Report on House of Commons Meeting held on 22 June 2007

Armenia Solidarity
British Armenian All Party Parliamentary Group
Nor Serount Publications
The Armenian Genocide Trust

Report on House of Commons Meeting on
Genocide Denial and the UK Government’s "Ethical Foreign Policy"
Held on 22 June 2007

Tel 07876561398 or 07718982732
e-mails : [email protected], [email protected]
[email protected] t.com [email protected]

The meeting was convened on the day that a new Prime Minister took up
the seals of office and in anticipation of a subsequent cabinet
reshuffle. Its purpose was to focus on the present UK government policy
as it affected both the Armenian Genocide recognition and the current
genocide in Darfur in the hope that it could become more effective and
ethical.

The meeting was sponsored by David Drew MP and chaired by John Bercow
MP. The chairman gave an overview of the terrible events in Darfur and
the lack of effective international action to stop the carnage. He
proposed that the inability to clearly condemn earlier genocides was one
factor that allowed more than 60 repetitions of such crimes against
humanity in the essentially genocidal 20th century.

Ruth Barnet, a survivor of the Holocaust who works with genocide
survivors, stated that a diaspora remains troubled by genocide until it
is recognised by the perpetrator. Denial consists of attempts to cover
the evidence and to argue the events never happened. This worsens the
psychological impact as true mourning cannot commence and survivors who
carry the burden of memory cannot live their lives to their full
potential. These feelings spread down the generations and are carried
until the proper acknowledgement is given. The murdered ancestors are a
loss to the whole of humanity, not just to their own people. A ‘genocide
footprint’ can measure the destruction of humanity just as a carbon
footprint the destruction of the environment. Each time there is no
protest at genocide, a footprint is made on the human soul for the loss
of the living and the unborn. What is needed for sufficient people to
protest so as to make a difference to the direction of governments and
other state organisations.

Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, brought out the
startling similarities between the Armenian Genocide and Darfur even
though these are over 90 years apart. Both have a victimising power
that claims to be responding to a threat from a minority in the context
of external conflict (1st World War, fight against terrorism), the use
of irregular forces against civilians coordinated by government forces,
the use of privation and violence as a means of extermination, good
communication of the unfolding events to the outside world who response
is high on rhetoric and low on action. In both cases, the perpetrators
have not been held effectively to account, and denial continues despite
the wealth of information to the contrary from reliable independent
sources. The Armenian Genocide can be seen as a good prototype for
denialism and Darfur follows the Turkish model of obfuscation and
dissemination of confusion. Even today, Turkish denialism is rampant
having temporarily closed a New York exhibition on the Rwandan genocide
(because of a single reference to the Armenian Genocide) and the
activities of TARC (Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Committee) aimed at
diverting attention from the real issues. Denial legitimises the
original murders and avoids addressing prevention. It must be met
head-on.

Yet today there is an International Criminal Court which may have to
wait decades before it is given the powers to prosecute the indicted of
Darfur. Meanwhile, the Sudanese authorities still benefit from
significant oil revenues using it to buy the hardware for repression,
continue to control the irregular forces that brutalise civilians and
the much talked about no fly zone has not been implemented. One wonders
if the world had acted in concerted effort to stop the killing of
Armenians in 1915, the 20th century may have been a different place.

Turkish society is beginning to change with some of the new generation
becoming more aware of the past and challenging radical
ultra-nationalistic views. The UK government is not helping this
process by supporting the position of the Turkish government. The Aegis
Trust would welcome an enquiry not only into the impact of the British
foreign policy in failing to identify and stop the killing of Armenians
during the 1st World War but also the behaviour of the British
government in all subsequent genocides such as Rwanda and the Bosnia.
Until we really understand the failings and lessons of these events, and
bring the decision makers to account for the failure that leads to
unnecessary mass murder of innocents, we will not change the future. We
do have to look at history and combat denial to apply these lessons.

HE Dr Vahe Gabrielyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, applauded
the convergence of many organisations to focus on all genocides and the
relationship between them. The outcome of the recognition of past
genocides should be not only be the moral and ethical tribute to the
survivors but also lead to the prevention of potential future
repetition. Because the Armenian Genocide has not been condemned,
further appalling events could not be stopped. There should be a united
front against all genocides across all nations backed by huge
cross-border and cross-people pressure on all governments. Only then
will governments, including the UK, act to the required measures.

The government of Armenia with its people adds voice to the
international community to stop the atrocities in Darfur. The lessons
from the Armenian Genocide should be input to this initiative so as to
achieve effective action.