Armenian FM Addresses UN Commission on Human Rights

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian addressed the 61st session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on March 15. On May 3–2001–the UN’s Economic and Social Council elected 14 new members to three-year terms on the UN Human Rights Commission–of which Armenia won one of those 14 seats.

Oskanian explained that Armenia’s membership in the Commission is not simply an organizational matter–but rather "is as much a product of our sense of responsibility as of our deep–immediate daily awareness that individual human rights–the basic human rights of a society–and individual and collective security are all inextricably–inarguably–expressly inter-connected."

For Armenia’s–he said "the human rights principle–the concept of man’s inalienable rights touches a raw nerve…We spent the greatest part of the last century under a regime that endured solely because of the absence of human rights. Immediately prior to that period–we had the dubious honor of being the century’s first victims of genocide. At the end of the century–we were still fighting to secure the rights of the Armenia’s of Nagorno Karabagh."

Oskanian then focused on Genocide and the issue of Karabagh’s self-determination. He explained that for Armenia’s–"As a minority–living in the Ottoman Empire–their call for the application of the lofty principles of liberty–equality and fraternity–led to their death sentence. Today–their survivors–living within and outside the Republic of Armenia–expect that the world’s avowal of the universality of those same noble principles will lead to recognition that Genocide was committed against Armenia’s."

Referring to recent calls by the Turkish leadership for a historical debate–the Minister reiterated Armenia’s readiness for dialogue. "Let’s not confuse the two kinds of dialogue," he said. "One is a debate about history. The other is a political discussion. Periodic calls by various Turkish administrations for historical debate simply delay the process of reconciling with the truth."

On the struggle of the people of Karabagh for self-determination–the Minister remarked–"Ironically–Mr. Chairman–even as societies have learned to support the victims of domestic violence–we have not yet graduated to offering the same support to victims of international or government violence. At best–the world watches silently as the victims attempt to defend themselves–and if somehow–against great odds–they succeed–then the world quickly pulls back–as the state loudly cries foul and claims sovereignty and territorial integrity… Just as the perpetrator of domestic violence loses the moral right to custody–so then–does a government that commits and promotes violence against its own citizens lose its rights. It is in such instances that the notion of self-determination is significant and legitimate."

Oskanian concluded his remarks saying–"Mr. Chairman–for us–defense and protection of human rights is not an abstract principle. It is the difference between survival and annihilation. We believe it is the same for many in the world. Yet–our individual and collective tendency is to ignore or neglect problems for which we have no immediate answer or prospect for solution. This is even truer in situations which defy belief–surpass common norms–and shake our very assumptions and values. For these very reasons–in our ever-shrinking world–what is required is resolve on the part of the committed in order to expand the engagement of those still hesitant."

On the sidelines of the Commission’s annual meeting–Oskanian met with Dimitri Rupel–Slovenia’s Foreign Minister and Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He also met with the Foreign Minister of Finland Laila Freivalds–President of the ICRC Jacob Kellenberger–and Director General of the Geneva’s office of the United Nations Sergei Orjonikidse.

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