Pressure Mounts for Swiss Genocide Recognition

GENEVA–Recalling the steps taken for an official recognition in Switzerland and the more recent developmen’s in France–the author of a Le Temps article asked if the Swiss Parliament would follow the French. In 1995–responding to an inquiry by Swiss parliamentarian Angeline Fankhauser–the Federal Swiss Government had mainly put forward the argument that Switzerland had not signed the UN Genocide Convention yet and has therefore only condemned the "tragic events." The government’s readiness to speed up the process of ratification appeared to be the only action at that time. According to the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman cited in the article–the ratification of the Genocide Convention is likely to take place during the Parliament’s Spring session of 1999.

According to a high ranking Swiss official–the recognition of the Armenian Genocide is not a priority. "Should the strengthening of the military regime in Turkey be supported?" According to the official this step will contribute to the isolation of those in Turkey who aspire for a true democracy.

Another official stated that if Bern recognized the Armenian Genocide–it will negatively affect Swiss commercial interests–citing notably ABB (a huge Swedish-Swiss engineering corporation) in connection with Turkey’s demand of hydraulic turbines. Switzerland is the seventh largest investor in Turkey today and maintains an important position in the Turkish economy. With the Swiss exports of CHF 1.4 billion (trade surplus of 1.1 billion)–Turkey occupies the 13th place on the list of Swiss trading partners.

Referring to the possibility of recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Switzerland–the article quoted the Turkish Ambassador Taner Baytok as saying "I don’t even want to think of it. If Switzerland takes this step–this would have bad repercussions on the relations between our two countries. The one million–often wealthy Armenia’s living in Turkey do not want to stir up the past."

Vahe Gabrache–the President of Union Armenienne de Suisse–brought up the option to pass Genocide bills on a municipal level–should the government try to freeze the situation. This is feared by Swiss parliament member Fankhauser.

Armand Gaspard–a prominent Swiss Armenian scholar noted the Belgian Senate’s example which adopted the Genocide recognition bill on March 26–1998. He also considered juridical possibilities. On April 24–1997 the Association Switzerland-Armenia–together with 12 Swiss and Armenian organizations filed a suit against the Coordination Body of Turkish Associations in Switzerland on the grounds of denial of Genocide. The Swiss anti-racism-law of 1995 forbids a denial of Genocide without specifications.

Francesco Bertossa–the lawyer of the Association Switzerland-Armenia explained that the case is about admitting racist intentions–which are hidden behind the Turkish petition even if the text itself is not overtly racist. The Swiss law system does not question the intent of authors denying the holocaust of the Jews and they are sentenced immediately. If it adopts the same approach toward the anti-Armenian petition–its decision will become a precedent.

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