.: Such would entirely depend on
the caliber of historian, particularly those involved in this highly politicized
subject. As Prof. McCarthy put it,
"so many have forgotten the rules of honest history."
hw13.: Mr. Dunér's point is not
entirely without merit; however, the expert on law cannot come into this discussion
until the objective historical facts are first established. It's bad enough that
enough historians can't be trusted, but the motives and/or ethics of lawyers can
generally lend themselves to be far more suspicious. (Particularly if they are of
the caliber of, say, Alfred de Zayas.)
The parallel is as with any court case: the suspect is arrested, and then the
lawyers are called in. In a criminal case, the facts are first gathered by police
detectives. Lawyers are not consulted to make the arrest. The fact-gathering
foundation must first be established before lawyers are invited to argue or
manipulate the legalistic ins and outs. In short, if we start relying on jurists to
make the case for genocide, then we're really asking for trouble, because
practically any conflict — with selective evidence — can be made to look like a
genocide. As an example, this body
of lawyers was called in to determine whether there was an "Armenian
genocide." Since they primarily consulted Armenian propaganda, and because they
utilized absurd rules (such as only one person needing to be killed), naturally they
found in the affirmative.
hw14.: Some diasporan Armenians, of course, can't wait to get their
hands on some of that nice cold cash.
hw15.: Obviously this knucklehead was
totally unaware that the Dashnaks who ruled Armenia "agreed 'to forego their
rights to ask for damages . . . as a result of the general war,' thus closing the
doors FOREVER to reparations for the enormous destruction of Armenian life and
property"... as Arthur Derounian helpfully instructed us.
hw16.: "West Armenia"? Isn't
this the territory some would call "Kurdistan"? Isn't the vast region
labeled as "Armenia" in ancient maps no more than a geographic expression,
since the Haiks arrived
there from other places, like the many other tribes inhabiting the region? That
is, when did the people we know today as Armenians actually own this land, other
than in the case of small and isolated kingdoms? Kingdoms that were subjugated by
others for centuries, so that even if today's Armenians once owned what is called
"Western Armenia," did they actually own it when the Turks came in?
Weren't the Byzantines formerly in charge of some of these lands, doing a great job
of oppressing the Armenians at the time? Just because someone (in this case the
Armenians) says "we owned this land" does not necessarily make it so. It
is a pity when even very intelligent and fair authors accept such claims at face
hw17.: Prof. Rummel's
"schtick" was in presenting possible figures from a range of different
sources, but simply because he offered 300,000 as the lowest figure did not mean he
believed in it. No, Rummel's "scholarly" conclusion was that 2.1 million
Armenians were "murdered" between 1900-1923, 2 million of whom were
"murdered" between 1914-1918. That's right, every single one of those
2 million Armenians, curiously more Armenians than existed in the entire empire, were all "murdered,"
according to "genocide scholar" Rudy Rummel. (Elsewhere, a contradictory
Rummel conclusion: "Thus, given all these estimates, the Turks murdered most
likely 300,000 to 2,686,000 Armenians, probably 1,404,000 of them.")
“Everyone’s universalism ultimately anchors itself in a particuliar commitment to a
specifically important group of people whose cause is close to one’s heart or
conviction.” Human rights activism “in practice... means taking sides and mobilizing
constituencies powerful enough to force abusers to stop. As a consequence, effective human
rights activism is bound to be partial and political.”
Michael Ignatieff, “Human Rights as Politics,” in Gutman, ed., Human Rights, 3– 52,