Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 February 2016
The decisions of international courts and tribunals affect how we read history. Alternative tribunals, such as peoples’ tribunals, attempt to write alternative histories to counter the official versions. This article locates controversies over the Armenian genocide in debates about the relationship between history and international law. It considers ways of reading archives and the role of archives in informing those debates. It compares the Istanbul war crimes trials held in 1919–1920 before the Ottoman Military Tribunals with the Paris session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal held in 1984 that dealt with questions of history and memory through the juridical format of a hearing. A century after the events of 1915, the contested historiography of the Armenian genocide influences how international lawyers and historians seek to pass judgment on the past.
1 G. Libaridian (ed.), A Crime of Silence, the Armenian Genocide Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (1985).
2 Tognoni, G., ‘La Storia Del Tribunale Permanente Dei Popoli,’ in Bimbi, L. and Tognoni, G. (eds.), Speranze e Inquietudini di Ieri e di Oggi. I Trent’anni della Dichiarazione Universale del Diritto dei Popoli (2008), 95Google Scholar.
3 ‘Or even to states victimized by illegal acts committed by other states if these have evaded their duty to answer for them before the competent judicial institutions.’ F. Rigaux, ‘Opening Statement’ in Libaridian, supra note 1, 8, at 10.
6 Held in Padua and Venice 5–9 October 1992 (500th anniversary of Colombus’ ‘conquest’ of the Americas)
9 Simpson, G., ‘International Criminal Justice and the Past’, in Boas, G., Schabas, W., and Scharf, M.P. (eds.), International Criminal Justice: Legitimacy and Coherence (2012), 127Google Scholar.
10 V.N. Dadrian and T. Akçam (eds.), Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials (2011).
11 1919 Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, 2 Bevans 235; 225 Parry 188 (Treaty of Versailles), Arts. 231–47.
12 See for example, M. Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (2002); Skouteris, T., ‘Engaging History in International Law,’ in. Beneyto, J.M., and Kennedy, D. (eds.), New Approaches to International Law the European and the American Experiences (2012Google Scholar), 102 at note 7.
13 A. Orford, ‘The Past as Law or History? The Relevance of Imperialism for Modern International Law’, NYU Institute for International Law and Justice Working Paper 2012/2, 1; A. Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (2005).
14 R.A. Wilson, Writing History in International Criminal Trials (2011), 2.
19 Prosecutor v. Vujadin Popović et al. (‘Srebrenica’), Judgment, Case No. IT-05–88, Appeals Chamber, 30 January 2015; Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), Merits, Judgment of 26 February 2007,  ICJ Rep. 43.
20 A notable exception is the Second Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, which recommended that Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tudjman be prosecuted for crimes against humanity in 1995. The Second Session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Crimes against Humanity in the Former Yugoslavia, held in Barcelona, 7–11 December 1995, 16.
21 Christine Chinkin, Remarks at the Inaugural Australian International Criminal Law Workshop, Melbourne Law School, 13 September 2013.
22 Cf. A.J. Klinghoffer and J.A. Klinghoffer, International Citizens’ Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights (2002).
23 Examples include the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal hearing on genocide in Sri Lanka: ‘Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka’, Bremen, 7–10 December 2013, 15–28; the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, ‘Session on the Canadian Mining Industry: Hearing on Latin America’, Montreal Canada, May 29–June 1 2014, lentraidemissionnaire.org/wp-content/uploads/final_ruling_ppt_canada.pdf, ‘The Policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’, West Berlin, 26–29 September 1988.
26 An exception is the Independent Peoples’ Tribunal on the World Bank in India held in 2007 where the Bank did not appear but sent a representative to collect evidence each day and then posted a response on its website at the end of the hearings: D’Souza, D., ‘Preface: About the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank’, in Kelley, M. and D’Souza, D. (eds.), The Independent Peoples’ Tribunal on the World Bank on India: Undermining Sovereignty, Distorting Development (2010), x at xviGoogle Scholar.
27 See for example, R.R. Iyer, ‘Note of Qualification’ in Kelley and D’Souza, ibid., at 464.
28 Russell Tribunal proceedings published as J. Duffett (ed.), Against the Crime of Silence: Proceedings of the International War Crimes Tribunal (1970); Libaridian, supra note 1.
29 Cf. R.H. Minear, Victors’ Justice: the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal (1971), 158–9.
30 Simpson, supra note 9, at 141; Cf. C. Schwöbel (ed.) Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction (2014).
31 On peoples’ law, see Rigaux, F., ‘The Algiers Declaration of the Rights of Peoples’, in Cassesse, A. (ed.), UN Law/Fundamental Rights: Two Topics in International Law (1979)Google Scholar.
32 M. Nichanian, The Historiographic Perversion, translated by G Anidjar (2009), 86.
33 J. Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, translated by E. Prenowitz (1995), 1 (italics in original).
35 ‘There is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory.’ ibid., at 4, at note 1.
