OTTAWA, Canada—On Thursday, Feb. 27, the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) met with Swiss Ambassador to Canada, Ulrich Lehner. The meeting, by request of the ANCC, was to convey to the Swiss ambassador the importance that the Swiss government exercise its right to appeal the European Court of Human Rights’ verdict on genocide denial in Europe, stemming from a case involving a Turkish politician, Dogu Perincek.
ANCC voiced the serious concerns of Armenian-Canadians, and Armenians worldwide, regarding the ECHR’s December 17, 2013, decision that rejected the Swiss court’s 2007 decision to penalize, under Swiss Penal Law, Dogu Perincek’s vehement denial of the Armenian Genocide.
In 2007, Turkish politician Dogu Perincek was convicted by the Federal Court of Switzerland for publicly denying the Armenian Genocide that included his public statement that “the genocide is an international lie.” The ECHR subsequently ruled that it was not a crime for Perincek to publicly deny the Armenian Genocide, contrary to Swiss laws prohibiting denial and other European directives urging states to take a stronger stance in fighting denial of genocide and crimes against humanity.
In an open and frank discussion with the Swiss Ambassador, the ANCC highlighted the gravity of some of the key factual and legal errors in the reasoning of the five to two majority decision of the ECHR decision.
The ANCC urged Switzerland, a nation that has been at the forefront of prohibiting denial of genocide and crimes against humanity in Europe, to keep its principled stance on the matter. “There is ample scholarly and expert opinion that would support Switzerland’s strong grounds to appeal the decision” said ANCC president, Dr. Girair Basmadjian, pointing to the dissenting opinions of two of the seven ECHR judges who heard the case. “The message that Switzerland will be sending to Europe and the world, if it chooses to accept this ECHR verdict and not to appeal it, will not only cause a significant setback to Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian genocide, but it will also be a significant setback to fighting denial of other genocides, and to the prevention of genocides from occurring in the future.”
The decision to request a revision of the ECHR’ decision rests primarily on Switzerland’s Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), headed by Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. The ANCC anticipates that the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and even the Swiss Federal Council, may weigh in on the decision, given the broader legal and political repercussions that this ECHR verdict will have on fighting genocide denial, racism and incitement to hatred in Europe and possibly beyond.