Argentinean Court Rules that Turkey Committed Genocide

The Argentinean judicial power made a first on April 1, 2011. (This was not a Fool's Day joke.) Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide ruled that Turkey committed "genocide against the Armenian people." The "declarative resolution" was read by the judge, who had received the demand opened by Gregorio Hairabedian in December 2000. Hairabedian, a well-known member of the Armenian-Argentinean community and son of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, had filed this demand to know about the fate of 50 members of his family in the vilayets of Palu and Zeitun, in the Ottoman Empire. Oyarbide's  ruling became the first in the world "where the concept of universal jurisdiction is applied to the case of the Armenian people," wrote the daily Página/12.
The newspaper added that the condemnation has no punitive effect, but allows the demanding parties to use this precedent with value of sentence before international fora. This was the case with the "trials for truth" (juicios por la verdad) before Argentinean courts when in 1987 two federal laws ("full stop" and "due obedience") put a limit to the trials of crimes against humanity committed during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983.
After Hairabedian, a notary, started the case, the Armenian community of Buenos Aires, in an unified effort that brought together its most representative organizations from all sides, joined in the cause for the massacre of Armenian population in the provinces of Trabizond, Erzerum, Bitlis, Diarbekir, Kharpert (Harput), and Sepastia (Sivas).
"We were inspired by a 'trial for truth' to know the fate of Rodolfo Walsh, when all doors of Argentinean justice were closed to penalize people responsible for the crimes committed during dictatorship," told Hairabedian to the Argentinean news agency Telam shortly before receiving the minutes of the  ruling. Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977) was a left-wing writer and founder of investigative journalism in Argentina, killed in an ambush by a special military group. The Armenian case was continued after the demanding parties appealed a resolution of first instance: the second section of the Federal Chamber of Buenos Aires, presided by Horacio Cattani, had ordered Oyarbide to start the investigation.
To this end, the judge sent a rogatory letter to the government of Turkey to report about the fate of Hairabedian's extended family and to give access to the files related to them "be it for disappearance, deportation, or execution." He also asked the governments of Great Britain, the United States, Germany, and the Vatican to submit all kind of information they had in their archives about those crimes. At the same time, it took declaration to the offspring of assassinated Armenians, now living in Argentina.
Germany and the Vatican answered the judge's request and put at the disposal of the case their historical and political archives, which were analyzed by special envoys of the Luisa Hairabedian Foundation and were  remarkably important to certify the main characteristics of the genocide. Some fragments of the testimonies taken in Buenos Aires from descendants of the victims were read by Oyarbide at the solemn act when he delivered the sentence.
On April 4, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the ruling was en example of how legal systems are abused by extreme nationalists belonging to the Armenian Diaspora. Turkey said the decision was based on accusations lacking seriousness and it destabilizes efforts to mend ties with Armenia. As Seneca once said, "nothing new under the sun."

Vartan Matiossian

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