Geoffrey Robertson declares massacre genocide
November 25, 2014, 6:30 am
Eminent human rights lawyer and QC Geoffrey Robertson's latest book, An Inconvenient Genocide, draws attention to an important issue that still needs to be addressed: the recognition of the massacre of about one million Armenians on the eve of the Gallipoli landings as "genocide".
"Truth is important - it is important to tell it if people are still suffering from a lie - and Armenians are still suffering from the world's failure to do something about the genocide that had taken place in 1915," Robertson says.
Next year will be the centenary of both the Armenian genocide and the Gallipoli landings. Robertson feels that these significant anniversaries, on consecutive days, April 24 and 25 respectively, should be the perfect opportunity for all nations to acknowledge, and for Turkey to admit, that the Armenian genocide had taken place and for atonement to be made.
There is divided opinion since its occurrence as to whether it could be called a "genocide". It is widely believed that some one million Armenians were killed during this period. But Turkey, justifying the actions of its predecessor in government, the Ottoman Empire, is adamantly against the use of the G-word.
Robertson, who served as the first president of the UN War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone, feels it that an admission to the Armenian Genocide would "give hope that both Armenia and Turkey could move on". He cannot see why there should be a problem with this positive step. "Modern Turkey is a different nation (to the Ottoman Empire). The actions of the past are not a reflection of the modern Turkish nation. It is possible for nations to rise above the crimes of the past."
In his book, Robertson presents one of the great hypotheticals - "Whether the Holocaust would have happened, had the International Criminal Courts promised at Versailles and Sevres for the Kaiser and his generals and for Talaat and his accomplices eventuated in 1921. At least Hitler would not in 1939 have said, "Who now remembers the Armenians?"
Well, thankfully, Geoffrey Robertson does. As he puts it, "The importance of acknowledging guilt of a crime against humanity, even as long as a century later, is that denialism emboldens others to think they can get away with mass murder of civilians whenever it is expedient in wartime.
"International law sets a bottom line: whether Sunni or Shia, Hindu or Christian, whether Chechen, Tamil or Bengali or an indigenous people striving for independence, the deliberate destruction of any part of that race or religion by those in control of a state cannot be countenanced."