The Crime of Silence: Centennial of the Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 accounts for the legal concepts of Crime against humanity and Genocide. The first concept appeared for the first time when France, Great Britain and Russia issued a warning to the Turkish Government on May 24th, 1915. The jurist Raphael LEMKIN has always asserted having coined the second concept to describe the fate of Armenians from the perspective of international law. Many countries recognized this crime. Turkey alone is still adamantly determined to deny this reality. On April 24, Armenians of Switzerland shall commemorate the centennial of this Genocide in Bern. Representatives of the Assyro-Chaldeans and Greeks, also victims of this crime, as well as their Swiss friends, shall stand by them. At the same time, a large delegation from the Federal Assembly shall be present in Yerevan in order to stress the determination of Switzerland to engage in support of the right to memory and to remind the world that this terrible page of history will not be turned unless Turkey bears full responsibility and faces consequences thereof.
Thus, the definition of the crime of genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of December 9th, 1948, spearheaded by Raphael LEMKIN as “… an act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” derives from the fate of Armenians and other Christian populations in Ottoman Turkey. In general, the various aspects of genocide have been extensively examined by scientific scholars from all walks of life. Concerning the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish historian Taner AKÇAM holds an outstanding and distinguished position among these scholars since long. The archives of all belligerent countries of World War I, including Turkey, Vatican and many other countries, contain documents about the crime committed against the Armenians. New evidence of genocidal intent of the Turkish leaders of that time is permanently discovered in these archives.
The Turkish state continues to deny this reality. It tries to get other governments abstain from recognizing it, by distorting history and using blackmail, whether geopolitical or economic. The Swiss Federal Council, seeking to ensure the participation of Switzerland to the G20 meeting, chaired by Turkey this year, couldn’t avoid these diplomatic pressures. Unfortunately, there is nothing new in this ultra-nationalist behavior: in 1943, the Turkish State had repatriated from Nazi Germany, the remains of Mehmet Talaat, the mastermind of the Genocide, and buried him as a national hero at the Temple of Freedom Hill in Istanbul. His accomplice Ismail Enver, the second among the three Young Turk senior officials, received the same honors in 1996.
In a statement made on April 1st, 2015, the Swiss Government made public its decision not to be represented by any Federal Councilor during the commemorations of the Genocide in Yerevan, sticking to its “tradition of participating with appropriate restraint and discretion in commemorations of international historic events”. And yet, Didier BURKHALTER, Federal councilor and former President of the Swiss Confederation and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, FDFA, personally took part in the commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27th, 2014. He had declared that “Nobody has the right to deny any genocide”. His participation and declaration are blatantly in contradiction with the decision of the Swiss Government not to take part in the commemorations of the centennial in Yerevan; whereas the Swiss people, through its National Council, had solemnly recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2003. This contradiction also appears in the letter sent by Mr BURKHALTER to the Geneva Cantonal Council in December 2014, to speak out against the construction of The Streetlight of Memory, a work of art to be erected in the Ariana Park, adjacent to the United Nations building, dedicated to the memory of committed Genevans and assassinated Armenians, but also to all crimes against humanity. He justified his objection by the independence of International Geneva. Yet, the Armenian Genocide has been recognized by the Subcommittee of the United Nations in Geneva in 1985 and by the Geneva Cantonal Council in 2001. Moreover, it is worth remembering that the Federal Court has imposed a sanction twice for the denial of this genocide on the grounds of racial discrimination.
The Swiss Armenians are deeply shocked and outraged by the stand taken by the Federal Council. They condemn this capitulation against the blackmail used openly by the Turkish State on our institutions. They do not understand how Swiss authorities despise and trample on the testimonies of such noble and devoted Swiss like the pastor Antony KRAFFT-BONNARD or the deacon Jakob KÜNZLER, or the speech of the President of the Confederation Giuseppe MOTTA made at the League of Nations in 1924. This shift discredits Switzerland, a neutral country, active in settling disputes in general, or in normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations.
Despite this, Switzerland shall fortunately be represented in Yerevan on next April 24! An important parliamentary delegation, made up of ten members of the Council of States and National Councilors shall be travelling there. It shall be headed by the National Councilors Dominique de BUMAN and Ueli LEUENBERGER, co-chairmen of the Parliamentary Group Switzerland-Armenia.
In Switzerland, the centennial of the Armenian Genocide shall be highlighted by several political, scientific and cultural events, organized by the Swiss Commission for the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. The full list of these events can be found in the press folder attached to the present press release.
On April 24, the Armenian community of Switzerland shall gather at Casinoplatz in Bern, before heading for the Collegiate (Bern cathedral), where the work De Lumine shall be performed in concert, followed by the reading of poems by three Armenian writers, arrested with 247 other intellectuals during the night of April 24th, 1915 in Constantinople, and finally assassinated by order of the Turkish authorities. The representatives of the Assyro-Chaldean and Greek communities, as well as Swiss politicians and friends, shall join the Armenians, in order to show that the identity of these people is stronger than ever, one hundred years after the attempt to destroy and to annihilate them.
Whatever divides the Turks and the Armenians cannot be durably eased unless the Turkish State, as the legal and political heir of the Ottoman Empire, switches from the denial to the full recognition of the Armenian Genocide and fully assumes the consequences of this crime.