The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), its highest chamber, announced the final judgment on the ECtHR Perincek v. Switzerland case. The Grand Chamber held that Switzerland has violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) regarding freedom of expression and therefore unjustly restricted Doğu Perincek's freedom of expression.
This judgement is final and it constitutes an important case-law. To begin with, it establishes a strong basis for how in the future European countries should interpret the right to freedom of expression and the balance between that right and its exceptions.
The Armenian side has been busy trying to distort the meaning and spirit of this judgment. Meanwhile, the lawyers for Armenia, Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson, championed the judgement in a released statement, together with the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia who said that Armenia's "requests from the Court were fully met."
Still, no one from the Armenian side could have grotesquely distorted the ECtHR's judgment as much as Harout Sassounian did when he wrote a piece for the Oct. 20 California Courier titled "To Ban Genocide Denial, Court Incites Armenians to Commit Violence." According to Sassounian: "[T]he Grand Chamber is actually inciting Armenians to resort to violence to satisfy the Court's requirement that genocide denial could only be criminalized if it is followed by some sort of violent reaction," a reaction that he defines later as "bashing Perincek's head." This clearly does not reflect the seemingly joyous and victorious attitude the Armenians want us to believe. On the contrary, the hatred and call to violence by Sassounian is the only sincere reaction Armenian radicals have expressed, showing their frustration, their embedded enmity toward Turkey and Turks, and the threat that they might resort to violence for their own ends.
Radicals like Sassounian never needed any superficial excuses that they fabricate out of court judgments to resort to violence. Those who acquaint themselves with the history of Turkish-Armenian relations know that this is not an empty threat if it comes from Armenians like Sassounian. Armenian terrorism cost the lives of 31 Turkish diplomats not very long ago. Turkish people living abroad, as well as citizens of other countries who did not agree with the Armenian allegations, have been under constant attack by Armenian organizations. Renowned academics including Professor Stanford Shaw, whose house was bombed; Professor Bernard Lewis, who was convicted for his academic research; Professor Justin McCarthy, Maxime Gauin, and several others were either physically or psychologically harassed or - albeit politically - charged and convicted just because of expressing their scholarly views.
The ECtHR Grand Chamber's judgment on the Perincek v. Switzerland case is a crushing defeat for radical Armenians. Basic rights and principles such as freedom of expression and the fight against racial hatred and discrimination have never been the main concern of Armenian radicals. Instead, the controversy over the events of 1915 have been politicized, dogmatized and become a part of political psychological discourse for building up an identity against Turks and Turkey. When this happens no historical, philosophical, legal or meaningful political debate becomes possible. Thus, this case is evidence of the failure of reactionary position of Armenians and Armenia to impose a particularly dogmatic discourse into parliaments of third countries, prevent and overwhelm any historical debate, statement or self-expression contrary to the basic human right of freedom of expression. We sincerely hope that the Armenian side, including ferocious radicals like Sassounian, will from now on question that stance and realize their call to any kind of violence will only serve to further poison Turkish-Armenian relations.
*Senior Specialist, AVIM