36 A.L. Stoler, ‘Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance,’ (2002) 2 Archival Science 87, at 107.
39 A.L. Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (2009), 26.
40 Chakrabarty, D., ‘Subaltern Studies and Postcolonial Historiography’, (2000) 1 Neplanta: View from South 9, at 9Google Scholar.
42 ‘The suppression of death by way of the suppression of the archive is the essence of genocide’, Nichanian, supra note 32, at 55.
47 The Delgado Tribunal was a people's tribunal established in 1977 to consider the 1958 military assassination of dissident general Humberto Delgado under the Salazar dictatorship: ibid., at 52. See further www.ics.ul.pt/publicacoes/workingpapers/wp2005/wp2005_3.pdf
51 ‘The British Empire was widely recognised as the legitimate and primary protector of minority interests in the Ottoman Empire’: Tusan, M., ‘“Crimes Against Humanity”: Human Rights, The British Empire, and the Origins of the Response to the Armenian Genocide’ (2014) 119 American Historical Review 47CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 56.
53 J. Lepsius, (ed.), Deutschland und Armenien 1914–1918; Sammlung Diplomatischer Aktenstücke (1919); W. Gust (ed.), The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives 1915–1916, trans. (2013); A. Ohnandjanian, Armenien 1915: Österreich-Ungarische Botschaftsberichte beweisen das Genoizid (2007).
54 Relevant Russian documents are held at the Russian State Archive of the Russian Empire, St Petersburg and State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow. See further, M. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: the Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empire 1908–1918 (2011). On French sources, see, A. Beylerian (ed.), Les Grandes Puissances, I’Empire Ottoman et les Arméniens dans Les Archives Françaises (1914–1918), Recueil de Documents (1983). For an overview of sources held in the British National Archives, see ‘The National Archives, Spotlights on History, ‘the Armenian Massacres’ www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/spotlights/armenian.htm.
55 H. Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story: A Personal Account of the Armenian Genocide (2003 ); Maj. Gen. J.G. Harbord, Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia, 66th congress, 2nd Sess., Dec No 266, 13 April 1920, archive.org/stream/conditionsinnear01unit#page/n1/mode/2up; Adalian, R.P., ‘American Diplomatic Correspondence in the Age of Mass Murder: The Armenian Genocide in the US Archives,’ in Winter, J. (ed.), America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 (2003)Google Scholar.
56 See Bjørnlund, M., ‘“When the Cannons Talk, the Diplomats Must Be Silent”: A Danish Diplomat in Constantinople during the Armenian Genocide’, (2006) 1 Genocide Studies and Prevention 197Google Scholar; Avedian, V., ‘The Armenian Genocide of 1915 from a Neutral Small State's Perspective: Sweden’, (2010) 5 Genocide Studies and Prevention 323Google Scholar. I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for this point.
57 See for example, Viscount Bryce, The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915–16 Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by Viscount Bryce (1916). Misc 31 Cmnd 8325, HMSO 1916. For the controversy over the Blue Book, see D. Miller, ‘The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, History of the Blue Book’, (2005) 150 RUSI Journal.
58 First Counsellor, Turkish Embassy in Washington Güçlü, D.C. Y., ‘Will Untapped Ottoman Archives Reshape the Armenian Debate?’, (2009) 16 Middle East Quarterly 35Google Scholar available online: www.meforum.org/2114/ottoman-archives-reshape-armenian-debate
59 This assumes that the Ottoman archives do not contain gaps and are not intertwined with politics. Ibid., at 36.
61 Sarafian, A., ‘The Ottoman Archives Debate and the Armenian Genocide’, (1999) 2 Armenian Forum 35, at 38Google Scholar.
62 Dadrian, V.N, ‘Legal Proceedings as a Conceptual Framework’, in Dadrian, V.N. and Akçam, T. (eds.), Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials (2011), 127Google Scholar.
66 Balint, J., ‘The Ottoman State Special Military Tribunal for the Genocide of the Armenians: “Doing Government Business”’, in Heller, K.J. and Simpson, G. (eds.), The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (2013), 99Google Scholar.
67 Sarafian, supra note 61, at 41. See also A. Sarafian, Talaat Pasha's Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1917 (2011).
69 G. Robertson, ‘Was there an Armenian Genocide?’ Geoffrey Robertson QC's Opinion, 9 October 2009, para. 72, www.groong.com/Geoffrey-Robertson-QC-Genocide.pdf. See also G. Robertson, An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians? (2015).
70 Akçam, T., ‘The Formation and Operation of the Ottoman Military Tribunals’, in Dadrian, V.N. and Akçam, T. (eds.), Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials (2011), 254Google Scholar.
