"Genocide as a Problem of National and International Law: The World War I Armenian Case and Its Contemporary Legal Ramifications."

Vahakn N. Dadrian. 1989. 133p. Reprinted from The Yale Journal of International Law 14, No. 2 (Summer 1989): 221-334 + Appendix and bibliography.

The relatively low impact of the genocidal killing of one million Armenians on modern public consciousness raises serious questions about the ability of the international community to prevent or punish acts of genocide. Many see the lack of action following the Armenian Genocide as an important precedent for the subsequent Jewish holocaust of World War II. Indeed, it has been reported that, in trying to reassure doubters of the desirability and viability of his genocidal schemes, Hitler stated, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” This connection was raised repeatedly during the U.S. Senate’s consideration of the U.N. Convention on Genocide, which the United States ratified on February 19, 1986. A score of Senators emphasized the historical precedent of the Armenian case and pointed to the enormous suffering of the Jewish Holocaust that resulted from humanity’s disregard of the Armenians’ fate.

The failures that preceded and followed the Armenian Genocide carry important lessons for present-day international scholars and lawyers seeking to outlaw genocide. While the post-World War II trials in Nuremberg have shaped much of the current thought on the prevention and punishment of genocide, the trials resulted from a set of conditions that will rarely arise.

Although the European Powers did pursue a strategy of “humanitarian intervention” in Ottoman Turkey during the years leading up to World War I, and they instituted the concept of “crimes against humanity” in 1915 in response to the unfolding Armenian Genocide, the Powers never shared the unity of interests that they had following World War II. As a result, the Turkish government blocked efforts by the Allies to punish the perpetrators of the Genocide by asserting its sovereign rights.

The history of killings in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia indicate the need for the effective enforcement of the international law on the prevention and punishment of genocide.

This publication is the first in-depth study of the legal implications of the Armenian Genocide and remains the standard reference work on the subject.