BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
While President Bush and several of his predecessors have avoided characterizing the organized mass killings of Armenia’s in 1915 as genocide, it has recently come to light that 57 years ago the United States government officially recognized the Armenian Genocide in a document submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court.
This half a century old reference to the Armenian Genocide was discovered by Prof. William A. Schabas who posted it on the website "PhD Studies in Human Rights," on June 4, 2008. Prof. Schabas, a world-renowned expert on genocide and international law, is director of The Irish Center for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
This document, filed by the Government of the United States with ICJ, is included in the May 28, 1951 ICJ Report titled: "Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."
The specific reference to the Armenian Genocide appears on page 25 of the ICJ Report: "The Genocide Convention resulted from the inhuman and barbarous practices which prevailed in certain countries prior to and during World War II, when entire religious, racial and national minority groups were threatened with and subjected to deliberate extermination. The practice of genocide has occurred throughout human history. The Roman persecution of the Christians, the Turkish massacres of Armenia’s, the extermination of millions of Jews and Poles by the Nazis are outstanding examples of the crime of genocide."
This is a very significant statement as it was made by the American government of that time with the sole intent of telling the truth, without taking into account any political or other considerations. Neither Armenia’s nor Turks had lobbied for or against the U.S. statement. In other words, it was simply made on the basis of historical facts.
How different is the situation today when the White House readily caves in to threats and pressures from the Turkish government to prevent the House of Representatives from passing a commemorative resolution on the Armenian Genocide!
Now that this critical filing by the United States government before the International Court of Justice has been discovered, it is no longer necessary to exert excessive efforts to try and reaffirm the facts of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. Congress, particularly since the House of Representatives adopted Resolutions 247 and 148 in 1975 and 1984 respectively, to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.
Furthermore, there is no particular reason to insist that the next President of the United States acknowledge the Armenian Genocide since President Ronald Reagan, back on April 22, 1981, issued Presidential Proclamation Number 4838 which stated: "Like the genocide of the Armenia’s before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it – and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples – the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten."
Of course, should an elected official issue a statement reaffirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide, such an acknowledgment would be most welcome by Armenia’s worldwide. On the other hand, should a public official either deny or refuse to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, Armenian-Americans would have good reason not to support his or her election.
Regardless of whether one agrees with Pres. Reagan’s politics, most people acknowledge that he was a man of principle. His successors – Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – failed to display such moral leadership. During their presidential campaigns, they misled voters by pledging to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, and broke their promises after the election. These three recent U.S. presidents went far beyond not keeping their word; they did everything in their power to prevent the adoption of congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide. The names of these infamous denialists should be etched in perpetuity on a special "Wall of Shame," so future generations will not forget their reprehensible behavior.
On the basis of the official statement submitted by the Government of the United States to the World Court in 1951, combined with the two House resolutions adopted in 1975 and 1984, Pres. Reagan’s 1981 Proclamation, and resolutions adopted by more than forty U.S. states and hundreds of U.S. cities, Armenia’s should now classify the United States among the more than 20 countries that have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide.
All those who claim that the United States has not recognized the Armenian Genocide are misrepresenting the U.S. government’s clear record on this issue