ECHR backs Turkish man's right to deny 'Armenian genocide’

ECHR rules in favour of Turkish politician, as it argues denial of 'Armenian genocide’ is part of freedom speech

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Turkish politician Dogu Perincek waves to supporters outside a court in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 6, 2007

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday that a Turkish politician, Dogu Perincek, should not have been prosecuted for denying "Armenian genocide" allegations, as part of freedom of speech.

Perincek, chairman of the Turkish Patriotic Party, had been found guilty of racial discrimination in Switzerland in 2007 for saying that the "Armenian genocide is a great international lie."

The ECHR judges overruled an Armenian appeal presented in January by 10 votes to seven, deciding that there had been a violation of freedom of expression.

"The Court concluded that it had not been necessary, in a democratic society, to subject Mr Perincek to a criminal penalty in order to protect the rights of the Armenian community at stake in the case," read the ruling.

Following the ruling, Perincek said that “throughout centuries there has been many battles in the cause of freedom of speech in Europe, so no other result could have been expected.”

Although the decision was in Perincek’s favour, it was also welcomed in Armenia.

"It means that states in Europe can punish Armenian genocide denial if it is calculated to incite violence or racial disharmony," Armenia's prosecutor general said in a statement.

This is the second time that the ECHR says Perincek’s conviction was “unjustified,” after he was forced to apply to the ECHR, when his appeal was dismissed in Switzerland in 2008.

Switzerland’s parliament had recognised the events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire as a “genocide” of the Armenian people in 2003.

Turkey has repeatedly rejected the claim and the events which took place during World War I can amount to “genocide,” as the country argues that there were casualties on both sides.

The Armenians sided with invading Russians and rioted against the empire, which started the relocation process of those living in eastern Anatolia.

Turkey has long called for a joint commission of historians to be formed and archives to be examined to reveal what actually happened between the Ottoman Empire and its Armenian citizens.

TRTWorld and agencies