02 June 2006

712) The Analysis of the Alleged Armenian Genocide from the Legal and ethical Perspectives

'Genocide' is a crime whose frame was drawn by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. According to the Convention individuals commit this crime, not states. The decision of whether a genocide crime committed or not cannot be decided by the parliaments, senates or municipality councils, but the authorised courts. According to the Convention, the court, which is authorised for such a trial, is the country where the crime was committed, furthermore if the two sides agree that the case can be brought to an international criminal court. If there is a disagreement among the sides on the interpretation and implementation of the Convention, one of them may bring the case to the International Court of Justice.

Some national, regional or province assemblies, although they are not authorised, took decisions stating that the Ottomans committed genocide against the Armenians, its own citizens in 1915. Turkey must consider taking the dispute to international courts (International Justice Court etc.) in order to confirm that these assemblies have no right and qualification to take such decisions, which are against the Convention and rules of international law.

Although those assemblies are not authorised, they took decisions which blame the Turks of massacring the Armenians. The main aim of these decisions are to isolate Turkey from the European political system; to assure support of the Armenian electors in elections; to restrain Turkey by using the political tools and gain some political advantages which cannot be taken by using legal instruments. It is understood that having passed these resolutions the Armenians and their supporters would demand territories and compensation from Turkey for the 1915 events. In this framework, the Armenian Republic clearly showed its real intention by annulling the border agreements with Turkey and by naming some Turkish provinces as 'Western Armenia'. Nevertheless some Western assemblies recognised the Armenian claims without considering international law and historical realities; the European Parliament for instance accepted a partisan report although it had been refused by its Political Commission.
Another point is that there is no similarity between the Jewish Holocaust and the 1915 events. First of all, the Jews did not declare war against the German state or did not organise armed bands and did not attack civil people and the state. However, the Ottoman Armenians, contrary to the German Jews, rioted in order to establish a separate and independent Armenian state in the Eastern Ottoman provinces although they were not in majority. They declared war against their own state, and they demanded war status in the Sévres Conference. Secondly, the Ottoman State did not implement a systematic ethnic cleansing policy against the Armenians, but made extreme efforts to protect the Armenian and other civilians from the war's bad effects.

It is true that many Armenians were forced to emigrate from the war theatre to more secure regions, and some of them died during the relocation. This is not due to a state policy but to bad health conditions, transportation problems and the poor security circumstances. In addition, many Turkish and Armenian civilians killed each other in some provinces. Despite these, not all of the Armenians in the other Ottoman provinces were forced for relocation, and this proves that the relocation policy was not intended to destroy group as mentioned in the UN convention on genocide.

A number of the Ottoman officials were sent to court after the war, and some of them were sentenced, for they did not protect the Armenians under their protection. On the other hand some of high rank in Ottoman officials were deported to Malta by the British to be judged. However there was not enough evidence for a trial and they were set free.

Moreover, it must be noted that, although 'genocide' is a legal concept, there is a conceptual anarchy about the concept of 'genocide' as the word is used in ethic and in everyday life with a different meaning from its legal concept.

Each society has different ethic values and these values are relative. It is impossible to talk about a universal set of the ethical values. That is why different individuals and societies perceive the 1915 events differently. Second, history writing is subjective, and some historians do not prefer to write all dimensions of history but select and write only those, which support their claims or comments, and they do not prefer to quote those, which do not support their arguments. That is why, solely referring the problem to history can not solve the problem. Furthermore it is not a credible argument that accepting 'Armenian genocide' is educative for society or it is a critical approach to history.

It should not be expected that those who experienced the tragic events would forget them. However respecting only one of the sides' agony and sufferings and ignoring the pains of the other side and not to neglect some parts of the history is not acceptable. Mutual killings must be seen as a whole and historians and politicians must not select some parts of history, but see all of the dimensions. In this context, in addition to the tragedy of the Ottoman Armenians who were forced to be relocated and lost their life, the tragedy of the Ottoman Muslims, who suffered from these events, should not be ignored; necessary conditions must be secured not to repeat the past's tragic event; the Armenian Republic must abandon publicaly its territorial claims from Turkey; the rich cultural links between the Turkish and the Armenian societies, which connect two societies, should be strengthened in order to lessen the tension; and finally it must be understood that nobody can reach any solution by only provocating Turkey or blaming the Turks of the so-called genocide, which has no legal base and is against the Convention. Apart from this, a dialogue platform where the opposite arguments can be presented in an environment of tolerance may contribute to heal the damages in two societies regarding the 1915 events.

In this context, all necessary measures must be taken to protect from material or moral damage the Turkish Armenians who have given priority to defend Turkish Republic's interest and honour.

By Retired Ambassador Pulat TACAR*
* UNESCO, Vice President of Turkish National Comission -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 2, June-July-August 2001


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