Robertson, Clooney Issue Statement on ECHR Ruling

Geoffrey Robertson (R) with Amal Clooney (L) at the ECHR Grand Chamber session on the case of Perincek v. Switzerland in January
Geoffrey Robertson (R) with Amal Clooney (L) at the ECHR Grand Chamber session on the case of Perincek v. Switzerland in January

Geoffrey Robertson (R) with Amal Clooney (L) at the ECHR Grand Chamber session on the case of Perincek v. Switzerland in January

LONDON—After the ruling Thursday by the European Court of Human Rights on the Perincek vs. Switzerland case, in which the court maintained the legality of laws criminalizing genocide denial, yet upheld the defendant’s right to freedom of speech, the lead counsels representing Armenia, Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Clooney issued the following statement:

We are pleased that the European Court of Human Rights today endorsed our argument on behalf of the Government of Armenia, which intervened in the case between Dogu Perincek and Switzerland. The decision is a victory for Armenia.

Today the European Court ruled that the applicant’s freedom of speech should not have been restrained because it was not likely to incite violence or racial hatred. Thus Perincek should not have been prosecuted by the Swiss authority because his rant, in the Turkish language, would have had no impact at all on social harmony and race relations in Switzerland.

Armenia intervened in the case for one reason: the lower court had cast doubt on the fact that a genocide against the Armenian people occurred in 1915. As counsel we sought to correct this grave error, and the Grand Chamber has done so. Today’s judgment did not dispute the fact of the Armenian genocide: ten judges said the question should not have been addressed at all whilst seven stated that “the Armenian genocide is a clearly established historic fact”.

The judgment also upholds the Armenians’ right under European law to have their dignity respected and protected, including by recognition of a communal identity forged through suffering from the annihilation of over half their race by the Ottoman Turks (see para 227).

The court’s decision upholding the importance of freedom of expression has important consequences for Turkey, which has the worst record of any state before the European Court on free speech. Turkey can no longer justify prosecuting those like Hrant Dink who are accused of “insulting Turkishness” contrary to article 301 of the Penal Code by writing about the reality of the Armenian genocide. These prosecutions are plainly contrary to the free speech guarantee under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted in the Perincek case. We call on Turkey to abolish article 301 and cease malicious prosecutions pursued on its terms.

Perincek is a provocateur who should not have been made the martyr that he was so keen to become. We note that the Court rejected his demand for 120,000 euro compensation, and awarded him nothing – not even his own legal fees.

This case has already been misrepresented in the British press. For example The Telegraph characterizes the judgment in its headline as being “… a blow to Amal Clooney…”. Ms Clooney and Mr Robertson appeared for Armenia as a third party, which was concerned to ensure that the Armenian genocide was not put in doubt by Europe’s human rights court. They took no position on Perincek’s guilt or innocence. The only ‘blow’ was to the defendant state – i.e. Switzerland, the prosecuting state which they did not represent, and to Turkey which cannot now quote the European Court when it seeks to cast doubt on the Armenian genocide.


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  1. Robert Ajemian said:

    Thank you brave friends of Armenia! Well Done!
    Men come and men go; God sees all and He is not mocked.

  2. Raffi said:

    Am I to believe that Swiss authorities would not prosecute an equally ignorant bigot such as the defendant if he dared deny the veracity of the Holocaust in the Turkish language? The European court should have seized the opportunity to prosecute and shame this racist clown.

  3. Lusik said:

    Everything went as expected: the lower chamber tried to provoke a discussion of the Armenian genocide and the higher chamber ruled in the favor of the provocateur; there was a sensitive fraction (7:10) voting for the criminalization of the denial and someone with last name entitling for truthfulness reminded that Holocaust denial is still in force; the lawyer for the Armenian cause saw a black cat in a black room (but thanks for the try).
    It feels good that the official Armenia showed no special interest or expectations in the ruling. There was always a risk that the process will be turned into a farce. The necessary points were spelled out and it was watched that they all were held. As one of top Armenian officials said, we have to hammer different nail.
    World lords will never stop defecting humanity and nature. This is their fun. It appears that ECHR is highly politicized. For instance, these very days Mr. Tusk shakes the hand of Mr. Erdogan in Turkey. Despite all the harm Mr. Erdogan did to Europe, the ECHR offers a support on “Turkish identity”: if one is a Turk it is O’K for him to say “fat lie” about Armenian genocide; Armenian, on the other hand, has a right to think that there was a genocide. That’s it! Another gift: Bundestag prepares, I believe, his denial of the Armenian genocide in order to facilitate Mr. Tusk’s task.
    So, isn’t it evident that any delay of a genocide recognition is a powerful card? Not the most powerful, but still. Germany knew that Turkey’s sultanate commits massacres. Germany calculated-experimented that the government of Young Turks will act more decisive. So, it gave its green light to Young Turks for the Armenian genocide in WWI. Then Hitler applied same (absolutely same) plan for extermination of the Jews. But Armenians are not Jews. Armenians can’t afford the criminalization. Survivor of genocide would not bother with forcing another to speak under constraint with a fear to be punished for the way one speaks.

  4. Sylva~MD~Poetry said:

    We Say…
    Enough is enough …we had enough
    Lies after lies …
    Denial after denials …
    Confiscation after confiscations …
    We lost our honest, artful race …our lands…
    Till when any human can tolerate endless pains
    Till when we should shout to get our rights …
    Till when our genocided tongues will speak from uncovered graves
    Till when… till when… no patience left…
    No tears left
    Lacrimal ducts are dried …
    Blood stagnated in our dendrites
    Our cardiocytes can’t tolerate more …
    Enough is enough …
    Someone must hear our tortured voices…
    Let them arrive…
    We are waiting for real humans
    Like honest proffesor Robertson and lady Amal clooney to help us …
    And more English M.P’s to feel with us
    To behave like Scottish and Welch honest races…
    And recognize our neglected genocide!

    Sylva Portoian, M.D
    Written instantly
    October 15, 2015