While readers are generally aware that the executive and legislative branches of the US government have recognized the Armenian Genocide, it is not as widely known that the judiciary has also reaffirmed the facts of the genocide on several occasions. Indeed, all three branches of the U.S. government have gone on record confirming that the Armenian Genocide was indeed a genocide.
The first time the executive branch made reference to the Armenian Genocide was back in 1951 in a key document filed by the U.S. government with the International Court of Justice (World Court). It stated: “The Genocide Convention resulted from the inhuman and barbarous practices which prevailed in certain countries prior to and during World War II, when entire religious, racial, and national minority groups were threatened with and subjected to deliberate extermination. The practice of genocide has occurred throughout human history. The Roman persecution of the Christians, the Turkish massacres of Armenians, the extermination of millions of Jews and Poles by the Nazis are outstanding examples of the crime of genocide.”
The second reference by the executive branch to the Armenian Genocide was made by President Ronald Reagan when he issued Presidential Proclamation 4838 on April 22, 1981, in which he stated: “Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it—and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples—the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”
The legislative branch of the U.S. government adopted two resolutions confirming the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide. The first resolution, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 8, 1975, designated April 24, 1975 “as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially those of Armenian ancestry who succumbed to the genocide perpetrated in 1915.” A second resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives on Sept. 10, 1984, designating April 24, 1985 “as a day of remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially the one and one-half million people of Armenian ancestry who were the victims of the genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923.” In addition, the House adopted two amendments on the Armenian Genocide in the 1996 and 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriation Act.
However, most people are unaware that the judiciary, the third branch of the government, has issued at least three federal court rulings concerning the Armenian Genocide.
The first judicial reference to the genocide was the unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 11, 2010. In a decision written by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, the court rejected a claim by an American-Turkish group that a curricular guide issued by the Massachusetts Education Commissioner explicitly referring to the Armenian Genocide should have included “contra-genocide” references.
The second court case involving the genocide was the ruling of federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on Jan. 26, 2011, in the lawsuits regarding the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial in Washington, D.C. In the opening paragraph of her decision, Judge Kollar-Kotelly quoted the chilling words of Adolf Hitler: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” She explained that Hitler was referring to “the largely successful efforts by the Ottoman-Turkish government to eliminate the Armenian population living on its historical homeland during the World War I era, known today as the Armenian Genocide.” She stated in a footnote that “the Court’s use of the term ‘genocide’ is not intended to express any opinion on the propriety of that label.”
The third judicial reference to the genocide was made on May 3, 2012, by a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, denying the claim of the Turkish Coalition of America against the University of Minnesota. In a unanimous opinion, the judges referred unambiguously and without qualification to the Armenian Genocide, describing it as “the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I.”
With all three independent branches of the U.S. government going on record reaffirming the genocide, the United States has gained its rightful place in the list of righteous nations that have recognized it. In fact, in many respects, the United States has compiled a more extensive record of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide than most other countries that have merely adopted a legislative resolution on this issue.