71 See, for example, T. Hoffman, Der Völkermord an den Armeniern vor Gericht: Der Prozess Talaat Pascha, (1985) 2. Aufl. d. Ausg. 1921, hrsg. u. eingel. von T. Hofmann.
72 Daily newspaper Tercümen-ı Hakikat of 16 April 1920 cited in Akçam, T., ‘The Formation and Operation of the Ottoman Military Tribunals’, in Dadrian, V.N. and Akçam, T. (eds.), Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials (2011), 251Google Scholar. Confusion over the names of these tribunals led the Sultan to change the name from ‘Istanbul Military Administration Tribunal (February 1919) to ‘First Military Tribunal’ (from 8 March 1919). This tribunal is referred to as ‘The Extraordinary Court-Martial’ (Dadrian, supra note 62), ‘the Ottoman State Special Military Tribunal’ (Balint, supra note 66) and ‘Ottoman Military Tribunals’ (Akçam, supra note 72).
74 R. Kévorkian, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (2011), 796.
75 J.F. Willis, Prologue to Nuremberg: the Politics and Diplomacy of Punishing War Criminals of the First World War (1982), 156.
77 Joint Declaration to the Sublime Porte, 29 May 1915, by France, Great Britain and Russia, cited in E. Schreb, ‘Crimes Against Humanity’, (1946) British Yearbook of International Law 176, at 181.
78 As cited in R.G. Hovannisian, ‘The Armenian Question 1978–1923’, in Libaridian (ed.), supra note 1, at 25.
79 1920 Treaty of Peace between the British Empire and Allied Powers and Turkey, UKTS 11 of 1920, Cmd. 964 (Treaty of Sèvres), Art. 142.
80 Treaty of Sèvres, Arts. 226–7, 230.
82 Kévorkian, supra note 74, at 796. Damad Ferid Pasha, also spelt Damat Ferid Paşa, held the office of Grand Vizier (similar to a Prime Minister in other European countries at the time) from 4 March until 2 October 1919 and then again from 5 until 21 October 1920
83 Treaty of Sèvres; cf. 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Declaration of Amnesty 1923 (1924) 18 American Journal of International Law 92.
85 G.J. Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance (2000), 139.
98 The ILC draft Articles on State Responsibility at that time included Art. 19(3)(c) on state crime: Rigaux, Ibid., at 10.
100 Groupement pour les Droits des Minorités, Paris, France; Cultural Survival, Cambridge, Massachussetts, USA; Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker, Göttingen, West Germany: Ibid., at xii.
104 C.J. Walker, ‘British Sources on the Armenian Massacres 1915–16’, in Libaridian, supra note 1, 53 at 57.
108 On military necessity, see Halaçoğlu, Y., ‘Realities Behind the Relocation’, in Ataöv, T. (ed.), The Armenians in the Late Ottoman Period (2001), 110Google Scholar; Erikson, E.J., ‘The Armenian Relocations and Ottoman National Security: Military necessity or excuse for genocide?’, (2011) 20 Middle East Critique 291Google Scholar.
112 Marco Roscini distinguishes between a continuing wrongful act and its effects under the International Law Commission Articles on State Responsibility, Art. 14: Roscini, M., ‘Establishing State Responsibility for Historical Injustices: the Armenian Case’, (2014) 14 International Criminal Law Review 291CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 301.
113 R. Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of government, Proposals for Redress (1944).
114 Lemkin, R., ‘Le Crime de génocide’, (1946) 24 Revue de Droit international, des Sciences Diplomatiques et Politiques 213Google Scholar.
115 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 78 UNTS 277. Turkey ratified the Convention on 31 July 1950 before its entry into force on 12 January 1951.
118 F. Rigaux, ‘Postscript: the Genocide of the Armenians and the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal’ in Libaridian, (ed.), supra note 1, 239, at 240.
119 The Martens Clause provides, ‘Until a more complete code of the laws of war is issued, the High Contracting Parties think it right to declare that in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, populations and belligerents remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and the requirements of public conscience.’ 1899 Convention II with respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, (Hague II), 32 Stat 1803, 1 Bevans 249, Preamble.
123 See the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal hearings on East Timor 1979, El Salvador 1981 and Guatemala 1982: Libaridian, supra note 1, 226. The Tribunal did not refer to its verdict in Tibet 1984, perhaps because in that case it found there was insufficient evidence to decide whether sterilisation of Tibetan women was systemic to the point it could be considered genocide. The Tribunal has considered genocide most recently in Sri Lanka.
124 Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of its Thirty-second Session, 5 May–25 July 1980, Supplement No 10, UN Doc. A/35/10, Draft Art. 19(3)(c).
125 General Assembly, Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts UN Doc. A/RES/56/83 (2001) and corrected by UN Doc. A/56/49(Vol. I)/Corr.4.
