Geoffrey Robertson QC and Amal Clooney of Doughty Street Chambers represented the Republic of Armenia intervening as a third party in the case Perincek v Switzerland before the European Court of Human Rights. In an interview with the Public TV of Armenia, Amal Clooney comments on the importance and scope of the Grand Chamber’s ruling in that case and explains why this constitutes a victory for Armenia.
“We are very happy for the judgment. This is a victory for Armenia. Armenia was neither a plaintiff, nor a defendant in this case. Armenia was a third party that intervened in the case and did so for one reason – because the low court judgment had in three paragraphs cast doubt on the reality of the Armenian Genocide. It cast doubt on whether the massacres of 1915 constituted genocide, and used language insulting the Armenian community,” Amal Clooney said, adding that they went to the court to ensure that that Grand Chamber not repeat it.
“Those were the arguments and we won. The Court said that the findings of the lower court were inappropriate. Ten of the judges said they should never have discussed the point at all, as it was out of the Court’s jurisdiction. Another seven judges said that the ‘Armenian Genocide is a clearly established historical fact.’ That’s why the judgment is a victory for Armenia,” she added.
“What the European Court actually decided is that “Perincek’s speeches should not be criminalized, because they didn’t rise to the level of speech, inciting racial hatred and violence in the county they were made, which is Switzerland. This is an encouraging decision from the perspective of the freedom of expression, because the court should be concerned with any country’s laws that make speech a crime. It’s understandable that the Court wants to be very careful about ensuring that states only criminalize a speech in the most extreme circumstances. This is not a finding Armenia needs to be concerned with. People who talks about the Armenian Genocide are not being prosecuted in the courts of Yerevan. They are, however, being prosecuted by courts in Turkey. And it is interesting that in the aftermath of the judgment Turkey’s former Foreign Minister said to Al Jazeera that “Oh, Turkey celebrates the judgment, because it respects freedom of expression.” The reality is that in all the cases that have come before the European Court up to 2014 there have been 591 findings of violation of expression and almost half of them are violations by Turkey. What we hope for is that Turkey is paying close attention to the judgment. We hope Turkey embraces this high standard for freedom of expression that has been set so that journalists like Hrant Dink are no longer prosecuted by the Turkish court for insulting Turkishness or insulting the Turkish state,” the lawyer said.
In conclusion, Amal Clooney said it was a true honor to represent Armenia in this case. “Looking back I’m sure Armenians don’t really care much about what Perincek has to say. If we look at the issue as a whole, we can say that Armenians care about what the Pope will say, and we know that the Pope has come out to say this was genocide. We know that President Obama, before he became President, said it was genocide. So, you may have Turkey continue to deny that reality, but they can no longer after today’s judgment point to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights to support that view,” Mrs. Clooney concluded.
Transcripts by Public Radio of Armenia.