Genocide Bill Submitted to Swiss Parliament

BERN–Switzerland–A fresh initiative for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide is going submitted on March 20–in the large chamber of the Swiss parliament–the National Council–Association Switzerland-Armenia reported.

The bill is authored by Geneva Christian Democrat Jean-Claude Vaudroz and has support from all major and most minor political parties. It is co-signed by 115 out of 201 members of the parliament–and is expected to easily pass the voting which should take place earliest during the June 2002 session.

Presented under the form of a "postulate" (non binding plea of the parliament addressed to the government)–it says: "The National Council recognizes the Armenian Genocide of 1915. It asks the government–to take notice of this recognition and to convey it through the regular diplomatic channels."

The grounds given are that the murder of over one million Armenia’s during the WW I is a undeniable historical fact–which also contributed to Raphael Lemkins definition of the crime of genocide–and Switzerland can give an important sign to the survivors of the genocide and their descendants and underline its commitment to Human Rights and to international criminal law–and its respect for minorities.

It is also reminded that several governmen’s and international organizations–notably the sub commission to the UN Commission on Human Rights and the European Parliament have recognized the genocide – recently followed by the Swiss Canton of Geneva. Furthermore–the National Council has already transferred a petition of the Association of Opponents to Genocide (composed of Turks) to the government asking it to "discuss the Armenian Genocide" with its Turkish interlocutors. A formal recognition is only the next logical step.

The bill concludes–"This new bill is also a contribution for durable peace between Turks and Armenia’s–prerequisite to which is that both peoples share a view based on historical truth."

In a press conference organized jointly by Association Switzerland – Armenia and the Society for Menaced Peoples (SMP)–Jean-Claude Vaudroz stressed that this is an act of rendering justice–and that denial is an insult to the memory of the victims. The bill is in line with Swiss humanitarian tradition–and he reminded that Switzerland had signed the UN convention on genocide and that it just became a member of the UN.

Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold (Social Democrat–Lucerne)–president of the SMP–and a long standing champion of human rights causes–said that as a member of Switzerland’s delegation to the European Council–she had a focus on the transcaucasian republics. She described her many trips to Armenia–where she observed that despite the economical hardships of the population–she is regularly asked when Switzerland will finally recognize the genocide. This is an important topic; as for Armenia’s it is about symbolically burying their dead. Armenia’s also had difficulty in understanding last Septembers court decision–she added–where Turkish representatives were acquitted for their denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Sarkis Shahinian from Association Switzerland Armenia commented that the judge had explicitly stated that there is overwhelming evidence of genocide but that he could not go further than parliament on this issue. It is therefore up to the parliamentarians to clarify their stance.

Turkish journalist and human rights defender Yelda Ozcan said for her this recognition is important–it is a question of justice.

In a written address–the president of the Federal Commission against Racism–professor of history–Georg Kreis–wrote: "This is not about whether the Armenian Genocide took place–because that’s a historical fact. It is rather about how we position ourselves.

"As a historian–I welcome this initiative against forgetting and repression–against ignorance and indifference.

"As a citizen–I expect our parliament to make a political statement. It is not enough to condemn genocide in general. Truth is always concrete. A sincerely meantengagement requires that also in an uncomfortable reality–things are named by what they are.

"As the president of the Federal Commission against Racism–it is important to me that the connections between racism and genocide are recognized. Denial of genocide is tantamount to a posthumous minimization of murderous racism. Furthermore–those who deny what happened commit just another aggression against the victims–because they call the painful memory of the victim the product of a lie."

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