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Armenian Genocide--The War Tribunals

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE--THE WAR TRIBUNALS -- (House of Representatives - July 24, 2007)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, the denial of the Armenian genocide is an absurdity. Looking at the history of this catastrophic event from 1915 to 1918, it is impossible to deny that this was indeed genocide on all accounts.

One way to bear witness to the truth is to make reference to the war trials that took place immediately following the end of World War I. Looking at the substantial evidence and testimony gathered during these war trials proves that this was an indisputable genocide aimed at destroying a race of people.

Following the Ottoman Empire's defeat in World War I, a new government formed and accused its predecessor, Young Turk regime, of serious crimes. These accusations led to the court-martialing of the leadership of the Committee on Union and Progress, the party that had seized and held power since 1908.

Nearly 400 of the key government officials implicated in the atrocities committed against the Armenians were arrested. They were deported to Malta, where they were held while searches were made of archives in Istanbul, London, Paris, and Washington to investigate their actions. The charges included the unconstitutional seizure of power, wartime profiteering, and the massacre of Armenians.

At least six regional courts convened in provincial cities where massacres had occurred. The first recorded trial took place in Yozgat, charging three officials, including the governor, of mass murder of the Armenians of Ankara.

Testimony revealed Major Tevfik Bey, commander of the Yozgat military police, had almost completely wiped out the Armenian population of Yozgat. It confirmed that the deportation of the Armenians was ``a policy of extermination,'' and that the people were marched off with ``arms and hands tied up'' and later killed with ``axes, spades, swords, knives and hatchets.'' Meanwhile, Governor Kemal told the captain that he had ``made a vow on the honor of the prophet: I shall not leave a single Armenian alive in the sanjak of Yozgat.''

The most famous trial took place in Istanbul in April 1919. There, 12 defendants, all members of the Committee on Union and Progress leadership and former ministers, were tried. Seven key figures, including Talat Pasha, Minister of Interior; Enver Pasha, Minister of War; and Cemal Pasha, Governor of Aleppo, had fled and they were tried in absentia. One authenticated secret telegram from July 17, 1915, quoted orders from Pasha that quoted: ``The salvation of the country requires the elimination of the Armenians.''

Even more evidence against these top officials was delivered in the key indictment which included 42 incriminating documents that had been gathered by the Mazhar Commission. These documents, such as telegrams, memos, statements, and depositions all confirmed that the campaign to exterminate the Armenians was premeditated and deliberate.

Some of the accused were found guilty of the charges. There were three hangings and numerous convictions. Most significantly, the ruling triumvirate of Young Turks consisting of Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver, and Ahmed Djemal, were condemned to death. They, however, eluded justice by fleeing abroad. Many more of the convicted did not serve out their prison sentences, and a majority of the perpetrators escaped punishment after a prisoner exchange deal. To this day, there is still no justice for the victims of the Armenian genocide.

Madam Speaker, I wish to express my support for swift passage of House Resolution 106, which reaffirms the Armenian genocide. It now has 224 cosponsors, a majority of the House. As the first genocide of the 20th century, it is morally imperative that we remember this atrocity and collectively demand reaffirmation of this crime against humanity.

We must stand up and recognize the tragic events that began in 1915 for what they were, the systematic elimination of the people. By recognizing these actions as genocide, we can renew our commitment to prevent such atrocities from ever occurring again.

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