ECHR opinion on ruling divided: Int'l Institute for Genocide Studies

ECHR opinion on ruling divided: Int'l Institute for Genocide Studies

PanARMENIAN.Net - International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies issued the following statement on ECHR's ruling of Perincek v. Switzerland case:

“The European Court of Human Rights delivered a Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Perincek v. Switzerland at a public hearing on Thursday, October 15, 2015.

The lead counsel for the NGO Coalition emphasized that the Court’s Judgment "clearly, unanimously, and emphatically confirmed the historical truth" of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. In a divided opinion, the majority of ten judges held that the Swiss judgment against Perinçek’s denial and minimization of these events violated his freedom of speech under the European Convention on Human Rights. However, seven judges, including the President of the Court, held that “the massacres and deportations suffered by the Armenian people constituted genocide is self-evident. The Armenian Genocide is a clearly established historical fact. To deny it is to deny the obvious.” The majority of ten judges also confirmed “the massacres and mass deportations suffered by the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman Empire from 1915 onwards” and only differed in its view that it “has not authority to make legally binding pronouncements” on whether these events “can be characterized as genocide within the meaning of that term under international law”.

Perincek himself did not deny that these atrocities did in fact take place, but simply denied their characterization as “genocide” and blamed the 1.5 Armenian victims for their own fate by portraying them as “traitors” and “aggressors”. The majority found that his statements should not have been penalized by the Swiss courts, because they did not pose a threat to Armenians in Switzerland.

The dissenting opinion of the seven judges, including that of the President, is highly significant, in asking:

Why should criminal sanctions for denial of the characterization of the massacres of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 as “genocide” constitute a violation of freedom of expression, whereas criminal sanctions for Holocaust denial have been deemed compatible with the Convention?

According to Professor Akhavan of McGill University in Canada, “the divided opinion of the Grand Chamber, and the alarming increase in extremist violence in Turkey, is the clearest indication that the question of racist hate speech against Armenians is far from resolved, and that it will require constant vigilance. What is clearly established by the Judgment however, is unanimity among all seventeen judges, that the Armenians did in fact suffer massacres and mass deportations at the hands of the Ottoman Empire from 1915 onwards, irrespective of its legal characterization one way or another.”

The Zoryan Institute and its subsidiary, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, is the first non-profit, international center devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Genocide, Diaspora and Armenia.

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