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Public Lecture by Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian: Calling Things By Their Right Names

YEREVAN, Armenia – On April 21st, the American University of Armenia (AUA) College of Humanities & Social Sciences (CHSS) hosted a public lecture and open discussion led by Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, joined by moderator CHSS Dean Thomas Samuelian. AUA honored guests Governor Dukakis and his wife Katharine Dukakis were among the active participants throughout the event. The aim of the lecture was emphasize the importance of calling the Armenian Genocide by its right name as a step toward recognition, and preventing future genocides.

“It certainly is important to call things by their correct name, and it’s also very important to understand what a name means. The word “Genocide”, legally, is very technical. The definition that has been used in all of the international courts comes from the convention against genocide. What that convention does is require all states to take measures to punish or prevent crimes of genocide which are defined as certain facts in which there are 5 categories. The categories include killing members of a group, creating conditions of life that could destroy the group, inflicting severe physical or mental harm on members of the group, preventing births in a group, or transferring children from a group. Any of these 5 types of acts committed with the intent (the key part to committing genocide is the intent) to destroy that group as such, in whole, or in part. The group has to be a national, religious, ethnic or racial group,” stated Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian in his introductory remarks.

During the discussion that followed, Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian addressed many questions regarding closure after recognition, freedom of speech, genocide versus other categories of crimes, goals of the international community, the current Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and many more.

The complete video stream of the event can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2650&v=3yz0fxEUzDs.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, is in charge of hearing human rights violations including charges of genocide in Cambodia. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Koumjian was Senior Appeals Counsel for the prosecution of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He represented Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo before the International Criminal Court in a case involving the situation in Darfur, and assisted victims from the Ivory Coast on a pro-bono basis. He was previously Principal Trial Attorney for the trial of Charles Taylor, headed the UN-funded Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor, and was a trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Before entering the international arena, Mr. Koumjian worked as a prosecutor in Los Angeles for twenty years.

Mr. Koumjian is well-known to the AUA community. He has been a visiting lecturer in our LL.M. program over the past several years. More information about Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian can be found at: http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/persons/mr-nicholas-koumjian.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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