April 2015 was the centenary of Gallipoli, an event deeply set in Australian history, but it was also the centenary of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of the then Ottoman Empire. Yet the latter event is mired in controversy, and closure has not yet occurred. It was the first genocide of the twentieth century, but not the last.
How can it be that such an awful event is still the subject of dispute? Geoffrey Robertson QC analyses this subject in a readable but legal manner which will be of interest to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. There are two main issues. First, did it occur and what was its scope? Second, what should be the legal consequences following the establishment of the facts? A disturbing feature of this enquiry is the way in which certain Western governments including the United Kingdom have tailored their views for the sake of political advantage.
The facts cannot be seriously doubted. Whether it was 600,000 or 1.2 million Armenians that perished, it was obviously a crime against humanity. As most fact resolvers know, it is safer to rely on what was said at the time than on statements made long after the event. Winston Churchill, never one to mince his words, said in 1929:
In 1915 the Turkish government began and ruthlessly carried out the infamous general massacre and deportation of Armenians in Asia Minor … whole districts were blotted out in one administrative holocaust … there is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons.