The Turkish Foreign Ministry has applauded the Dec. 18 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which stated that denying that the mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 was genocide was not a criminal offence.
“The ECHR ruling is a milestone regarding the preservation of freedom of expression, which is a basic element of societies attached to the principle of freedom, democracy and the rule of law,” a written statement from the Foreign Ministry said on Dec. 18.
The ruling is a significant warning against attempts to enforce a unilateral view of history through legal means, and also against the politicization of law and history, the statement added. A Swiss court had fined the leader of the leftist Turkish Workers’ Party (İP), Doğu Perinçek, for having branded talk of an Armenian genocide “an international lie” during a 2007 lecture tour in Switzerland. However, the ECHR ruled on Dec. 18 that a Swiss law against genocide denial violated the principle of freedom of expression.
The ruling has implications for other European states, such as France, which have sought to criminalize the refusal to apply the term “genocide” to the massacres of Armenians during the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.
The ECHR ruling did not elaborate on the legal description of “genocide,” the statement read, adding that this suggests opinions that the term “genocide” has a legal dimension are mistaken. The ruling is an answer to legislative actions in Europe on “denial” of “genocide,” the statement added, expressing hope that such initiatives will end.