EDAM Statement on US President Joe Biden’s declaration about the events of 1915
Genocide is a loaded term. It is arguably the heaviest accusation defined by international law. And exactly for this reason, international law has clearly specified its conditions in the 1948 Genocide Convention. It is therefore this legal framework that should guide state authorities’ rhetoric on such a critical topic. In other words, heads of state and government have a duty to shape their discourse and state policy in line with these established global norms. In that sense, the rhetoric emanating from authorities of power should be interpreted with a different and more stringent yardstick than Parliamentary declarations to the extent that in contrast to the latter, the former could trigger legal consequences.
US President Biden’s remarks yesterday on the qualification of the tragic events of 1915 as a genocide are fully in contradiction with these norms of responsible statecraft. A head of state should not have passed judgment on this controversial period of history in such blatant disregard to the principles of international law. In addition, these remarks are likely to undermine many ongoing positive dynamics that would have helped to reach a better understanding of this large scale tragedy. Over the past years, the Turkish government has recognized the enormity of the human suffering caused by the fateful decisions of the Ottoman leadership in 1915. Ankara has also expressed its regrets for the consequences of these actions. Secondly at present Turkish society is having a debate on the nature of these atrocities. International pressure can only stifle this domestic debate. It is up to the citizens of Turkey to freely shape their opinions. The cause of freedom of expression will not be served by such international pontifications. Such accusations will further undermine the prospects of a diplomatic rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey which will assuredly be of benefit to all people of the region.
Finally, on a day like this, we would like to express our deep sorrow for the many Armenians and Turks as well as other citizens of the Empire; Muslims, Christians and Jews that have lost their lives under the terrible conditions of World War I as a result of internal strife, mass deportations and ethnic cleansings.