ANKARA: US Federal Appeals Court Revisits ‘Armenian Genocide’ Lawsui


Today’s Zaman
Nov 8 2011

Armenians demonstrate to remember what they call the “genocide” for
tragic events in 1915 when up to 1.5 million Armenians are claimed
to be killed at the hand of Ottomans. (Photo: Reuters)

A federal appeals court on Monday took up the thorny issue of whether
California law declaring there was an Armenian genocide in Turkey
conflicts with US foreign policy.

At issue is a state law that labels the deaths a genocide, allowing
heirs of Armenians killed in the Turkish Ottoman Empire to pursue a
lawsuit seeking life insurance payments from three German insurers.

It’s the third time in two years the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals
has confronted the politically charged question. In a rare move,
the court reversed itself last year after a judge changed her mind
and turned a 2-1 ruling rendered in 2009 in favor of insurers into
a 2-1 decision supporting the heirs’ lawsuit.

On Monday, the court’s chief justice announced in a brief statement
that a majority of judges had voted to rehear the case – a move that
wipes out the 2010 decision.

The insurers, which include Munich Re AG, argue California’s law
should be struck down because it conflicts with US foreign policy,
which they say sides with Turkey in refusing to call the Armenian
deaths genocide. Turkey describes the deaths as resulting from civil
unrest that accompanied the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The insurers point to decisions by former presidents Bill Clinton
and George W. Bush to defeat congressional legislation that would
have recognized an Armenian genocide.

Lawyers for the heirs argue those presidential views are not official
policy. They say the United States lacks a formal position, which
means the California law is not in conflict with any national policy.

Armenians claim that up to 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered at
the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915, but Turkey rejects the allegations,
saying that the number is inflated and that both sides suffered
losses. Nearly a million ethnic Armenians live in California and
constitute large portion of the electorate in the southern part of
the state.