Saturday, April 24, 2021

Center for Study of Law & Genocide Notes 'Clear Signal' on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day Statement

America’s political branches have now spoken with one voice. In 2019, both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan resolutions formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide (Meds Yeghern) perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire. Earlier today, President Biden joined with them in a landmark statement. These actions send a clear signal that the United States does not defer to nationalistic denialism of mass atrocities, whether past or perhaps even present. It must be remembered that a mere two decades after the early 20th century Armenian Genocide, the failure of the world to pressure Turkey to acknowledge its crimes encouraged Germany that it would suffer no consequences for a genocidal war against the Jews.

The Loyola Center for the Study of Law & Genocide has, for over a dozen years, sought official recognition of the tragic Turkish genocide of Armenians. The first of a number of symposia sponsored by the Center on the issue of recognition took place in February 2009, with the most recent occurring just last Monday, April 19, 2021. In 2011, the Center filed an amicus brief in a Ninth Circuit case involving the use of the term “Armenian Genocide” in a California state law. The Center’s brief was instrumental in persuading the three-judge panel to reverse an earlier decision and declare the California law constitutional. Unfortunately, a Ninth Circuit en banc panel, at the oral argument of which both of the undersigned appeared as co-counsel, reversed on the grounds that the recognition of the “Armenian Genocide” was contrary to federal policy. California was thus prevented from even using the phrase in its restitution statute. In 2012, Center Director Stan Goldman published a law review article, Is it Nobody’s Business but the Turks?, concluding that America’s federal refusal to recognize the Genocide was actually contrary to past actions and pronouncements made decades ago by both the executive and congressional branches. Prior to joining the Center, Deputy Director Rajika Shah acted as counsel for Armenian plaintiffs in multiple cases repeatedly blocked by courts due to the lack of federal recognition, outlining this history in a 2017 article.

Only a few months ago, Turkey again took shamefully aggressive actions against Armenians by supporting Azerbaijan with military and non-military equipment and personnel in its unprovoked attack on Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian churches, significant cultural property, and hospitals were demolished, and Armenian civilians were subjected to unspeakable violence and cruelty, again raising the specter of genocide. President Biden’s announcement is particularly important at this pivotal moment. 

In memory of all those who lost their lives and loved ones, we hope that today’s statement from President Biden is not only the beginning of the end of Turkish denialism, but will also put other would-be authors of mass atrocities on notice that they cannot count on impunity and American indifference.

Prof. Stanley Goldman, Founding Director and Professor of Law
Prof. Rajika Shah, Deputy Director and Adjunct Professor

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