The announcement by US President Joe Biden on Saturday recognizing the Armenian Genocide not only honors the victims and their families, it is also a victory in “the fight against denialism and attempts to whitewash past crimes,” the UN was told on Monday.
Mher Margaryan, Armenia’s permanent representative to the UN, added that the decision by the administration in Washington is a contribution “for which we are deeply grateful.”
His comments came during a panel discussion organized by the Armenian mission at the UN to reflect on the legacy of US-based humanitarian organization the Near East Foundation, and the effect it has had on the evolution of humanitarian multilateralism. The foundation, which was established in 1915 to tackle the humanitarian consequences of the Armenian genocide, is one of the world’s oldest international philanthropic organizations.
“We are paying tribute to this outstanding effort, initially established with the support of the American people to help alleviate the suffering of the Armenians,” Margaryan said.
Margaryan said that although there has been a lot of discussion over the years about the failure of the world to prevent the Armenian genocide, “100 years on, the ability of the international community to properly identify and react to humanitarian crises is still being considerably challenged.”
He added: “Only recently, Azerbaijan and Turkey unleashed brutal, senseless violence against the Armenian people, amid the global pandemic, in an attempt to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force with the involvement of foreign terrorist fighters and mercenaries, accompanied by numerous, extensively documented war crimes.”
The envoy said the continuing detention of prisoners of war and civilian hostages by Azerbaijan, in contravention of international humanitarian law, as well as “the widespread, state-led campaign of dehumanization of Armenians (show that) genocidal ideology does not merely belong to history.”
Savita Pawnday, deputy executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said that genocide denial “aggravates the injuries of the past and sows the seeds of future injustice.”
While conceding that Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide was largely symbolic, she said that accepting the truth of genocides can help to prevent their recurrence, and is a first step toward securing justice for survivors and other victims and acknowledging the patterns of discrimination that can lead to genocide.
“Finding solutions becomes easier (with acknowledgment of genocides), whereas denial aggravates the injuries of the past and sows the seeds of future injustice (in a) world where 18 million people are currently displaced by conflict and war,” Pawnday said.
She called on all UN member states to officially recognize the Armenian genocide and “end one century of indifference and denial.”
One form denial can take, she added, is the characterization of atrocities as a “humanitarian crisis.”
“We all know that current humanitarian crises cannot be solved by blankets and bandages alone,” said Pawnday. Addressing the UN in general, she added: “Speeches do not prevent atrocities. Timely political action does.