Can Srebrenica ruling benefit Turkey on Armenian issue?

The acquittal of Serbia on a charge of genocide was not easy for Turkey, while it was unacceptable for the Bosnians who were direct subjects of the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.

Can Srebrenica ruling benefit Turkey on Armenian issue?

However, the judgment is still considered an important landmark in international law.

The ruling of the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) is significant for it confirmed that a genocide had taken place in Srebrenica and also that Serbia had the power to foresee and prevent the slaughter, but had failed to use it. Moreover, the judges found that Serbia failed to comply with its obligations to punish those who carried out the genocide. All in all, however imperfect Monday's decision was, it might serve to clarify the definition of genocide and the responsibility of states to prevent it in terms of international law, which is very important for Turkey, a target of claims that mass deportation of Armenians in 1915 at the hands of the Ottomans was tantamount to genocide.

The decision also came at a time when the Turkish Foreign Ministry is considering taking the case to the Court of International Justice, and put an end to Armenian allegations.
    Analysts underline that the law of the ICJ, founded in 1945, might not prosecute crimes committed before 1948, when the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Most say that although an acquittal decision might be positive, ideally, the decision of an international judicial body should not recognize the deportation as genocide. In a way, it remains unclear whether the court ruling on Srebrenica is encouraging or discouraging for Turkey to take the case to the Hague.
    For Professor Hüseyin Pazarcý from Ankara University's Political Science Department, the author of international law textbooks that prepare Turkey's future diplomats, it is hard to say whether the decision was good or bad for Serbia. However, he believes that any application to the ICJ regarding the Armenian genocide claims would fall out of the scope of the 1948 UN convention on genocide, the document which was the basis for the Srebrenica ruling.
    "Normally, at least initially, on the principle of the non-retroactive application of laws, Turkey's case is outside the scope of the 1948 convention," Pazarcý explained, since the incidents resulting in genocide claims happened in 1915.
    Some experts, including political analyst Professor Hüseyin Baðcý from Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) Department of International Relations, said that the court ruling that what happened in Srebrenica was genocide without holding Serbia directly responsible could signal that in the event Turkey's case were taken to the ICJ, the outcome could be similar in terms of not attaching any retroactive political or financial responsibility to Turkey.
    Retired Ambassador Ömer Engin Lütem, who currently heads the Crimes against Humanity Department of the Eurasian Research Center (ASAM), is also of the same opinion. In an interview with the ANKA news agency, Lütem said the Armenians pursued putting the blame on Turkey, insisting that Turkey was the successor of the Ottoman government. "However, this ruling accuses the individuals involved, rather than the state. This might mean that it has the potential to serve our interest," Lütem said, adding that the case was likely to set up an example ruling for future similar cases.
    All experts emphasize that there is always the possibility of the ICJ refusing to hear the Armenian genocide, since incidents before 1948 fall outside its scope.
    "Normally, it shouldn't be taking up such a suit," Lütem said. However, Lütem expressed that a decision to acquit Turkey of a genocide, but recognizing the forced deportation of Armenians at the hands of Ottomans in 1915 could create a backlash.
    "The legal statements should express that forced deportation was essentially not genocide," he explained. In order to explain his interpretation that the ruling does and can not have any significance on Turkey's Armenian question, Sabah columnist Erdal Þafak points out to two crucial points in how the ICJ works. He notes, in contentious cases, the ICJ produces a binding ruling between states that agree to submit to the ruling of the court. In other words, Turkey would need consent of the other party, Armenia, to apply. If the court, based on the 1948 convention, rules that the application is valid, then the party where the genocide claims originate has to document concrete proof of systemic, organized and planned action to eradicate an ethnic group, which is where Bosnia was weak in the current case, Þafak notes.
    In a case between Turkey and Armenia, it would be the job of Armenia to prove that the deportations were genocide, which would not be easy. In addition, for an international court ruling to set a precedent, at least two or three similar rulings should come out. At the end of day, it is almost impossible to express that the ruling has any significance for Turkey's case at all. The ruling is certainly a disappointment to the Bosnian people -- and to the Serbs to a certain extent -- and confusing for Turkey as its relevance to Turkey's concerns about the future of the Armenian question remains open to debate.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
YORUM EKLE