BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Last month, when German life insurance companies requested a rehearing from a Federal Court of Appeals, contesting its decision in favor of Armenian claimants, the Republic of Turkey filed an “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) petition in support of the German defendants.
This was an intriguing development. The heirs of now deceased Armenian policyholders were suing German insurance companies; and Turkey — not a party to the lawsuit — was shamelessly siding with the delinquent firms. No one was demanding payment from the Turkish government! Why would Turkey, a foreign country, interfere in a U.S. lawsuit against German companies?
The Turkish petition is a 15-page-long propaganda piece that denies the facts of the Armenian Genocide. It describes the United States and Turkey as working “shoulder-to-shoulder,” adding that 120,000 Turks reside in the United States, and that 700,000 Americans visit Turkey every year. The Turkish brief does not explain, however, how any of these assertions have any relevance to the failure of German insurance companies to compensate the heirs of Armenian policyholders.
The Turkish petition attacks the California law extending the statute of limitations on Armenian claims against insurance companies by heirs of genocide victims. It alleges that the California statute “offends Turkey’s sovereignty by legislating Turkish history and by declaring Turkey and its predecessor state guilty of the crime of genocide.” The petition goes on to state: “Turkey resents having any U.S. legislature or other official formulate its own definition of genocide specifically to declare that Turkey or its predecessor state is guilty of this crime.” Ironically, the Turkish government never expressed any resentment or complaint when 42 U.S. states and many American cities were recognizing the Armenian Genocide in recent decades. Ankara justified its inaction by claiming that its counterpart is the federal government, not individual states or cities.
The Turkish petition lamely claims that foreign states can not “monitor and react to the individual actions of fifty state legislatures and governors. Rather, Turkey’s interlocutor with the fifty United States is the U.S. federal government.” It then quotes from Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy’s letter to the Court of Appeals on December 4, 2008, stating that “Turkey has not as such protested state proclamations on this historic controversy because it conducts it (sic) foreign affairs directly with the U.S. Federal Government, primarily the Executive Branch. We do not have similar relations with the states.”
The petition falsely refers to the Genocide as “mutual suffering of Ottoman Armenians and Turks” and “wartime misery.” It flippantly dismisses Pres. Reagan’s 1981 Proclamation acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, and omits any reference to the two Congressional resolutions of 1975 and 1984 recognizing the Genocide. Instead, the Turkish government proudly proclaims that no new resolutions were adopted on this subject during the Obama administration!
The Turkish government drops a bombshell by revealing in its petition that Prime Minister Erdogan had written to Pres. Obama on December 19, 2010, complaining about the Federal Appeals Court’s decision that “the position of the US administration is not against the recognition of ‘genocide’ at the state or federal level.” This is yet another blatant attempt by a foreign leader to intervene in U.S. court proceedings. Interestingly, the petition discloses only a portion of Erdogan’s letter to Obama, claiming that “the balance of this letter constitutes a confidential diplomatic communication.”
The appeals court should either reject the Turkish petition as unwarranted interference by a foreign power in American judicial proceedings or demand the release of the full text of Erdogan’s letter to verify the accuracy of the quoted portion and to confirm if it includes any other reference to the lawsuit. The Turkish government cannot hide behind “diplomatic confidentiality,” as it has waived the claim of “privileged communication” by selectively disclosing portions of the letter.
In their petition, Turkish officials make the misleading suggestion that the Armenia-Turkey Protocols, signed over a year ago, “will seek to overcome all hurdles in their present relations, and jointly consider the historic controversy.” The authors of the disingenuous Turkish petition cleverly conceal from federal judges the fact that they have not ratified the Protocols and have no intention to do so. Ankara is attempting to exploit the now defunct Protocols to quash a legitimate lawsuit against German insurance companies.
The Turkish government has attached two letters to its petition, one signed by its Ambassador to the U.S., and the other by the Chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. The Federal Appeals Court should promptly disregard both letters, along with the petition, as propaganda materials lacking any legal merit or standing.