YEREVAN (Tert.am)—The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Grand Chamber’s judgment in the case of Perincek v. Switzerland reaffirms the standpoint that the Court never gives a carte blanche to any country to question the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide, says Giro Manoyan, the director of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutyun’s (ARF-D) Bureau.
Commenting on the decision’s wording in an interview with Tert.am, Manoyan said he believes that it implies the possibility of a punishment under other conditions.
Mr. Manoyan, the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia, Gevorg Kostanyan, and others’ comments, suggested that Switzerland lost the case of Perincek v. Switzerland, whereas Armenia [a third party in the case] won because none of our statements of question were rejected. But society, in part, thinks just the other way about, particularly that historical justice, at least, didn’t win.
It might have been worse if no changes had been made in the December 2013 judgment by the lower chamber, or the first instance, so to say. But the Grand Chamber changed many things there, making the judgment less dangerous. And it asserted several points, directly or indirectly. A key assertion was that the Court did not say, first of all, that the law in Switzerland [establishing criminal liability for the Armenian Genocide denial] is wrong. What it said was that its application under such conditions and in such a manner is wrong. But it did not practically state that the law is not right. The second important assertion is that while the 2013 judgment called into question the fact of the Armenian Genocide, we do not see that anymore, because at the hearing on January 28, Armenia’s motion was fully satisfied. And what it says about the Armenian Genocide is exactly what our Armenian lawyers said to the Court—that “nobody has given you the right to decide whether or not what happened constituted genocide.” Secondly, it says that the Court does not have such an authority. It was a genocide; the “no” issue is for other criminal courts to decide.
The third important assertion is that that the Armenian people also have a right to live in dignity, based on the same article of the European Court of Human Rights. Hence the Court attempted to find a balance between that right and the right to freedom of speech. And also, it stated implicitly that if there had been speeches for other purposes, particularly hatred, the law could have been enforced, because Article 17 of the same Convention prohibits abuse of freedom of speech. That’s to say, the Court has very specifically examined the case and passed the judgment with a narrow interpretation. Another important fact: regardless of who was for or against it, that’s how the judgment sounds. But I have to note that seven of the seventeen judges were against. And the seven agreed that the judgment was what they characterized as a timid decision. And they raised their objections in a very justified manner. What’s also important is the fact that the president of the Court and three of the senior judges were among the seven. So to sum up, it isn’t stated anywhere that the criminalization of the Armenian Genocide is illegal.
A representative of Switzerland said, speaking to us, that the Swiss court has to think from now on whether or not to apply the law.
Switzerland stated yesterday that it needs six months to first of all study this bulky document to see if it is necessary to make changes in the ways of applying the law.
And if the change is really enacted, will the law which made us so enthusiastic turn out to no longer exist?
On the contrary, the law will thus become more flawless.
After Pope Francis’ mass, almost all the European and international organizations and structures adopted statements condemning the Armenian Genocide. And [that gave] optimism to many with respect to a more positive judgment by the ECHR.
I don’t know why it is perceived that way, because the Pope’s remarks and the recognition by other bodies practically came after that judgment. We have to understand that it wasn’t yesterday that the judgment was passed. Yesterday, it was only delivered. That judgment was passed in January 2015, the day they conducted the hearing. And it was postponed for so long to enable them to prepare the voluminous document comprising [of] 100 pages. And that does not have to do with what the Pope or the other countries said, as the ECHR stated that they “have no authority to make legally binding pronouncements on this point.” I repeat, it is just the other way; it states indirectly that a punishment could have been enforced under other conditions.