Recognition of the Armenian Holocaust and Its Legal Implications — 100 years later
Av professor OVE BRING1
This paper deals with the issue of genocidal intent to the massacres in Anatolia during World War I. The available evidence indicates that the Ottoman Government was guilty of orchestrating a crime of genocide, as later defined by the United Nations Convention on the subject. On the other hand, due to legal norms of prescription, it is not possible anymore to apply principles of state responsibility to the Republic of Turkey. Thus, there is no legal duty to pay compensation today. However, it would be possible to require restitution of illegally seized property. The post-1915 possession of such property could be seen as a continuous violation of law that would make the norm of prescription irrelevant. As to ex gratia compensation and reconciliation, a way forward in future negotiations could be to replace the sensitive label of genocide (“the G-word”) with the concept of crimes against humanity.
The original meaning of the word holocaust is a sacrificial offering consumed by fire. The first time it was used in the context of persecution and mass murder was probably on the 10th of September 1895 when the New York Times on its front-page had the following headline: “Another Armenian Holocaust”. The reference was to the practices of the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid who had some 200 000 Armenians killed in 1894–1896.
Later, during World War I, all Christian minority groups in the Ottoman Empire were to suffer from Government inspired religious persecutions. As we know, people were slaughtered or forced to leave their homes on death marches towards the Syrian desert. The number of victims may have been 1.2 millions — or more. A young PolishJewish student, by the name of Raphael Lemkin, took a legal interest in these events and later worked for a new category of international crimes that would cover intentional destruction of ethnic and religious groups and cultures. During World War II, as a refugee in the
1 Texten speglar ett inlägg som gjordes på en konferens i Beirut i februari 2012 rörande det armeniska folkmordet. Konferensen var arrangerad av ett armeniskt grekisk-ortodoxt samfund (bestående av en tredje generations flyktingar) med ursprung i Silicien i sydöstra Anatolien. Texten fungerade sedan som underlag för ett anförande under ett seminarium i den svenska riksdagen den 21 april 2015.