The European Court of Human Rights will be delivering a Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Perinçek v. Switzerland (application no. 27510/08) at a public hearing on Thursday 15 October 2015 at 11.45 a.m. in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, according to the Court’s website.
The case concerns the criminal conviction of a Turkish politician for publicly expressing the view, in Switzerland, that the mass deportations and massacres suffered by the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and the following years had not amounted to genocide.
The applicant, Doğu Perinçek, is a Turkish national who was born in 1942 and lives in Ankara (Turkey). He is a doctor of laws and chairman of the Turkish Workers’ Party. In 2005 Mr Perinçek participated in three public events in Switzerland, in the course of which he expressed the view that the mass deportations and massacres suffered by the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 onwards had not amounted to genocide. The Switzerland-Armenia Association lodged a criminal complaint against Mr Perinçek on account of the statement made at the first event.
The investigation was later expanded to cover the two other statements as well. On 9 March 2007 the Lausanne District Police Court found him guilty of the offence under Article 261 bis § 4 of the Swiss Criminal Code, holding in particular that his motives appeared to be racist and nationalistic and that his statements did not contribute to the historical debate. The court ordered him to pay 90 day-fines of 100 Swiss francs each, suspended for two years, a fine of 3,000 Swiss francs, which could be replaced by 30 days imprisonment, and 1,000 Swiss francs in compensation to the Switzerland-Armenia Association for non-pecuniary damage.
Mr Perinçek appealed against the judgment, seeking to have it set aside and additional investigative measures taken to establish the state of research and the positions of historians on the events of 1915 and the following years. The Criminal Cassation Division of the Vaud Cantonal Court dismissed the appeal on 13 June 2007. The Federal Court dismissed a further appeal by Mr Perinçek in a judgment of 12 December 2007. Mr Perinçek complains that his criminal conviction and punishment for having publicly stated that there had not been an Armenian genocide was in breach of his right to freedom of expression under Article 10. He also complains, relying on Article 7 (no punishment without law), that the wording of Article 261 bis § 4 of the Swiss Criminal Code is too vague.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 10 June 2008. In a judgment of 17 December 2013 a Chamber of the Court held, by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. The Swiss Government requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber under Article 43 (referral to the Grand Chamber), and on 2 June 2014 the panel of the Grand Chamber accepted that request. A Grand Chamber hearing was held on 28 January 2015. In the Grand Chamber proceedings, third-party comments were received from the Turkish Government, who had exercised their right to intervene in the case (Article 36 § 1 of the Convention). Third-party comments were also received from the Armenian and French Governments, who had been given leave to intervene in the written procedure. The Armenian Government were in addition given leave to take part in the hearing. Armenia was represented by human rights lawyers Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson and Armenia’s Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanyan.