WASHINGTON — The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) commended the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) for holding a hearing on July 28 titled, “Ending Genocide: Accountability for Perpetrators,” and submitted a statement for the record.
The aim of the hearing was to determine how the international community can hold perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities accountable for international crimes committed against religious communities, despite the adoption of the 1948 Genocide Convention, which codifies genocide as a crime.
In his opening remarks, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) referred to the Armenian Genocide when he stated that the “20th century was replete with the most horrific of genocides, including the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust.” He underscored that the U.S. Congress passed the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in October 2019 “in a totally comprehensive way” and affirmation from the U.S. Senate on December 12, 2019, and President Joe Biden on April 24, 2021 followed.
In a statement submitted by Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, the Assembly linked past atrocities committed against the Armenian people to the present day, when Christian Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh continue to be targeted, most recently during the 44-day war last Fall launched by Azerbaijan, with the full and open support of Turkey. The Assembly cited a July 25, 2021 article from the New York Times titled, “In Nagorno-Karabakh, Land Mines, Bulldozers and Lingering Tensions,” in which Azerbaijan says, “Armenians there must accept its rule if they want to remain long-term.” This follows a statement earlier this month by Azerbaijan’s president that in effect Azerbaijan will take Armenian lands, including Armenia’s Syunik province, and that Yerevan is historically Azerbaijan’s, as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
In addition, Ardouny highlighted the Assembly’s concerns about the “ongoing destruction of historic, religious and Armenian cultural heritage sites by Azerbaijan which has been documented by Caucasus Heritage Watch, and urges USCIRF and TLHRC to explore avenues to safeguard and protect cultural heritage.”
Highlighting the significance of genocide recognition, the Assembly underscored that U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide by Congress and President Biden “have charted a new course” and “enhances America’s credibility, recommits the United States to the worldwide cause of genocide prevention and represents America at its best.”