Armenian Government Rejects ARF Bill Criminalizing Genocide Denial

Legislation Aimed at Curbing Consequences of Turkey’s Historical Commission


YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A key committee of the National Assembly effectively rejected on Friday a proposal by the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation to criminalize public statements denying that the Armenian Genocide.

Armenia’s Criminal Code already carries heavy fines and up to four years’ imprisonment for public denial of genocides and “other crimes against humanity.” An amendment tabled by the ARF last month would extend the maximum punishment to five years and apply it to anyone “denying, playing down, approving or justifying the genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia.”

The bill is directly connected with the recent agreements to normalize Armenia’s relations with Turkey that have been strongly condemned by the party. They ARF says it is specifically directed against a Turkish-Armenian “subcommission” of historians envisaged by one of the agreements.

The commission would be tasked with studying the extermination of the Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenian population. The ARF and other critics of the deal say the very existence of such a body would call into question the fact of the genocide, a claim denied by Armenia’s authorities.

In a written opinion submitted to the Armenian parliament committee on legal affairs this week, the Ministry of Justice objected to the ARF bill and essentially upheld the existing Criminal Code clause relating to genocide denial. The committee on Friday postponed the bill’s consideration by at least two months, meaning that the proposed amendment will not reach the parliament floor before February.

The committee chairman, David Harutiunian, made no secret of his strong opposition to the measure, saying that it would create “extremely serious problems” in the ongoing Turkish-Armenian negotiations. He said its passage would lead the Turkish authorities to resume heavy enforcement of a controversial law that makes it a crime to “insult the Turkish nation.” The law, superficially amended last year, has been used in the prosecution of prominent Turks who have questioned the official Turkish version of the events of 1915.

Harutiunian also argued that amendment drafted by the ARF was unnecessary because “Armenia’s position on this issue is so strong that we don’t need any additional tools of defense in the shape of criminal liability,” the former justice minister said at a committee meeting. “The stronger party doesn’t need such tools.”

“I don’t see that confidence about our strength,” Vahan Hovannisian, the leader of the ARF faction in the parliament, countered, referring to President Serzh Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy towards Turkey. He said the October 10 signing of the Turkish-Armenian protocols in Zurich was “a sign of weakness” on the part of Yerevan.


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  1. Dino Ajemian said:

    The turks have these laws to maintain their ethos. They strengthen their ethos while we undermine ours. Only an iron fist can protect a nation from ideas that are detrimental to the cause of the nation. Can we include the love of listening to turkish music as a crime against Armenianness? Those who love turkish music are easily capable of any crime against the Armenian nation and the tenets of our Ethos.

  2. Serop said:

    I’m not surprised, are any of you? Harutiunian’s logic is flawed as its based on the false premise that Turkey’s enforcement of its archaic anti-free speech laws are weakening. There’s no evidence of this. Enforcement of such restrictive articles against insulting Turkey’s fascist regime (oops…) is only gaining more prominence.

    There’s no question the signing of the protocols clearly attest to a weak and pathetic display of Armenia’s so called diplomatic tact.

  3. Grish Begian said:

    It seems to me that Turks do not like Raphael Lemkin’s word of  ”Genocide”,  so they decided to come up for a new “discovery word” with the help of Mr. Sarkisian. Turks willing to defend their famous Turkish penal code “301”.

  4. Hratch Der Stepanian said:
    If you go to the website above, you will see that a gentleman who is quoted regularly in the media, Mr. Alexander Iskandaryan, director of the so called Caucasus Media Institute in Yerevan, funded by “foreign sources”, has denied the Armenian Genocide in publications. He lives in Armenia and nothing has been done about it. Ararat Center for Strategic Research, an NGO, has filed a lawsuit in Armenia against this denialist. ARF should help this organization if they are serious about punishing Armenian denialists among us who have alternate motives. An example has to be set to stop this kind of blatant behavior or we will see these types of acts more and more.

  5. B. Baronian said:

    As a nation, we all need to remember who the enemy is…. The enemy, in spite of his/her belief, is not a fellow Armenian…. We all need to grow up and stand together in solidarity in order to face and defeat the outside forces who want to see our nation disappear…  
    BTW, to begin with, I would suggest the ARF change its name to something more suitable and in tune with current times

  6. Sammy said:

    I am not at all surprised, considering that the “government” of Armenia and the Armenian people have nothing in common. I am only wondering when we will purge this evil out of our lands.