Press Release Regarding the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) Judgement of 17 December 2013 against Switzerland on “Freedom of Expression”
No: 336, 18 December 2013
In a judgment published yesterday (17 December) by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding the case of Doğu Perinçek v. Switzerland, it was held that Perinçek’s conviction by Swiss Courts on the basis of his statements that “the 1915 events cannot be considered as genocide” constituted a breach of Article 10 on freedom of expression of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It will be recalled that the case filed as a result of a complaint by the association “Switzerland-Armenia”, a judgement of conviction was given on the basis of “denial of genocide” within the context of the Article on the “fight against racism” of the Swiss Criminal Code.
The judgment of the ECtHR which was announced yesterday constitutes a milestone for “the protection of the freedom of expression which is the fundamental element of societies committed to freedom, democracy and the rule of law”.
It is clear that the judgment of the ECtHR is an important warning against attempts both to politicize history and law and against initiatives aimed at having a one-sided view of history registered through the use of law.
Turkey became an intervening party in the case, which closely concerns our country in every aspect, and submitted observations to the ECtHR in this context.
The ECtHR’s demonstration through the case law of the international courts, that "genocide" is a very clearly defined crime with specific conditions of proof and the Court’s strong emphasis that the 1915 events, which constitute a legitimate subject of debate, are historically and legally distinct from the Holocaust are important findings.
The judgment, which notes that the ECtHR does not pronounce on the legal characterization of “genocide”, also stresses the wrongfulness of views which ignore the fact that the notion of "genocide" has a serious legal dimension.
This judgment given by the highest judicial authority on human rights in Europe also provides the necessary response to the legislative initiatives on “denial” especially in Europe which aim to distort Turkish history and to prevent challenges to Armenian allegations which are held as “truth”. We hope that, henceforth, such initiatives which are against human rights and the rule of law come to an end.
The confirmation within the European context that the freedom of expression, which is the building block of democratic societies, is safeguarded, is a victory for the rule of law.
Although the outlook of Armenian and Turkish peoples on their common history differ, it is important that the parties, in dialogue with each other, discuss the issue on a scientific basis in a fair and open minded way. Turkey is ready to do its part on this matter.
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