News.Az interviews Gyorgy Tatar, chairman of the Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.
Could you tell us a little about a recent conference on the role of international jurisdiction in the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus? What were the final conclusions?
The conference on the role of international jurisdiction in the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus was arranged by the Embassy of Azerbaijan in cooperation with the Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities in Budapest on 16 February. The event was designed to highlight the lessons learned in legal processes in the Western Balkans on the genocide committed in Srebrenica in1995 and the fact that the legal approach has played a vital role in easing ethnic tensions and punishing war crimes.
One of the outcomes of the conference discussion was that the crimes committed in Khojaly in 1992 and presented by the representatives of the government of Azerbaijan should also be treated in a similar manner. The conference highlighted the challenges of an ethnic nature in both regions which should be addressed consistently in order to prevent tragedies in the future.
The conference agreed on the need to continue dialogue and expand it to involve all concerned parties and international legal experts in order to tackle the root causes of tension and prevent the outbreak of conflicts. The Foundation is strongly committed to the concept of prevention and declared its readiness to promote this work.
Baku is trying to hold to account some of Armenia's current political leaders for their participation in the war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s and for crimes against Azerbaijani civilians in Karabakh. Is it possible to hold them to account?
The Foundation and its operational body, the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, are value driven, non-governmental and non-partisan organizations. We are convinced accountability could deter potential perpetrators from committing genocidal acts in the future, therefore, it has a strong preventive impact. We believe that all perpetrators of genocide, once it is proven by the relevant international institutions, should be judged and punished regardless of nationality.
History shows that some political leaders, like Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, can be held answerable for crimes committed in the past. Why does this happen very rarely? Is it a policy of double standards or something else?
Genocide is the most serious criminal act. The qualification of any crime as genocide must be based on very thorough investigation. That takes time. Legal procedures in this field, therefore, may understandably last a long time, much longer than in the case of other crimes.
Courts take decisions on the basis of law. Double standards do not belong to the categories of law. We advocate that all who have committed genocide must be taken to court, judged and punished on the basis of law. It is, however, difficult to foresee the time frame required for proper investigation and qualification of acts as genocide.
The 26 February was the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre. Twenty years ago Armenian armed forces with the support of several units of the Russian army, occupied the town of Khojaly and brutally killed 613 innocent civilians purely because they were Azerbaijani. Isn't this evidence of genocide?
As I said before, genocide as a criminal act should be investigated and qualified by the mandated international institutions such as an international tribunal. The investigation and qualification of crimes do not fall within the competence of the Foundation/Budapest Centre.
The Khojaly massacre has already been recognized by the parliaments of Mexico and Pakistan as genocide. Do you think that the international community is ready to recognize it?
The responsibility of the international community is to ensure that all international crimes are investigated, judged and the perpetrators punished. The judgement and punishment must be based on evidence and the decisions should not be of a political nature.
What is your view of the French Senate's recent adoption of a law that would criminalize the denial of genocides recognized by France? Doesn't this violate human rights?
The decision of the French Senate relates to the qualification of acts back in the past. The Foundation looks forward to the future.