127 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 999 UNTS 171 and 1057 UNTS 407; 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 993 UNTS 3, Arts. 1(1).
128 ‘Judgment’, in Libaridian, supra note 1, at 211; Statute of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, Bologna, 24 June 1979, Arts. 1–2.
129 G. Chaliand, C. Mouradian, and A. Aslanian-Samuelian (eds.), Le Crime de Silence: Le Génocide des Arméniens (1984); Libaridian, supra note 1.
133 D.E Miller and L.T. Miller, Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide (1993); B. O’Neill, Honor, Symbols and War (2001); B. Berberoğlu, Turmoil in the Middle East: Imperialism, War and Political Instability (1999); Berberoğlu, B., ‘Nationalism and Ethic Rivalry in the early twentieth century: Focus on the Armenian Community in Ottoman Turkey’, (1991) 52The Indian Journal of Political Science 458Google Scholar; D.C.G. Lorenz, Verfolgung bis zum Massenmord: Holocaust-Diskurse in deutscher Sprache aus der Sicht der Verfolgten (1992); D. Fernandes, The Kurdish and Armenian Genocides from censorship and denial to recognition? (2007); Danielian, J., ‘A Century of Silence’, (2010) 70 American Journal of Psychoanalysis 245CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
134 The other sources listed were the UN Subcommittee report of 1985 and the European Parliament Resolution on a political solution to the Armenian Question, 18 June 1987 Doc A2-33/87: Nichanian, supra note 32, at 24.
135 Cf. B. Whittaker, Revised and Updated Report on the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/6, (1985), para. 24.
136 European Stability Initiative, Noah's Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide (2009), available at www.esiweb.org/pdf/esi_document_id_108.pdf.
137 Öktem, E., ‘Turkey: Successor or Continuing State of the Ottoman Empire’, (2011) 24 LJIL 561CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 577; Avedian, V., ‘State Identity, Continuity, and Responsibility: The Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide’, (2012) 23 European Journal of International Law 797CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Taçar and Gauin describe Avedian as ‘provocative’, ‘defaming’ [sic] and as a ‘political pamphleteer’. Taçar and Gauin, supra note 116, at 822.
138 Diary entry, recording a speech, identified as document L3 or Exhibit USA-28 written by Adolf Hitler on 22 August 1939. See further K. Bardakjian, Hitler and the Armenian Genocide (1985), R. Melson, Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust (1992), N.M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe (2002), Y. Güçlü, The Holocaust and the Armenian Case in Comparative Perspective (2012).
140 G. Simpson, ‘Review Essay’, (2005) 1 International Journal of Law in Context 106.
142 F. Çetin, My Grandmother: A Memoir, translated by M. Freely (2008); Miller and Miller, supra note 133.
147 Akton, G., ‘The Armenian Problem and International Law’, in Ataöv, T. (ed.), The Armenians in the Late Ottoman Period (2001) 263, at 264Google Scholar.
150 Ibid., at 274.
153 Cf. Sullo: parliaments passing legislation to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide is ‘misappropriation of the role of the historian by the legislator.’ Sullo, supra note 17, at 430.
155 Affaire Perinçek c. Suisse, Requête no 27510/08, 17 décembre 2013, renvoi devant la Grande Chambre 02/06/2014 (‘Perinçek Judgment’), para. 3.
159 Perinçek v. Switzerland, Grand Chamber Judgment of 15 October 2015, Application No 27510/08, at para. 300.
165 On framing crimes through the historical context at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, see Wilson, supra note 14, at 77.
168 International Association of Genocide Scholars, ‘Armenian Genocide Resolution’ www.genocidescholars.org/sites/default/files/document%09%5Bcurrent-page%3A1%5D/documents/IAGSArmenian%20Genocide%20Resolution%20_0.pdf
170 ‘Of the three great genocides in the twentieth century, those of the Armenians, the Jews and Gypsies, and the Tutsi, . . .’ W.A. Schabas, Genocide in International Law (2009), ix; Cf. ‘An impartial legal observer, having no knowledge about the background, the debates and the validity of the account [in the Cambridge History of Turkey cited] would be likely to conclude that such an account of the 1915 events points to crimes against humanity rather than genocide as the appropriate nomenclature’ 260; it may be easier to agree upon the term crimes against humanity than to admit to genocide, and. . .this may open a pathway to a shared narrative.’ Schabas, supra note 122, at 268. Schabas refers to M. Şűkrű, Hanîoğlu, ‘The Second Constitutional Period, 1908–1918’, in R. Kasaba (ed.) The Cambridge History of Turkey (2008), 62 at 96.
172 ‘Is it possible that the antonym of “forgetting” is not “remembering”, but justice?’, Y.H. Yersushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (1982), 117, cited in Derrida, supra note 33, at 77.
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