Switzerland Must Appeal European Court’s Verdict on the Armenian Genocide

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

The European Court of Human Rights issued last week a critical Armenian Genocide-related ruling in the case of Dogu Perincek vs. Switzerland.

Perincek, the leader of a minor Turkish political party, had traveled to Switzerland in 2005 with the intention of daring the Swiss authorities to punish him for denying the Armenian Genocide. He brazenly called the Armenian Genocide an “international lie.”

In response to a criminal complaint filed by the Switzerland-Armenia Association, Perincek was tried and fined for racial discrimination by the Lausanne Police Court in March 2007. A Swiss Appeals Court confirmed his sentence, ruling that he had violated Article 261bis of the Criminal Code. The National Council (parliament) of Switzerland had already recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2003. Perincek then appealed his case to the Federal Tribunal, the highest court in Switzerland, which reconfirmed his sentence.

On June 10, 2008, Perincek appealed his sentence to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming that many of his rights, including freedom of expression, were violated by the Swiss courts. He demanded a compensation of 140,000 euros for moral and financial damages, and court expenses.

On Dec. 17, 2013, the European Court dismissed most of Perincek’s claims (Articles 6, 7, 14, 17, 18 of the European Convention) and rejected his demand for compensation. However, five out of the seven Judges ruled that Switzerland had violated Perincek’s right to free expression (Article 10).

This was a highly unusual ruling since freedom of expression is not an absolute right in European jurisprudence. Many European states impose restrictions on free speech, including imprisonment for denying the Holocaust. Punishing Holocaust denial, while condoning rejection of the Armenian Genocide, is an unacceptable double standard. Either denial of both genocides should be outlawed or neither.

The European Court’s 80-page ruling was not easy to read, not only because it was in French, but more importantly, the five Judges who ruled in Perincek’s favor misinterpreted almost all issues. A whole book could be written to rebut their countless factual mistakes. The Judges misrepresented Perincek’s allegations, Swiss laws and court rulings, facts of the Armenian Genocide and its international recognition, while repeatedly contradicting themselves. To make matters worse, the four-page press release issued by the Registrar of the Court last week further distorted the Court’s verdict, thereby completely confusing the international media about the details of case.

The five Judges who endorsed Perincek’s false accusations were: Guido Raimondi (Italy), Peer Lorenzen (Denmark), Dragoljub Popovic (Serbia), Andras Sajo (Hungary), and Helen Keller (Switzerland). The opposing Judges were: Nebojsa Vucinic (Montenegro) and Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque (Portugal). In a seven-page addendum to the verdict, Judges Raimondi and Sajo contradicted themselves again, while making excuses for ruling in Perincek’s favor. Having raised questions about the veracity of “the Armenian massacres,” after claiming that their task is not to assess the facts of the genocide, the two concurring Judges assert that the destruction of the Armenian people was government-sponsored, thereby acknowledging its genocidal nature. Yet they insisted on referring to the Armenian Genocide as “Mets Yegherrn” (sic) which they translate as “the Grand Crime.” Dissenting Judges Vucinic and Pinto de Albuquerque, on the other hand, attached to the verdict their 19-page well-researched comprehensive report on the Armenian Genocide. This valuable study should be translated into several major languages and disseminated worldwide.

More urgently, Armenian government officials and major diaspora organizations have asked the Swiss government to appeal the European Court’s fallacious verdict to its 17-judge Grand Chamber before the 90-day deadline. Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan has called on Armenians worldwide to protest the Court’s verdict by contacting their governments and sending letters of complaint to the Court. The Armenian National Committee in Europe pledged to take all necessary measures to object to the Court’s ruling, urging Switzerland to file an appeal.

If left unchallenged, the European Court’s ruling would have a chilling effect not only on efforts to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide in other European countries, particularly France, but more importantly, on the forthcoming Centennial of the Genocide. The Court’s verdict, as it stands, is an endorsement of the denialist stance of both Turkey and Perincek, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Turkish jail for engaging in criminal activity! Turkey had directly intervened in this case by submitting extensive testimony to the European Court. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a bold statement shamelessly applauding the Court’s verdict and boasting about its support for freedom of expression! Under Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code, telling the truth about the Armenian Genocide is a crime, while in Switzerland lying about the Genocide is an offense!

For the sake of truth and justice, it is imperative that the Swiss government appeal the Court’s verdict and not succumb to Turkish political and economic pressures.

