Statement on the case of Perincek v. Switzerland

This judgment is a very good result for Armenia and for Armenians.

1. It overrules the comments by several judges in the lower court who thought that the mass murder of the Armenians in 1915 might not amount to genocide. The Court held that they had no jurisdiction to consider findings on this issue. So the lower court judgment was wrong and can no longer have any weight or influence.

2. The Court declared that Armenians have “the right to respect for their and their ancestors’ dignity including their right to respect for their identity constructed around the understanding that their community has suffered genocide” (para 227). This is a ruling of great importance. It means that states in Europe can punish Armenian genocide denial if it is calculated to incite violence or racial disharmony.   The problem with the Swiss prosecution of Perincek was that he is a worthless provocateur whose speech would not have been taken seriously or done any harm, so there was no need in a democratic society to use criminal law against him.

3. The reaffirmation of free speech principles by the court means that the laws against “insulting Turkishness” in the Turkish criminal code (Article 301) cannot be used as they were against Hrant Dink and other Turkish and Armenian citizens who probe Turkish guilt for the Genocide. Turkish infringements of free speech must now end.

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