TEXT OF LETTER SENT TO LORD TRIESMAN BY RAFFI SARKISSIAN, CRAG CHAIR, 12 AUGUST 2005
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I say unequivocally that what took place was by any standards an atrocity of the first order. The judgment required under the United Nations convention is that it can be demonstrated that a state has intent. That is the element that the lawyers have concluded is not shown in this case. That is why the difference is made. However, that does not alter the fact that every nation responsible for atrocities on such a scale needs to face them, think about them and consider what can be done or said to help to heal some of the wound that was caused, even if some time ago.
Allow me to refer you to the discussion on the 'Armenian Massacres of 1915' at the House of Lords on Thursday, 14 July 2005, as reported in the Lords Hansard. Baroness Cox had asked Her Majesty's Government 'whether they will reconsider their position with regard to the recognition of the Armenian massacres of 1915 as genocide.'
During the discussion, Your Lordship made the above-referenced statement. As Chair of the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Great Britain (CRAG), I respectfully take serious exception to the opinion that a state of intent has not been shown by Ottoman Turkey in the Armenian massacres, and that the criteria of the UN Convention of 1948 are therefore inapplicable to this particular case.
Over the past number of years, there has been an indisputable archive of resolutions by different Parliaments, including the European Parliament, that have plainly qualified the Armenian massacres as 'genocide'. Moreover, reputable think tanks, such as the New York based International Center for Transitional Justice, have affirmed in their judgments that the Armenian case fulfilled the criteria of genocide as expressed in the 1948 Convention. Ambassadors and Consuls who were serving in Ottoman Turkey at the time of the perpetrated genocide, not least those of America as well as Germany and Austria (who were two allies of Turkey during WWI), are on record for having spoken out clearly and loudly about the intent with which those barbarities were committed against Armenians.
Furthermore, Reports such as those of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (Whittaker Report) of 1985 and The Permanent People's Tribunal of 1984, underlined clearly the state of mind that was synonymous to intent in the wilful commission of those massacres. The UN Report on Genocide 1985 writes for instance, that the acts committed against the Armenians meet the definition of genocide given in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide . Might I also refer you to the unequivocal statements by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the published Statement by 126 Holocaust Scholars about the Armenian Genocide as well as Turkish, UK-based and international historians and lawyers, academicians, sociologists, writers and the press - such as the New York Times at the time that wrote its headlines on the plight of Armenians - asserting the genocide.
Finally, we refer Your Lordship to 'The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916', as authored by James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, and published by Her Majesty's Government. This Blue Book documents eye-witness accounts of those atrocities, and it therefore becomes poignant for all Armenians that an esteemed Member of the House of Lords, who is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, would dispute the never-ending sources of reference - British and international - about this genocide. Lords Archer of Sandwell, Howell of Guildford and Avebury referred to topical instances where present-day Turkey cancelled conferences and dismissed publications that shed light on this genocide and instead maintained its denial of any atrocity with a blend of arrogance and pretext. Lord Avebury further referred to the current list of 400 bibliographical references on the Armenian Genocide.
The Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide, a representative body on genocide for the Armenian Community and Church Council, takes great exception when political expediency let alone scholarly languor impede the way of the truth, obfuscate the facts and delay closure of this chapter. How much longer will the world hear the standard reply that the facts do not bear out a qualification of genocide, when the 'bibliography' remains so vast?
As loyal British citizens, we Armenians remain confident that our Government will assume its responsibility of reminding Turkey that it cannot aspire to join the European school of nations whilst denying history. Indeed, at a time when the topic of human rights has assumed centre point again, it is perhaps high time that the Armenian case of human rights is also taken on board and that the Armenian Genocide is recognised by Turkey once and for all so that Armenians, Turks and the European Union could all move forward in building a peaceful future for Europe let alone the wider world.
I would be ready to meet with Your Lordship and to share with you our folder of quotations, resolutions, statements and facts that validate the truth, counter the denial and confirm the intent behind the genocide. After all, Armenians are not asking what they are not owed; rather what they have earned from history.
With kind regards.