The Test the ECHR Faces

Turkish human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin


BY EREN KESKIN
From Agos

Editor’s Note: Turkish human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin has analyzed the Perinçek v. Switzerland case heard at the European Court of Human Rights in a column piece for the Özgür Gündem newspaper. Keskin states that Perinçek’s words “cannot be construed within the scope of the freedom of expression,” and adds that they “clearly amount to an abetment to crime.” The column piece is below.

Last week, the first hearing of an important case was held at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), widely referred to as “the Doğu Perinçek case.” We, the Human Rights Association, the Truth Justice Memory Centre, and the Toronto-based International Institute for Genocide & Human Rights Studies jointly submitted an application to intervene in the case. Our application was accepted by the ECHR

In other words, we took a stand against Doğu Perinçek in this lawsuit.

As a person who for many years has repeatedly been tried for her thoughts, and has served prison sentences, it is my opinion that Doğu Perinçek’s words cannot be construed within the scope of freedom of expression, and should clearly be considered an abetment to crime.

It was as a result of this abetment that Hrant Dink, Father Santoro and Sevag Şahin Balıkçı were massacred.

Let us recall how Doğu Perinçek and his like acted during the Hrant Dink and Orhan Pamuk cases!

Taking the name of Talat, architect and implementer of the 1915 Genocide, they shamelessly declared themselves “The Talat Pasha Committee.” And it was that committee that made calls for violence outside court hearings. And they gave cause to new deaths, and new crimes.

The day the hearing was held in Strasbourg, we, the Human Rights Association and the Truth Justice Memory Centre, held a press meeting.

Unfortunately, the press did not dedicate much space to our words.

Today, I would like to present some excerpts from the press release we issued that day.

“The denial of the Armenian Genocide, in our land, provokes racist hatred and encourages anti-Armenian sections of society. Neither the ECHR decision, nor the file we submitted as a third party are about the historical reality, or the exact judicial definition of the 1915-1917 massacres. The issue here is that Perinçek’s statements beget racism and discrimination. In this respect, the lawsuit that will be heard on appeal at the Grand Chamber, is of special significance since for the first time, discrimination caused by denial, trivialisation or legitimisation will be addressed in a context other than the Holocaust.

The ECHR decision in favour of Perinçek restricted the scope of denial and discrimination to its impact upon Armenians in Switzerland, and overlooked the direct impact of Perinçek’s words upon the Armenians in Turkey.

The Talat Pasha Committee, of which Doğu Perinçek is also a member, carries out its activities in Turkey. And its intended audience is the society of Turkey. Perinçek’s statement that those who lend an ear to the voice of Armenians will not be permitted, and that they will be put in their place even if they are at the ends of the earth, was aimed at the society of Turkey.

Denial does not simply mean to say ‘The Genocide did not take place’. Denial means the legitimisation of the irredeemable, irrevocable destruction of an entire people.

In brief, the denial of the Genocide, in Turkey, is the most significant and main cause, facilitated by the State, for Armenians to still live under threat.

Denial leads to hatred, and hatred kills.

While we, as human rights defenders, expressed our views in this way, the State and political parties took the side of Doğu Perinçek with all their might.

In their group photograph at the hearing, it was as if Doğu Perinçek, the CHP members of parliament, the AKP members of parliament and the MHP members of parliament were saying ‘We are the Genocide perpetrators of İttihat.’

Now, the ECHR faces a test. Its verdict will either clear the path for racist hatred, or draw a line.

It is an important test!”

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