Mr. Fein and the Ignorance of Genocide Law

Note: This article is about a salaried Armenian Genocide denier and is a reminder to all Armenian Americans that the community needs the political strength to effectively fight any and all genocide deniers. Your contribution to the ANCA Endowment Fund is one of the best ways to help preserve our fighting strength.

bruce_fein_chennai_max_75697_445Despite boisterously misleading opposition from the so-called Turkish American Legal Defense Fund (TALFD) and its attorney in chief Bruce Fein, the California Senate Committee on Education unanimously – 8 to 0 – passed the Genocide Awareness Bill during its meeting on April 29, 2009. The bill, authored by Senator Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad), in essence, provides that the California Curriculum Commission consider and vote on whether or not to include oral histories about genocides as a requirement for high school graduation.

With this committee approval, the bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Upon its final adoption by the legislature, the bill will be added as Section 33543 to California Education Code.

As the bill embarks upon its legislative course, it is interesting to note the flawed and unprincipled contentions made at the Senate Education Committee hearing by the so-called TALFD legal representative Bruce Fein in opposition to this educational measure. In his testimony before the Committee, he said, “This is not a proper educational characterization to make when there is [sic] two sides to a proposition.”

With his convoluted logic, Mr. Fein was suggesting by this statement that Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is not denial but a valid proposition that should be given serious consideration. And to convince the committee members that the “proposition” of the Turkish side is sound and legitimate, he explained:

“This is not accurate to suggest that the genocide is something that is as clear as the force of gravity. And indeed, genocide is specifically defined in the [United Nations] Genocide Convention of 1948 that has been ratified by the United States Senate.”

Yet, Mr. Fein failed to realize his own contradiction: How can genocide not be “as clear as the force of gravity” yet be “specifically defined” in the Genocide Convention? To explain away this contradiction, he attempted to impress the committee members that the massacres in Cambodia and Darfur are not considered as genocide, because their perpetrators are not being tried under the Genocide convention but as perpetrators of crimes against humanity or war crimes. Why? Because, according to him, these massacres are not “as clear as the force of gravity” – hence not genocide. So, the United Nations, the Congress, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have all erred by referring to these crimes as genocide.

Since genocide is not “as clear as the force of gravity” and since the Genocide Convention specifically defines it, the Armenian Genocide claims are to be doubted as well, according to Mr. Fein’s logic.

Let us not forget. Mr. Fein is an experienced lawyer. He has even served as associate deputy attorney general from 1981 to 1982 under President Ronald Reagan. So, one must assume that he knows a thing or two about the Genocide Convention. But does he?

Raphael Lemkin, who was the earliest proponent of the Genocide Convention, coined the term ‘genocide’ in 1944. In substantiation of this terminology, he invoked the Armenian case as a definitive example of genocide in the 20th century. Lemkin described this crime as the “systematic destruction of a whole national, racial or religious groups. The sort of thing that Hitler did to the Jews and the Turks did to the Armenians.”

Following Lemkin’s propositions, the United Nations enacted on December 11, 1946, its first resolution on Genocide, known as U.N. General Assembly Resolution 95(1). Thereafter, on December 9, 1948, it adopted the United Nations Genocide Convention. Both the resolution and the convention recognized the Armenian Genocide as the type of crime the United Nations intended to prevent by codifying the existing customary international rules and standards.

Again in 1948, the U.N. War Crimes Commission invoked the Armenian Genocide as being “precisely . . . one of the types of acts which the modern term ‘crimes against humanity’ is intended to cover as a precedent for the Nuremberg tribunals.”

The 1985 report of the UN Commission on Human Rights, entitled ‘Study of the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,’ invoked the Armenian massacres as an example of genocide. In the report, the U.N. commission stated, “the Nazi aberration has unfortunately not been the only case of genocide in the twentieth century. Among other examples, which can be cited as qualifying, are . . . the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916.”

Evidently, the Armenian Genocide meets all the elements of the crime of genocide as defined by the UN Genocide Convention.

The provisions of the Genocide Convention are also enforceable retroactively. They are applicable to any crime of genocide, irrespective of the time of its commission. Furthermore, the November 26, 1968 UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of the Statutory Limitation on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity eliminated any time bar on the crime of genocide.

In the face of Mr. Fein’s mistreatment of the Genocide Convention, one is reminded of the Latin maxim “Ignorantia juris non excusat”, to wit, “ignorance of the law does not excuse” – not even when you are a former U.S. associate deputy attorney general and heftily paid to deny the Armenian Genocide.


Editor’s Note: Seto Boyadjian is an attorney and member of the national board of the Armenian National Committee America.


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