This is a summary report of a Peace Palace Library Lecture entitled 'Legacies of the Armenian Genocide' that took place on 7 May 2018. The Peace Palace Library was proud to host the following distinguished speakers.
The first speaker of the evening was Jeroen Vervliet, Director of the Peace Palace Library. He studied history and Law at the Unversity of Amsterdam. In 2008 Mr Vervliet co-organized, with the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, a memorial symposium on "The Genocide Convention. The Legacy of 60 Years", which resulted in a conference proceedings book edited by professor Harmen van der Wilt and Jeroen Vervliet. In this volume, Mr Vervliet authored an introductory biographical and bibliographical chapter on Raphael Lemkin.
For this lecture Jeroen Vervliet examined the impact the Armenian Genocide had on Raphael Lemkin, the intellectual father of the 1948 Genocide Convention. He used various sources, such as (auto)biographies, to show how Lemkin's thoughts were considerably formed by the Armenian Genocide, from the massacres of Ottoman Armenians and Assyrians, the Malta Trials to the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin in 1920 for the assassination of Talaat Pasha.
The second speaker of the evening was Alexis Demirdjian. He is a lawyer from Montreal, Canada and he currently works as a Prosecution Trial Lawyer at the International Criminal Court. In 2015, he published - as editor - an interdisciplinary volume entitled The Armenian Genocide Legacy published by Palgrave Macmillan, which collected the contribution of 20 authors from various disciplines on the issue of the relevance of the Armenian Genocide 100 years later and its long-lasting impact. Mr Demirdjian has also published various articles and book chapters relating to international criminal law. As of late, he has focused on the work of judicial systems during an armed conflict, whether they continue to operate or whether they are corrupted due to political allegiance.
For this lecture Mr Demidjian focused on the trials held in Istanbul after the First World War of the leaders of the Ottoman Empire for crimes committed against the Armenian population. In particular, he discussed the lack of legacy of these trials due to the political circumstances of the time, in comparison to the Nuremberg trials which took place less than three decades later.
Nb. The research and opinions expressed by Mr Demirdjian were his own and not the view of his employer.
Ugur Ümit Üngör is Associate Professor at the Department of History at Utrecht University and Research Fellow at the Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam. His main areas of interest are state formation and nation formation, with a particular focus on mass violence. His most recent publications include Genocide: New Perspectives on its Causes, Courses and Consequences (Amsterdam University Press, 2016, ed.), Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property (Continuum, 2011) and the award-winning The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950 (Oxford University Press, 2011).
For this lecture, Mr Üngör argued that the Armenian Genocide stands as an unique event in modern Middle Eastern history. Since 1915, mass violence has occurred and re-occurred in the same lands where the Armenians were annihilated. He argued persuasively how the 1915 genocide influenced these conflicts with his extensive knowledge of the Armenian Genocide as well as the Syrian civil war interwoven with several anecdotes about his interactions and travels in the Middle East, Anatolia and the Caucasus.
After the short lectures Mr Nisan Sarican, reference librarian and acting as moderator for this event, opened up the floor to questions. There was a lively discussion between the panelists and the audience. Questions asked concerned but were not limited to the status of Raphael Lemkin as a great jurist of the twentieth century, why the Istanbul trials were understudied and had not seeped into popular knowledge and how Armenian and Assyrian victim communities in the Middle East were coping with generational traumas and revictimization.
Drinks and appetizers were available after the lecture and the discussion continued well into the evening.