04, 2016

Statement by the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan at the opening of the Second Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide



Distinguished guests,
Distinguished participants of the Global Forum,


One year ago, on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, I had the honor to declare the launching of the work of this Global Forum, with a strong faith in its mission and success. That mission was to identify the issues related to the prevention of genocide, develop the avenues for their resolution and consolidate the potential of the civilized humankind in order to register a decisive victory over the crimes against humanity in the 21st century.

Today, as one year has passed since then, I can state with the outmost certainty that we have achieved those objectives: the first forum found extensive response both with the expert community and thousands of people both in Armenia and way beyond its borders. It provided with an opportunity to the world to discuss anew genocide as the gravest crime committed by human beings. That was a reason good enough for us to make this conference a permanent platform for those individuals, genocide survivors, their successors and, of course, States and international structures that are determined and consentaneous to make their contribution to this universal struggle.
I warmly welcome you all, and I am very glad that we are united.
Ladies and gentlemen,

2015 was an important milestone for us to grasp anew the one hundred year-long struggle of our nation for its right to exist and restoration of historical justice. The Armenian Genocide Centennial was marked not by mourning but the messages of gratitude and revival that we sent out to the world, as well as determination to make the Republic of Armenia one of the pioneering forces to lead the struggle against that crime. Our vision is crystal crisp: it is necessary to instill consciousness of the absolute inadmissibility of genocide in order to prevent such catastrophes unfolding.
2015 was important in that context since a number of Heads of States, Parliaments, international structures, religious organizations, prominent individuals expressed their solidarity to our joint struggle against genocide by recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide.
The current logics of the global development unambiguously registers that we are all interdependent, and that interdependence transforms a failure of one into a failure of all, and that is also true for a success or suffering. Today it is difficult to imagine a security challenge that threatens only one nation. Therefore, none of us can consider oneself ensured against the horrors that our ancestors went through in the 20th century, that our contemporaries are surviving in the 21st century unless we decide that we should state ‘never again’ regardless of the price that every one of us should pay. That same logics also reminds us that a genocide committed at any corner of the world should be viewed as a failure for the international community as a whole, and the prevention of it is the duty of every single one of us individually and of the humankind collectively. Hence, it is natural that those, who underwent and survived genocide and their generations shall be continuously looking at the international community and pressing for justice.
Distinguished participants,
The general heading for this year’s conference is “Living Witnesses of Genocide” that allows us to uncover the issues of outmost importance related both to addressing the consequences of genocide and its prevention. Today there are here with us living witnesses that survived genocide. People, who felt on their own skin the indescribable and unutterable horrors of genocide, irremediable pain of loss, yearn, homeland dispossession, and at the time they should have bade farewell to their own past and future. For every single one of them it was hard to be optimistic, but they are here to register that genocide perpetrators have not won. I strongly believe that they all have gone through a valorous path and throughout that path they met people, who extended helping hand, assisted in their recovery and inspired their hopes… People, who revolted against the scourge of their time and did not bear with indifference, who neglected their very own interests since they could have not beard with injustice, who risked themselves in order to save one more human life.
Today, unfortunately, the humankind still lacks humanness. It is demonstrated by the wave of denial by the genocide perpetrators and their successors. It was rightly noted by the Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel that to deny would be akin to killing victims a second time. In some instances denial is expressed through violation of the right to remembrance and awareness. Denial imposes constant feeling of fear unto the survivors and their successors since those who deny or justify what had happened do not directly exclude the possibility of recurrence of that very same crime should there be appropriate conditions for that.
Meanwhile, I believe that the international legal documents related to the crime of genocide do not pay due attention to the international legal regulation of the issues related to the genocide survivors. The same is also true for the international legal regime related to the refugees. It is critical to understand how to define a special legal status for survivors of genocide and other crimes against humanity through the improvement of the existing legal mechanisms or introduction of new legal norms; otherwise, perhaps, it would be impossible to comprehensively approach this issue.
Any reasonable adjudication of a crime requires also recognition of the rights of the victims concerning their losses and suffering. Certainly, it is also true for the survivors of genocide and other crimes against humanity. Necessary mechanisms should be installed, which will allow both recognizing that right and implementing it.
Distinguished colleagues,
As recent crises in the Middle East have demonstrated, nowadays the issue of genocide prevention remains urgent and topical. Lately, the world has been watching with repulsion how the terrorists of the Islamic State have been torturing, beheading and mutilating innocent people, including women, children, and elderly people. The world is shocked with the barbarities that are carried out by a gang of thugs, who can hardly be called to justice and can be fought against barely with missiles.
Nevertheless, if the thugs that carry out atrocities are fought with missiles, a question comes up: what kind of responsibility should bear a State, a subject of international law, for condoning and carrying out similar crimes?
What would you say of a country, a fully-fledged subject of international law, a member of the UN, Council of Europe and various other structures, a signatory of the humanitarian conventions, whose script is not much different from that of the Islamic State? Just a few weeks ago, during the large-scale offensive unleashed by Azerbaijan against Nagorno Karabakh, Azeri soldiers were not content with just shooting their arms: they mutilated elderly people, Armenian soldiers, decapitated them and cut off their ears and presented those actions in the social networks as a manifestation of heroism. It was all evidently encouraged by the Azerbaijani authorities. Is not it bizarre that a country that pursues such barbaric policy and violates all the norms of civilized conduct, these days is going to host a conference under the rubric of “Alliance of Civilizations?” Is this an approach to be tolerated? We must get to the point, when a display of such hatred shall not be tolerated, when any government shall refrain from such conduct mindful that it may be hold responsible for it.
We as the international community must swiftly and resolutely eradicate all such instances of genocidal conduct wherever they should occur, as it was done some days ago by the leadership and public of Sweden with regard to the hate speech directed against Armenians by the Turkish nationalist Barbaros Leylani. This requires our concerted effort, perhaps even subordination of geopolitical interests, ability to voice strict and targeted condemnation. Unless we are able to nip such conduct in the bud, we will have to deal with the elimination of their various and unpredictable consequences; we will continue to face various crimes nourished by hatred – crimes, among which are the terrorist activities that gain new range and scale on our continent.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On the Armenian Genocide Centennial the Armenian nation sent out a message of gratitude to the entire world. The Hundred Lives initiative and the Aurora Prize were launched on behalf of the survivors and as a token of appreciation to those who in the direst times came to the Armenian people’s rescue. I congratulate and express my admiration to the nominees of the Prize. All your stories are very touching; at the same time, those are inspiring and encouraging. I thank the founders of this project – Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan, and Ruben Vardanian, organizers of the award ceremony, as well as all those who have contributed to the implementation of this momentous initiative.
I wish all of us productive work. I also wish that future generations learn about crimes against humanity only from books.


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