Healing wounds: Seeking closure for the 1915 massacres

Placing genocide within an appropriate legal context is the best path to reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. Aljazeera opinion piece by Richard Falk and Hilal Elver

"It is common knowledge that the Armenian diaspora has long been seeking to induce key governments around the world to make formal declarations to the effect that what happened in 1915 was in fact "genocide", and some 25 governments have done so, as have many lesser political entities such as sub-divisions of the state or cities. These efforts to legalise historical truth, as distinct from mourning historical events, is itself a political gimmick that does little to resolve the dispute, and makes diplomatic compromise more difficult and accommodation virtually impossible. Going beyond such declarations by criminalising genocidal denial represents a still further escalation of Armenian efforts to resolve the controversy over this potent g-word through treating denial as a distinct crime. We would insist that rather than resolving the conflict, such steps make the quest for a good faith politics of reconciliation beyond the reach of both parties. The discourse on genocide has always been confusing, multi-layered, and often toxic. The word "genocide" is weighted down by its resonant implications, explaining both why there exists such strong motivations to invoke it and equally intense efforts to deny its applicability. We need to distinguish genocide as a crime in international law from the political assessment of historic events as genocide due to a clear pattern of deliberate killing of an ethnic or religious group. And such a political assessment needs to be further distinguished from a moral condemnation of a pattern designed to destroy systematically a beleaguered minority that might properly be described as "genocidal", or what has been more recently described as "ethnic cleansing" in the setting of Bosnia, which is distinct from the judicially certified "genocide" that shook the foundations of Rwanda in 1994." (extract from the article)


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Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008). He is currently serving his fourth year of a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.


Hilal Elver is Research Professor in Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Co-Director of the Climate Change Project.