Now, after the visit of the Lithuanian Minister G. Landsbergis to the South Caucasus, several cautious observations can be made. Undoubtedly, the visit was important. As many as three countries were visited: Armenia, Sakartvelo (Georgia) and Azerbaijan. No mistakes? The following information was published on the official website of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: „Minister G.Landsbergis: we believe that Armenia will remain on the path of democratic reforms“, „Lithuanian grove” inaugurated in Armenia“, „Minister G.Landsbergis: I call all Sakatrvelo political forces to focus on reforms” and „Minister G.Landsbergis: Lithuania is interested in closer relations between the EU and Azerbaijan“.
All the intentions are solid, hopeful, meaningful, commendable. Not the slightest reproach. Who could be outraged by calls to remain democratic, to implement reforms, to work more seriously with Europe?
There is only one suspicion – why the Lithuanian Minister’s trips to the South Caucasus were organized at the end of April – at a time when Armenia is commemorating the tragic events of 1915? There are suspicions that in such a subtle manner, official Vilnius has expressed special support for Armenia and at the same time hoped not to irritate Turkey, the NATO ally. But no matter how you will try to hide a stitching awl, it will come out of the bag. At the end of April Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mantas Adomėnas paid an official visit to Yerevan. He came to Yerevan not to rest. The official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania states: „Deputy Minister M.Adomėnas participated in the commemoration of the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide“. There are many photos in the public space showing how Deputy Minister M.Adomėnas puts a wreath at the monument. Let us also remember that G. Landsbergis’ visit to the South Caucasus started from Armenia, that G. Landsbergis started to plant a „Lithuanian grove“ in the Lori region of Armenia – and we will have a detailed picture of the most important Lithuanian accents.
Of course, one can also remember that at the end of April, even the new US President Joe Biden named the tragic events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire as an „Armenian genocide“. Lithuania is just stepping on the path of its ally America. As if it has no other choice.
And yet the truth should be the most important, even more important than the political intrigues. Lithuania is small, weak. Unlike the big, powerful countries, it does not have the privilege of doing wrong – to suppress the truth in the name of political interests. If we do not seek truth and justice everywhere and always, we will not be able to demand truth and justice from others if we get into trouble ourselves.
And the truth is this: „Neither the President of the United States, nor the American Congress, nor Yerevan have a legal basis for calling 1915 a genocide.“ These are not my words. This is according to Bruce Fein, an expert on US constitutional and international law, former adviser to US President Ronald Reagan.
Slaptai.lt publishes the Lithuanian translation of an interview of this US lawyer given to one American television.
„Neither the US President, nor the American Congress, nor Yerevan have a legal basis to call 1915 genocide“
Bruce Fein, a lawyer who specializes in constitutional and international law, is being interviewed.
Although the U.S. Congress already recognizes the events of 1915 as a genocide, why is it important that President Joe Biden also made that public? Will there be any legal consequences?
No, it has no legal significance. This is a political statement. Biden, the Congress, and Armenians have no legal basis for calling 1915 a genocide. Article 9 of the Genocide Convention, which entered into force in 1951, 70 years ago, states that any dispute concerning the existence of a genocide must be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. For 70 years Armenians have had the opportunity to bring their charges to the Hague tribunal – an organization that is not politicized and does not accept political gifts. 70 years of silence on the Armenian side. Legally there is no basis for such a case, they used political gifts and political power to obtain political statements. I have no doubt that Mr. Biden did not really undertake any serious legal investigation into what the Genocide Convention means, what elements include a case of a genocide, and what happened in 1915. Has he ever read a decision of the European Court of Human Rights stating that the Armenian genocide was never confirmed, that the events of 1915 were never anywhere confirmed as genocide.
I think it would have been wise for Mr. Biden to call on Armenia to exercise its right to the Article 9. The International Court of Justice has waited for 70 years for Armenia to go to court with its arguments. Unfortunately, we know that politicians are motivated by political motives, but they are not motivated to find out historical facts. This, unfortunately, is a constant politicization that will move this matter away from decision. Genocide is named as the most heinous crime, so why does official Yerevan not hand over the material it has to the International Court of Justice? 70 years is a long enough time to make your own claims. Another matter that is no less important, Justin McCarthy has asked Armenia: why do you keep your archives closed? If you have a case that requires archives for evidence, why do you keep it closed? Biden’s obvious hypocrisy is also obvious when he says there is a case of genocide on the one hand, but on the other hand, Armenia and Turkey should meet and resolve the disagreements. But he has already settled the case before they meet! He has already said he is on the Armenian side. Why should Armenia give away what Biden has already given her?
