A leading British jurist well-versed in human rights cases has implicated Germanyin the forced relocation of Armenians by the Ottomans during World War I, a move which led to mass killings of Armenians, Today’s Zaman reports.
It was Germans who suggested that Armenians be relocated, Geoffrey Robertson, who also served as an appeals judge with the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2002 to 2007, said Friday at a conference titled “The Armenian Genocide Legacy: 100 Years on.”
Robertson, who was one of the panelists on the first day of the conference in The Hague, Netherlands, maintained that Germans advised Ottoman Turks to settle the Armenian question based on Germany’s practice of ethnic cleansing in southwest Africa back in 1905.
“Germans were in complicity with the Turks,” he added. The Ottoman Empire and Germany were allies in World War I.
In response to a rebellion by native people against German colonial rule in the area corresponding to today’s Namibia, the German army allegedly let the native people who fled the violence die from starvation and thirst by preventing them from leaving the Namibian dessert. The number of victims is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
“This is the first genocide of the 20th century,” said Robertson, who also described the suffering Ottoman Armenians experienced during their relocation as genocide.
The two-day conference, organized ahead of the centennial commemoration of the forced relocation of Ottoman Armenians, was held at the Hague Institute for Global Justice.
Robertson, who is also the author of a book titled “An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians?” lashed out at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for a verdict which concluded that denying what Armenians suffered is “genocide” does not constitute a crime.
In December 2013, the lower court of the ECtHR ruled by five votes to two that Switzerland violated the right to freedom of speech by convicting Doğu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers’ Party (İP), for having publicly denied that a genocide took place against the Armenian people.
Perinçek declared that the events that befell the Armenians under Ottoman rule in 1915 are an “international lie.”
Maintaining that the ECtHR decided that this was not genocide because there were no gas chambers involved, as was the case during the Holocaust, Robertson said: “This was stupid.”
The court’s decision regarding Perinçek set a precedent that it is counter to the freedom of expression to charge individuals for expressing views different than the officially accepted ones concerning issues under public debate.
Ronald Suny, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, said “genocide” might have been avoided if the rulers of the Ottoman Empire had granted rights to minorities in the Ottoman state, instead of seeing them as existential threats to the state.
They took a path that led to destruction, said Suny, who was the keynote speaker of the conference.
Referring to what Aboriginal Australians, the continent’s indigenous people, and Native Americans lived through in the past, Suny also underlined that all states should make an effort to come to terms with their history.