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12 Comments

  1. ARA said:

    well- the Turks must have sent them judges some special harem gals for their services and $$ too I bet. they all eat dirt-we can survive through defence and offence-not the words of some idiots in turk culture like him and non erudite so caleed justices put there like some nuts we got in the USA too-in courts i mean-OVERPAID AND over rated-jerks

  2. sam said:

    did i read the human rights court above?what human and what rights you are talking about.they are talking about freedom of expression .while all the butchered armenians are not around to defend themselves and express their own expression to this inhuman act of genocide that was committed by the turks,i said it before and i will say it again and again that the europeans are not our friends and never will be.the history tells us though.they never helped us in any cause they never gave us the promise land they are still denying the genocide.that they were part of it [germans and french and english,don;t forget their war ships won;t climb mount ararat,].however lets not forget in 50 years will be no longer europe because their countries will be hijacked by the invading foreighners and soon will convert to stans i already noticing it be patient my friends .at least in armenia we are 98 percent armenians.

  3. john said:

    Europe is a slave to Azeri oil and the French have investments in Azeri oil. Why is it that the Holocaust deniers are so heavily punished but an Armenian Genocide denier gets away with it. It is simply a matter of money. Armenians need to stop stabbing each other in the back, help each other out, raise more money for political causes and be more united. I wish that Kim Kardashian(only 1/4 Armenian,1/4 Irish ,1/4 Iraqi Arab and 1/4 German) would retire because she is helping the Turks alot by ruining the Armenian reputation.It would not hurt for some Armenians to win a couple of important scientific awards and even the Nobel Prize. The Jews have excelled in that area and that has done alot to improve their reputation and power.

  4. john said:

    Denmark, Italy and Hungary are extremely corrupt countries. Remember Mr. Burlesconi and his sex trial and all his mafia connections. Hungarians are half Turk anyway.Denmark is a pretty screwed up place. Serbia (our beloved Orthodox Brothers) has angry regarding discussions between Armenia, the NKR and Kosovo over mutual recognition of each other eventhough in reality, the NKR has always been Armenian and in reality, Kosovo has always been Serbian so they really are not similar disputes at all.

  5. Hrant K. said:

    Armenian lawyers in Switzerland and Europe have to act rapidly and counter this misinterpretation!!!

  6. GeorgeMardig said:

    The West is bankrupt in their values, Oil and Gas overtook their core values, all they are interested is how to screw the relations between Russia and Armenia, and stop advancing Russian influence in the area, they did it in 1915 they are doing it now, the history is repeating itself

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  9. Setrak Melkonian said:

    Dear Mr. Sassounian, I wonder why journalist like you has to wait for the verdict of court to write an article criticizing both the decision of the court and Mr. Perincek point of view regarding Armenian Genocide. Mr. Perincek is Turkish and he is doing his job as required from his superiors in Turkey and in return Turkish government (NATO country) will do anything to save him from the accusations, it is very clear they have done the job by putting tremendous pressure in order to get the result as they wanted, court dismissed all charges against him and set the denier of Armenian Genocide free. Of course this is not fair for all Armenians and justice didn’t serve its purpose as we all naively expecting. But the real question that I would very much like to ask you Mr. Sassounian, why an intellectual person like you did not calculate the decision of court? Before court decision by simply using the words WHAT IF the court dismiss all charges on Mr. Perincek? and this might lead to (quotation from your article) “If left unchallenged, the European Court’s ruling would have a chilling effect not only on efforts to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide in other European countries, particularly France, but more importantly, on the forthcoming Centennial of the Genocide. The Court’s verdict, as it stands, is an endorsement of the denialist stance of both Turkey and Perincek, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Turkish jail for engaging in criminal activity! Turkey had directly intervened in this case by submitting extensive testimony to the European Court. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a bold statement shamelessly applauding the Court’s verdict and boasting about its support for freedom of expression! Under Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code, telling the truth about the Armenian Genocide is a crime, while in Switzerland lying about the Genocide is an offense”! you write an article about this specific case after court decision it sound like AYRADZ SRDI K***D MKHITARANK, whereas you write it before the court decision sharing about your thoughts it would sound more constructive criticism and an indirect advice to our azkayin leaders as well, and they would have taken some sort of actions regarding this matter before it had gotten complicated as it is now. Why wait? we know who is our enemy and we also know how do they thing and what they will try to do just to mislead and to put tremendous pressure on everyone who is involved in this specific matter and to get the result that they want, which is what happened they simply won the case and we lost it, and now we need to fight back. On international political arena they are always one step ahead of us, while we are sleeping they are awake and in very alert situation they are standing on guard to confront us from four corners about any matter that is related directly with Armenian Genocide. I think journalist like you and other Armenian journalists need to use their “weapons” ink and their expertise in this sensitive matter to all of us by using the words WHAT IF? For example WHAT IF Turkey would not apologize, WHAT If Turkey completely denies the fact of Armenian Genocide, and WHAT IF we lose the battle on political ground, so on and so forth; THEN what will happen you tells us in your next articles. Most of us have had enough reading and hearing rewritten stories about Armenian Genocide, we need articles to enlighten us about the future of Armenian Cause, an article to ring a bell and make our leaders to take precocious steps before it’s too late. THANK YOU

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