You have written several articles on this topic. What is your personal opinion on the 1915 events?
Firstly, I believe that we cannot fully apply the elements of genocide described in the Genocide Convention to the actions that took place before the Convention was formulated. Even the term genocide did not appear in the common language until 1943. Thus, the law on genocide cannot be applied retroactively to 1915.
Secondly, it is also impossible to prove that the Turkish state at that time wanted to destroy part or all the Armenians because they were the Armenians. Let us take advantage of the Armenian statements they made at the Paris Peace Conference on 26 February 1919. There the Armenians kept repeating: in the wake of the war the sultan offered us the autonomy in exchange for a loyalty; we rejected it, we became fighters and enemies of Turkey. These Armenians were Ottoman citizens, so basically, they have chosen betrayal. They described themselves at the Paris Peace Conference as fighters. They stated at the conference that the number of perished Ottoman Turks equaled to the number of perished Ottoman Armenians. War is hell – our famous General William Tecumseh Sherman said. This was not the case with Jews and the Holocaust. No Nazi died in Auschwitz. Here, however, both sides suffered a terrible war. I believe there is a great resemblance to our own civil war against the confederate states of America. The southern states wanted to separate, although they did not have that right. They shelled Fort Sumter. A terrible civil war started. Hundreds of thousands were killed, but no one offered to name it genocide. They pursued the political goal – independence. The war broke out and the South lost. Southerners were immediately accused of treason, and the union was not accused of genocide.
The Ottoman Armenians sought the same separation from the Ottomans as the confederate states, believing that they would gain independence after the war. Their aspiration was not successful, the Paris Peace Conference did not give them independence, but that was their goal. Therefore, I do not believe, based on the Armenian arguments, that there is evidence that the Turks intended to destroy the Armenians because they were Armenians. The massacre was because Armenians united with Turkish enemies during the war, their aspiration was a political independence. When the genocide convention was being drafted, the destruction of the group because of its political approach was considered as a forbidden category, but it was rejected. This means that massacres (I am not saying there were no other violations of the law) for political purposes, such as independence, are clearly not genocide.
So, what are Turkey’s options, how it should continue to act and respond legally?
I believe that there is a possibility that Turkey could immediately go to the International Court of Justice on Article 9 itself, saying that we are offended by false accusations of genocide, and present excusing arguments. Armenia did have a chance to file its case that it was genocide. In that case, we would have already had a legally resolved issue that could be removed from politics.
It is clear that Armenians are well adapted to maneuver in the American political system. Tilt politicians to their side with gifts and other means. If you stay in the political atmosphere, without an impartial tribunal Turkey’s chances are very slim. This can be corrected. I work with a group in the United States called the Turkish Anti-defamation Alliance. It is trying to create an educational program about what the genocide law is, what the Armenian accusations are. To present a case that is systematic, rejecting weak arguments, such as: Armenians were slaughtered because they are Armenians, and rejecting the fact that they were enemies seeking political independence.
The reason for trusting going to court, is the nearest tribunal that has ruled on this issue – the European Court of Human Rights, of which Armenia is a member and Turkey is not. The court said there was never a proven Armenian genocide. This is a historical issue that cannot be answered definitively. And that’s what I suggest you consider. It has been in the political space for too long. These issues of genocide must be dealt by the international court of justice, not in the corridors of politics, because there are always hidden motives.
Slaptai.lt editorial note
What will Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomėnas answer to these arguments of Bruce Fein? Maybe these arguments are unknown to M.Adomėnas? How will Lithuanian Minister G. Landsbergis behave if Turkey refuses to protect the air space of the Baltic States with its fighter jets after M. Adomėnas’ voyage, to send its troops to defend the Baltic States from a possible Russian invasion?