Armenian Ambassador raises denial of genocide, destruction of cultural heritage at UN

Intolerance, discrimination, identity-based hate speech are among the underlying causes of atrocity crimes, Mher Margaryan, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations said at discussion on “Responsibility to Protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” at the UN General Assembly.

Below are the Ambassador’s remarks in full:

Mr. President,

I thank Special Advisor Alice Nderitu for presenting the report of the Secretary-General, dedicated this year to the special needs of children and youth in the contexts of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, outlining recommendations on strengthening their protection from atrocity crimes.

One of the key messages of the report is the human rights-based approach in prevention efforts. Indeed, ensuring full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all should be central in addressing atrocity risks and advancing protection of younger generation. The Safe School Declaration, the Paris Principles and the Vancouver Principles, to which Armenia is a party, remain crucial instruments to promote and protect the rights and the dignity of all children, in particular those residing in conflict areas.

Mr. President,

Intolerance, discrimination, identity-based hate speech are among the underlying causes of atrocity crimes. A grave source of concern should be the involvement of children in the state-led and sponsored propaganda of hatred targeting a particular ethnicity or religion. Indoctrination of children with identity-based hate, incitement of violence and intolerance through educational programmes sows seeds of hate crimes and atrocities only waiting to happen in the future.

Countering hate speech, genocide denial, incitement to violence and war-mongering is another crucial priority of the prevention agenda. I would like to underscore the critical importance of the timely detection and adequate responding to the early warning signs of incitement to hate and identity-based violence on ethnic and religious grounds, instances of justification and glorification of past crimes. The UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech sets a practical framework for enhancing the Organization’s monitoring and reporting capacities.

Mr. President,

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, recognizes that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity. Despite continuous efforts of the international community in support of the genocide prevention agenda, mass atrocities continue to persist, often, due to the lack of acknowledgment and condemnation of the past crimes. In this regard, education, in particular, human rights and genocide education can play an important role in promoting remembrance and awareness, to preserve historical memory and promote truth, justice and reconciliation.

The deliberate efforts to deny the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide have been employing various narratives, including those based on attempts to reinterpret international law to claim that the killings do not fit the definition of genocide because the events predate their legal concept – failing to account for the well-documented historical fact that it was precisely with reference to the systematic extermination of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that prominent Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin originally coined the term “genocide”. Often, denialists seek to challenge and mischaracterize the existing scholarly consensus as a “subject of a legitimate debate protected under the freedom of expression”.

Whatever methods the denialists seek to involve, all of them invariably run contrary not only to the vast body of existing historical evidence, but also to the findings of the reports mandated by the United Nations, including the Report of the United Nations War Crimes Commission of 1948 and the report adopted by the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1985, prepared by Mr. Benjamin Whitaker, confirming that the systematic massacres of Armenians in 1915 without any question meet the criteria for the United Nations definition of genocide.

Mr. President,

Armenia has been consistently campaigning to reinforce the implementation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and to advance the prevention agenda.

Since 2015, the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime established by a GA resolution on the initiative of Armenia, has turned into a platform to foster cooperation for prevention of atrocity crimes, promoting development of national and international early warning mechanisms.

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect has a key role to play in advancing international cooperation to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, promoting prevention through monitoring grave human rights violations and assessing risks of potential atrocity crimes. We encourage strengthening the resilience of the Office by equipping it with the necessary human resources and financial capacities to properly deliver on its mandate in an independent and coherent manner. We also support the activities of the Office in coordinating the implementation of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.

Mr. President,

The UN system, the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect should be able to monitor, identify and react unambiguously to instances of propagating distorted narratives denying existence of ethnic and religious groups, their history, culture and heritage, inciting xenophobia and hate and glorifying perpetrators of the past crimes.
The UN Human Rights Council and its mechanisms – including the special procedures and treaty bodies, play an essential role in providing early warning of the risk factors that can lead to mass atrocity crimes.

The resolution on Prevention of Genocide presented by Armenia at the Human Rights Council and unanimously adopted in March this year, recognizes that early warning signs may also include an increase in serious acts of violence against women and children and calls upon states to take the legislative and other measures necessary to protect women and children from all forms of intimidation.

Mr. President,

The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is often intimately linked to the preparation and perpetration of mass atrocity crimes. Since culture constitutes an intrinsic part of identity – an attack on cultural heritage is consequently an attack on particular people and their right to exist. In this regard we support the involvement of UNESCO in implementing necessary programs and actions aimed at protecting the cultural heritage of the people, particularly in conflict settings and rehabilitating and restoring monuments of cultural, religious and historic value.

Mr. President,

Let me conclude by reiterating Armenia’s support to advancing prevention agenda through constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including civil society, academia, media and youth organizations.

Thank you.

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