At the hearings on the case of Perinçek v Switzerland before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 28 January, Gevorg Kostanyan, Amal Clooney, and Geoffrey Robertson, who represent the Armenian side made speeches.
Turkish politician Doğu Perinçek denied the fact of Armenian Genocide as “an international lie” and was convicted on criminal charges in the Swiss court. He applied to the European Court of Human Rights, and the Lower Chamber of ECHR decided that it was in violation of the principle of freedom of expression.
We have talked about the speeches of the Armenian side in Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, its strengths, expected results and negative consequences with lawyer Levon Martirosyan, MP, member of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs of the RA National Assembly
Mr. Martirosyan, at the hearings on the case of Perinçek v Switzerland before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 28 January, Gevorg Kostanyan, Amal Clooney, and Geoffrey Robertson, who represent the Armenian side made speeches. How would you assess the speeches of the Armenian side?
They all are experts: Gevorg Kostanyan, the Prosecutor General of the RA, has been the representative of the RA at the European Court for a long time and he spoke there in that status. In my opinion quite qualified speeches were made, and I think that everything that depends on the Republic of Armenia was made perfectly. We have to wait for the final decision of the Court, which will be made during the upcoming months.
What are the arguments of the Turkish side and how strong they are?:
Formally the speech is not about the Turkish side, but rather about the Turkish citizen, a politician, who was sentenced by the Swiss Court for denial of the Armenian Genocide, which under the Swiss law is criminally punished. He had appealed the decision at ECHR. This is his right. And in December 2011, the Lower Court ruled a favorable for the Turkish side decision, considering the principle of the right to freedom of expression provided in the European Convention and this is logical. Indeed the right to freedom of expression and there a large number of known cases on freedom of expression that were examined by the European Court, which are studied as precedents. Quite a different question here is whether the right of freedom of expression is applicable to the fact of denying the Armenian Genocide. This is just the subject of controversy in the ECHR. Arguments can be made for the right of realization of freedom of expression as well as against it. Here we have a complicated coil of legal terms, which are connected with the national legislations, as well as with the European Convention and other precedents of the international law. For example, this problem would not have arisen in connection with the Holocaust, as there is a general consensus established in international law, that these events had taken place. The Lower Chamber of the European Court had ruled a decision, with which it interprets that there is no general consensus whether the Armenian Genocide had taken place or not. Consequently it may be denied and it is not criminally punishable, and thus it is realization of the right of freedom of expression. Turkey’s argument in this regard can be considered strong. Formally ECHR does not consider the matter of recognition or non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the matter here is considering the extent of the right to exercise the right of freedom of expression. Though, if we consider the question form the political point of view, then after the ruling of the decision it will be interpreted in the sense whether the ECHR recognized the Armenian Genocide or not.
In this case we have two situations: one case is that the ECHR is governed by the principle of Perinçek’s right of freedom of expression in Switzerland, and on the other hand The Armenian genocide was recognized by the international society of the historians as a historical fact. There is an opinion that the unjust verdict will undermine the public attitude towards the ECHR. Do you agree with this view, if so, why?
I absolutely disagree with it. Notwithstanding the fact that this case is important for the Armenian side and the Turkish side, the case has no connection with the prestige and influence of the ECHR. They are just doing their job. During the recent decades, ECHR examined many vibrant cases and ruled important decisions that became precedents. The problem here is that ECHR’s lower chamber has ruled a decision against us. After that, nothing has been changed, neither our position on the Armenian Genocide and nor the position of the Turkish side, or that of the international community. From purely legal point of view this is an interesting precedent. Another question is that this decision eventually will be politicized.
Examination of the case gets a specific nature based on the fact that of the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide is approaching. If the decision is in favor of Armenia what positive results will it have?
This will be a positive precedent, it would be possible to use it in other international instances related to the future cases as well as in domestic matters. This decision in case of a positive outcome will be a precedent of approval of the Armenian Genocide by the European Court and the restriction of the right to freedom of expression. Yes, the right to freedom of expression is an established right, but there are also limitations as in case of the Holocaust.
What if the opposite situation occurs?
If for some reason a negative decision for us is made, it will be a precedent, because the resonance of this case will have a positive impact, by all means.:
Interview: Gevorg Tosunyan
Photos from ECHR official website