What constitutes “genocide”?
On Thursday, MPs in Germany’s lower house of parliament approved a symbolic resolution that labels the killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 “genocide”. This topic remains a hot potato in a period of tensions between Turkey and Europe. With the resolution now passed, Germany has become the 29th country to recognise the mass killings as a “genocide”.
What is the definition of “genocide”?
The United Nations defined genocide in 1948 in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
According to the UN, a genocide is “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: a) killing members of the group; b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e)[and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Under this Convention, not only acts of genocide are punishable but also conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempts to commit genocide and complicity in genocide.
The 1948 Convention also notes that genocide can happen both during wartime and during peace.
Map of the countries fully recognising the WWI killings of Armenians as “genocide” and date of the official recognition
Various other regional parliaments and governments have also recognised the killings as “genocide”, including:
- UK: Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Spain: Basque Country, Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, Balearic Islands
- USA: 44 of the 50 states
- Australia: New South Wales, South Australia
What is the Turkish view?
Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians were massacred in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One. But it denies that hundreds of thousands were killed, that there was any organised campaign to wipe out the Armenians or that there were any such orders from Ottoman authorities.
In addition, Euronews Istanbul correspondent Bora Bayraktar writes that “Ankara believes the issue is being used as a political bargaining chip, with parliaments around the world taking sides under pressure from lobby groups rather than based on evidence of the facts. Turkey instead has repeatedly proposed the formation of an international committee of historians, including people with a range of perspectives to debate the issue. Such a group of experts would be better qualified than politicians to understand the facts, according to Turkey. But the propositions have so far been rejected by the Armenian side”.