Antelias: International Conference on “Genocide, Impunity & Justice”

Catholicosate of Cilicia
Communication and Information Department
Tel: (04) 410001, 410003
Fax: (04) 419724
E- mail: [email protected]

PO Box 70 317

International Conference on “Genocide, Impunity and Justice”

Opening session; the international community
must go beyond judicial commitments and processes
in order to prevent genocides

Antelias, Lebanon – An international conference organized by the Armenian
Catholicosate of Cilicia on “Genocide, Impunity and Justice,” started
Thursday afternoon 22 April, 2004, at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia,
in Antelias, Lebanon. The conference was meant to coincide with the
anniversary of the Armenian genocide which took 1.5 million lives.

During his opening remarks His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of Cilicia,
addressing the conference highlighted the question of Impunity.

“The 20th century was an age of genocides,” said Catholicos Aram I, in his
opening speech, despite “significant and encouraging development.”

This was the result of numerous international declarations for human rights,
including the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in
1998, he said.

According to him though, the international community “failed to respond
immediately in Rwanda, which led to disastrous repercussions. While in
Kosovo, thousands of human beings were saved because of a preventive

Aram also pointed out that the punitive approach is an essential factor for
the restoration of justice, which only happens when the rights of the victim
are fully recognized and adequately addressed.

“Why can’t the International Criminal Court bring governments or nations to
justice?” asked Aram.

He added that the punitive approach should be followed by retributive
justice. This means that victims should be compensated, truth should be
revealed and responsibility accepted.

“What is the use of all the treaties and institutions … if the powerful do
not abide by [them]?” said Nawaf Kabbara, professor of political sciences at
the Balamand University.

“Justice is determined by the powerful, but in the power game, the dominant
emerges, but he is not necessarily the best,” he said.

Information Minister Michel Samaha, who delivered President Emile Lahoud’s
address, said that the Ottoman state took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians
in the massive genocide it carried in the early 20th century to eliminate
Armenian culture .

However, the “Armenian people were able to survive, and rebuild their
country,” said Samaha. As for refugees, “they were able to mingle with the
countries they fled to and contribute to their development,” he added.

Louis Joinet, magistrate at the Court of Cassation in France, and the
rapporteur of UN special sub-commission on human rights, spoke of the
natural humanitarian movement towards impunity and justice.

“There has to be a right to know individually and collectively where and
when genocide took place. (There also has to be) a right to achieve
justice,” said Joinet.

He added that “good justice” is never quick, and that he prefers
reconciliation through pardon.

But according to Joinet, the question is who should be pardoned? He pointed
out that no one was willing to claim responsibility for such actions, as
France did for the massacres in Algeria years after they had originally

Ninan Koshy, ex-human rights professor at Harvard University, said that back
in the 1920s there was no definition of massacre until Rafael Lemkin, a
linguistics student in Poland, gave it the name genocide.

Koshy also said that the ICC is hampered by legal loopholes, such as its
inability to look into crimes that took place before the court came to force
in July 2002.

Another threat was manifested by the US, as Koshy pointed out when he
explained that the US was still looking to avoid responsibility for its

“May 6, 2002, the Bush administration renounced US ratification of the Rome
treaty that formally established the ICC,” said Koshy.

He added that on August 3, 2002, the US declared it would use military force
if necessary to liberate any American or any citizen of an allied country
that was held by the ICC – a move dubbed as the Hague Invasion Act.

“What would the US do? Bomb the Hague?” Koshy said.


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The Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia is one of the two Catholicosates of
the Armenian Orthodox Church. For detailed information about the history and
the mission of the Cilician Catholicosate, you may refer to the web page of
the Catholicosate, The Cilician Catholicosate, the
administrative center of the church is located in Antelias, Lebanon.