Armenian Genocide Monument, Yerevan Photo © RaffiKojianSince today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the 1915 Genocide, I was poking around trying to find out more, especially after the U.S. being criticized for not using the word “genocide”. Turns out only 26 countries have actually recognized it as such. Did you notice who’s missing from the list aside form the United States? Several Western European countries (the UK, Spain, Portugal, Malta); Lebanon is there, but Israel isn’t; except for Syria, the entire Middle East is missing, as is the rest of Asia (except for Russia) and the entire continent of Africa. There are regional governments that have recognized it (e.g. most of the states in the U.S. as well as regions & provinces in other countries), yet I still find I find the silence troubling, especially in the cases of countries that have themselves experienced genocide and/or ethnic cleansing in the past 100 years.
Here’s where it gets seriously messed up, historically speaking: After following several cited sources in various Wikipedia pages on the subject, I came across an article published back in 2012 by a Maltese newspaper named The Malta Independent. It described how in 1919 over 100 Turks were deported to Malta to face charges for war crimes, including the Armenian genocide, but “the lack of concrete evidence and an appropriate legal framework with supranational jurisdiction resulted in the Turkish detainees being repatriated and freed in exchange for 22 British prisoners held by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk).”
So basically, it simply didn’t get handled and the Turks walked. How awful up is that? The article in question was a bit hard to follow as I’m not familiar with the subject, but I nonetheless found it interesting. I think that those of you who like history will very much enjoy reading it.
This important but seemingly forgotten chapter of modern colonial history was treated by Judge Bonello in one of his volumes in the Histories of Malta series published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti.
Following a story carried yesterday by this newspaper quoting the remarks made by the Turkish EU Minister regarding the Armenian Genocide which he referred to as an ‘incident’, Dr Bonello alerted The Malta Independent to clarify that these remarks are simply “nonsense”. He referred us to volume nine of the Histories of Malta series which dedicates a particular chapter titled ‘The “Malta Trials” and the Turkish-Armenian Question’ to this controversial issue.
Dr Bonello explains that following World War I no international norms for regulating war crimes existed. He claims that it was only through a series of engineered coincidences that WWI did not end in the “Malta Trials” the way WWII led to the Nuremberg Trials. He defined the legal vacuum encountered in 1919 as “a legal nightmare, a terra incognita that for a first time challenged legal minds to figure out solutions to phenomena unfamiliar before in the history of warfare and its aftermath.” Although events that took place in Malta at the time feature quite prominently in Turkish histories, according to the author they remain completely unknown or ignored in Malta. […]