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06 05 18 - ‘Genocide’ Bill, A Modern Inquisition International
05.18.2006 Thursday - ISTANBUL 18:42
‘Genocide’ Bill, A Modern Inquisition
By Selcuk Gultasli, Brussels
Published: Thursday, May 18, 2006

Olivier Corten, a professor at Belgium’s ULB University Faculty of Law, believes bills that would criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide are a “modern inquisition” and said if the Armenian massacres are defined as “genocide,” we could say that Europe’s colonial history is full of “genocides.”

Corten, one of the experts who informed the genocide committee at the Belgian Senate, said since he is not a historian he does now know about the 1915 incidents in detail, but he is against the bill.

He spoke to Zaman before discussion of the denial bill begins in France.

Speaking to Corten after he advised the Senate Commission not to accept such a bill, Corten told Zaman he is against the bill punishing those who deny the Armenian “Genocide” for two reasons.

Firstly, he stresses there is no court verdict about Armenian genocide, and secondly, there is not a retrospective principle in law.

If we expand the genocide expression to cover the pre-World War II period, many incidents could be called genocide, Corten said, “Then, we should go back to 18th and 19th centuries, probably even to Roman Empire period.”

Corten said it is difficult to adapt “genocide” laws to penal code and commented, “You commit a crime, but at the time you commit the crime the consequences are not clear; namely, you commit a crime that is non-existing in law.”

‘Belgium’s Attitude is Unethical’

Corten, pointing out Belgium is still trying to face its past with Congo, said it is unethical for Belgium to give lessons to Turkey before “cleaning the front side of its own house.”

Corten does not call the acts Belgian King Leopold II committed in Congo a “genocide,” saying instead: “This is not genocide since the massacres were held for money. In the same way, if there is no intention of categorically destroying, an event cannot be called genocide no matter how many people died.”

Corten, indicating he uses very narrow criteria for the definition of genocide, said ethnic cleansing is not genocide; genocide can be used in reference to the massacres of the Jews and the massacres in Rwanda where the intention of exterminating a race was obvious: “If in war time people are killed for the security of a region, this is not genocide according to me, but instead a war crime. Even if you apply current conditions of genocide, this situation does not constitute genocide.”

“Emir Kir Started the Discussion”

Emphasizing his doubt that Belgium would pass the draft bill in its current form, in which a prison sentence and a hefty fine would be given to those found guilty of denying the so-called genocide, Corten believes that the discussion was started by Turkish origin minister, Emir Kir, only for domestic political reasons.

“If this bill passes unchanged, it will be a surprise to me,” said Corten, pointing out that thousands of Turkish Belgians and Turkish officials coming to Brussels for EU negotiations might be imprisoned if the bill becomes law.

Underlining that in the past Belgium had issued a similar problematic law to judge war criminals worldwide, which was later dissolved, Corten stated that Belgium make the same mistake again.

Belgian Minister Emir Kir was attacked when he used the term, “so-called genocide” during an interview. Some Belgian politicians in relation with the lobby called for Kir’s resignation.


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