In 1996, Professor Gregory Stanton proposed a formula that seeks to identify the different elements that ultimately lead to the crime of genocide. Surprisingly, genocide is not the final and ultimate stage of his ten stage formula. Denial of genocide is. Denial by the perpetrators, whether by words or by taking active steps to cover their acts. However, it could also be argued that this denial may also manifest itself in different ways, including through intimidation and pressure on others not to recognize the atrocities. Indeed, many states would hesitate to raise the issue of state authorized or facilitated genocide if there were concerns about diplomatic relationships.
Flowers are seen on the portraits of victims during a memorial to commemorate the Armenian genocide on April 24, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to mark the 103rd anniversary of the slaughter of up to 1.5million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. (Photo credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Indeed, as emphasized by Geoffrey Robertson QC, this was one of the UK Government’s concerns when considering the question of the Armenian genocide. The Armenian genocide took place between 1915 and 1923 when 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were arrested, deported or murdered by the Ottoman Empire. Currently, some 32 countries recognize the events as genocide. The UK Government’s argument for not recognizing the Armenian genocide as genocide was that “investigating, analyzing and interpreting history is a matter for historians.”
Thankfully, other states have taken a more sensible approach to the issue and have moved to actively counter the genocide denial. Indeed, only a few days ago, the US Senate voted unanimously to recognize the atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman empire, against the Armenians as genocide, despite opposition from Trump Administration.
The US Senate resolution clearly states that the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 was genocide. The resolution recognises that the Ottoman Empire perpetrated genocide against Middle Eastern Christian communities, including Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians. It further added that it is the policy of the US:
“(1) to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance;
(2) to reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide; and
(3) to encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the role of the United States in humanitarian relief efforts, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.”
The move from the US Senate comes only a couple of months after the US House of Representatives passed a resolution with the same message.
The formal recognition of historic cases as genocide is not a matter of semantics. Such a formal recognition is crucial for survivors and their families in their efforts to move on. It is crucial for reconciliation and discovery of the truth. Is it crucial to deter similar crimes in the future. It sends a clear message of solidarity with the targeted communities. Denial can only achieve the opposite.
Other states should follow and make a clear statement of recognition of the Armenian genocide. It is shameful that, a century after the Armenian genocide was unleashed, just 32 states have formally recognized the atrocities as genocide (apart from a few international actors including the European Parliament and Council of Europe, and civil society groups). This does not give much hope to other, more contemporary cases of genocide.
However, there is something to be learned from the perseverance of the Armenian communities. They continue to campaign to have the atrocities recognized as genocide. Their persistence shows that the importance of such a formal recognition for their community and collective history. Genocide denial does not have a place in 21st century. Any such denial by states means that they value politics more than human lives and human dignity of those targeted by genocidal regimes.
Ewelina U. Ochab is a legal researcher and human rights advocate, and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” Ochab works on the topic of persecution of minorities around the world, with main projects including Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram atrocities in West Africa, and the situation of religious minorities in South Asia. Ochab has written over 30 UN reports (including Universal Periodic Review reports) and has made oral and written submissions at the Human Rights Council sessions and the UN Forum on Minority Issues. Ochab is currently working on her PhD in international law, human rights and medical ethics. Ochab authored the initiative and proposal to establish the UN International Day Commemorating Victims and Survivors of Religious Persecution. The initiative has led to the establishment of the UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on August 22. Follow @EwelinaUO Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
Copyright 2019 Forbes