The Armenian Bar Association has released the following statement regarding last Thursday’s attack on activists at Camp Armen.
THE STATEMENT OF THE ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION CONCERNING CERTAIN EVENTS AT CAMP ARMEN IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY
With grave concern, the Armenian Bar Association has learned that members of the Nor Zartonk Youth Movement, who were protecting the property of Camp Armen in the Tuzla District of Istanbul, Turkey, were beaten by unidentified assailants on Thursday, August 13, 2015.
The Armenian Bar Association— the largest organization of judges, law academics, lawyers and other legal professionals of Armenian descent in the diaspora—demands that Turkish civil authorities ensure the complete safety of the peaceful protestors at Camp Armen and immediately conduct a thorough, public investigation into these beatings in order to bring the responsible parties to justice. Frankly, neither the failure to prevent further physical violence against peaceful protestors nor an apathetic investigation into the incidents will be excusable.
To be clear, the Armenian Bar Association stands in firm solidarity with the Nor Zartonk Youth Movement as it seeks to prevent yet another unlawful taking of Armenian private property by the Turkish State. Indeed, the State’s attempt to take the Camp Armen property is in clear violation of several international treaties of which Turkey is a signatory.
First, the Treaty of Lausanne guarantees Turkish nationals belonging to Greek, Jewish and Armenian minorities “an equal right to establish, manage and control at their own expense, any charitable, religious and social institutions, any schools and other establishments for instruction and education, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion freely therein.” See Section III, Article 40. The treaty further provides that no official action by the state shall interfere or prevail over Turkey’s obligations under the treaty. Id. at Section III, Article 37. The Turkish State’s attempts to take Armenian private property at Camp Armen, therefore, plainly violates its legal obligations under the Treaty of Lausanne.
Moreover, the actions of the Turkish State are contrary to its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention guarantees the right to property and provides, in no unclear terms: “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.” See Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. The Turkish State’s actions regarding Camp Armen are a blatant insult to its explicit legal commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The facts clearly establish that the property upon which Camp Armen sits is owned by the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation. Members of the church, of course, are minorities within the plain meaning of Section III of the Lausanne Treaty. The taking of the Foundation’s property is thus a patent infringement both of the Church’s right to exercise its religious freedom as guaranteed by the Lausanne Treaty and its private property rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is crucial to note that there is no justifiable basis for the actions taken by the Turkish State with respect to Camp Armen—neither the public interest nor national security concerns are implicated. Rather, the taking is purely of a private, commercial nature. Thus, again, the Turkish State is attempting to arbitrarily deprive the Armenian community of its property rights in what has become an epic, ongoing and flagrant affront to the very legal rights Turkey obliged itself to respect under international law. The Turkish State’s inability to honor its own legal obligations—obligations it assumed itself in order to join the civilized order of nations—is appalling, outdone only by its record of more than a century of such targeted dispossessions.
The Armenian Bar Association forcefully condemns the actions of the Turkish State and vehemently demands the complete and immediate restoration of the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation’s property and legal rights to Camp Armen.
Anything short of an immediate, complete restoration only emboldens those who foster hatred toward, and fuel violence against, the Armenian community—as witnessed by the August 13, 2015 beatings.
The Armenian Bar Association urges all diasporan Armenian organizations to join in universal condemnation of the attacks and pledge their unequivocal support for the Nor Zartonk Youth Movement’s cause for justice in the Camp Armen matter.
Only by our unwavering, unified and stalwart stand against each and every deprivation, each and every disenfranchisement, and each and every denial will we finally halt the Turkish State’s unremitting trampling of the rights, dignity and lives of our Armenian people.