Landmark Opinion in Britain: Ottoman Armenians were massacred because of their race and Christian faith

The presentation of the electronic version in Armenian of “Was There an Armenian Genocide?” legal opinion piece by international law specialist Geoffrey Robertson took place in Yerevan this week.

Robertson worked on the paper following a request from the UK-based Armenian Center that has functioned since 1988.

In recent years the British Government has refused to recognize that the 1915-1916 deportations and massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey amounted to genocide. In 2008, the Armenian Center tried to get an expert opinion on this issue and turned to Robertson.

“Robertson’s opinion is very important for the British,” says European Integration NGO head Karen Bekaryan. “The issue of a possible recognition of the Genocide has been quite actively discussed in Britain of late. I think that it has to do with the opinion presented by Robertson.”

In his work the recognized expert says that “there is no doubt that in 1915 the Ottoman Empire issued an order about the deportation of about 2 million Armenians from Anatolia and other provinces. They were dying of diseases, hunger and armed attacks. Armenians were being killed because of their race and Christian faith.”

The work mentions that in Britain, as well as in France and Russia the governments jointly and officially condemned the actions of the Young Turks government as “a crime against humanity”.

The United Kingdom arrested 67 Turkish officials on suspicion of issuing orders for committing atrocities, however British authorities released them in the name of diplomatic expedience.

Robertson also shows how the British governments have refused to recognize the fact of genocide committed against Armenians.

In February 2008, in a written reply from the House of Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty Government Lord Malloch-Brown said that the government viewed the 1915-1916 massacres as a tragedy.

“Nevertheless, neither the current nor previous governments deem that the existing evidence is so undeniable as to convince us that those events should be qualified as genocide according to the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide,” says the reply of the House of Lords.

According to Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum Hayk Demoyan, the opinion of Mr. Robertson may be valued as a document of historical and legal significance.

“Clearly and in detail it addresses the historical background, makes references to concrete British documents. The most important document is the Freedom of Information Act. It raises the issue that rights have been violated and furthermore, proceeding from political and economic considerations the British Foreign Office has been giving erroneous and misleading information to the British authorities and has misled the British public,” said Demoyan at the presentation on Wednesday.

In his work Robertson mentions that according to the laws on the state, the responsibility of a state for genocide can be discussed in several cases: if orders were issued and applied by de-jure state bodies, such as ministers, state officials, police and regular army officers. If murders were committed by de-facto bodies.

Then Robertson writes that “the orders regarding deportations were issued by such de-jure state bodies as ministers and government officials. Both de-jure and de-facto agents of the Ottoman Empire had been involved in the massacres.”

The presentation of Robertson’s Opinion first took place at Doughty Street Chambers, London, on November 3, 2009. According to Robertson, the opinion can be used for courses in diplomacy and international relations.

The electronic version of the Opinion in Armenian can be found at the following addresses:

The original version in English is available here: