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Human Rights Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson to speak at AUA

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YEREVAN – The American University of Armenia will host international human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC on Monday, April 23.  During his visit, Robertson will lecture on “Why Armenian Genocide Deniers are Wrong” in an event entitled, “A Legal Lens on Genocide: How Global Information and Transparency Empowers Law to Pursue a Universal Justice.”

Robertson’s lecture, which is open to the public, will be held in the Manoogian Auditorium in AUA’s Paramaz Avedisian building at 5:30 p.m.  The address will be live streamed and available for viewing at webcam.aua.am.

The talk is the third in the “Thinking About Thinking Lecture Series” presented in cooperation with the Luys Foundation.  There will be a panel discussion following the lecture moderated by Thomas Samuelian, dean of AUA’s Department of Law; joining Robertson on the panel will be Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Deputy Minister, Republic of Armenia Ministry of Justice, and Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Director Hayk Demoyan.

At noon, Robertson will hold a joint press conference with Demoyan at the museum.  Demoyan will also present Robertson with the Fridtjof Nansen medal to honor his legal examination of the Armenian Genocide.  Demoyan will then conduct Robertson and AUA President Bruce Boghosian on a tour of the museum after which they will lay flowers at the genocide memorial.

Robertson is the author of Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice, which analyzes the development and application of international human rights law and opens with Hitler’s quote dismissing the Armenian Genocide as a forgotten event.

In 2008, the Armenian Centre in London retained Robertson to determine whether the Turkish deportations and massacres of Armenians beginning in 1915 constituted genocide under the standards of international law.  The United Kingdom, like the United States, still refuses to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.    

Upon considering the body of evidence documenting the deportations and massacres and its relation to international law as defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide, Robertson judged, “In my opinion the law . . . when applied to the facts . . . produces the inevitable conclusion that the treatment of the Armenians in 1915 answers to the description of genocide.”

Based on secret government policy documents and memoranda obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Robertson also exposed as false the British government’s claim that it had “judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be categorized as genocide.”  The government, Robertson charged, had never undertaken any such appraisal.

In his 41-page report Was There an Armenian Genocide?, Robertson contends that Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice to government ministers was “calculated to mislead parliament into believing that there has been an assessment of evidence and an exercise of judgment on that evidence.”

“Parliament,” he declared, “has been routinely misinformed.”

Robertson accused the FCO of engaging in “genocide denial” because “acknowledging a genocide in Armenia would damage relationships with Turkey without any compensating advantage for British economic or diplomatic interests.”

An April 1999 FCO memorandum cited by Robertson states, “Given the importance of our relations (political, strategic and commercial) with Turkey, and that recognizing the genocide would provide no practical benefit to the UK . . . the current line is the only feasible option.”  The document’s author admits that this policy leaves the government “open to criticism in terms of the ethical dimension.”

Robertson asserts that the British government’s “current description of these events as no more than a ‘tragedy’ would have astonished the leaders of HMG [His Majesty’s Government] in 1915 and during the post-war peace conferences, who viewed them not as a tragedy but as a monumental crime. “

Robertson served as the first president of the United Nations War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone and has participated in numerous human rights missions on behalf of Amnesty International.  The founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers in London, Robertson has appeared in cases before various international courts including the European Court of Human Rights.  In 2008, he was appointed by the Secretary General to sit on the United Nations Internal Justice Council.

Over twenty years ago, Robertson successfully defended author Salman Rushdie when British Muslims brought a suit alleging blasphemous libel following the publication of The Satanic Verses.  Robertson also hid Rushdie in his home after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s assassination.

Today, Robertson, who holds dual British and Australian citizenship, represents an equally prominent and controversial client: he is currently advising fellow Australian Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks.

The American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, nonsectarian, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia.  Founded in 1991, AUA is affiliated with the University of California and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.  Through teaching, research, and public service, AUA serves Armenia and the region by supplying high-quality education in seven different major fields, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting democratic values. 

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