The History of the Initiative of the Republic of Armenia
to Introduce Thematic Resolutions on Genocide Prevention within
the Framework of the United Nations Organization
Initiating and adopting a resolution within the framework of the United Nations Organization is a valuable contribution to highlighting any issue of international significance.
Resolutions presented within the UN framework, whilst formulating new rules of behavior for the member states, in reality serve a dual function. Firstly, they can be perceived as a constituent phase of law formulation, which, in its turn, can lead to the formulation of norms of Public International Law, and secondly, notwithstanding their consultative character, they become instruments regulating relations between states. Consequently, despite their consultative character, UN Resolutions greatly impact the formulation process of International Law, especially in cases when the text of the resolution has been agreed upon by consensus.
The fact that Armenia has been the country to initiate thematic resolutions on Genocide Prevention is indeed symbolic, as it was the conscious act of a country representing a nation that has survived Genocide.
Armenia introduced its first thematic resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights dedicated to the “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” back in 1998. The idea and initiative to introduce such a thematic resolution belonged to late Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Mr. Ashot Melik-Shahnazaryan.
Same year, on December 2, 1998, that Resolution was introduced at and adopted without a vote by the UN General Assembly as GA resolution 53/43. The Resolution was aimed at attracting the attention of the International Community towards the fact of the adoption of the Convention and at calling upon member states to provide for the study and dissemination of the latter.
The substance and scope of the four resolutions that followed afterwards were thoroughly revised. One of the most significant achievements was, that, starting from the very first resolution, Armenia succeeded in making reference to the 1968 UN Convention on the Non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.
Until 2005 the resolutions were introduced biannually, in conformity with the work plan.
Below is a chronological list of the Resolutions introduced by Armenia and unanimously adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights:
- Resolution 1998/10 of April 3, 1998, on the “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
- Resolution 1999/67 of April 28, 1999, on the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
- Resolution 2001/66 of April 25, 2001, on the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
- Resolution 2003/66 of April 24, 2003, on the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
- Resolution 2005/62 of April 20, 2005, on the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
Later on, resulting from the structural reforms enacted in the UN, the Commission on Human Rights was transformed into the Human Rights Council, and in 2008 Armenia already initiated the adoption of a resolution within this framework.
Starting from 2008, the resolutions introduced by Armenia were thoroughly revised content-wise. In particular, the Resolution introduced to the Human Rights Council that year presented the concept of prevention, thus raising the issue of state responsibility. 61 states co-sponsored the Resolution.
Below is a chronological list of the resolutions adopted within the UN Human Rights Council:
- Resolution 7/25 of March 28, 2008 on “Genocide prevention”
- Resolution 22/22 of March 22, 2013 on “Genocide prevention”
- Resolution 28/34 of March 27, 2015 on “Genocide prevention”
- Resolution 37/26 of March 23, 2018 on “Genocide prevention”
The text of the 2013 Resolution underwent major changes, at the same time adhering to the main approaches to the issue: prevention, protection and punishment for the committed crime.
The text of the Resolution was explicitly enriched and modified with the amendments made, among which we can highlight to the following:
- Inclusion of the principle of the Right to Truth, which presumes presenting the truth about mass violations of Human Rights;
- Raising the issue of genocide prevention within the framework of the UN Universal Periodic Review;
- Promoting issues related to Genocide education;
- Establishing days in commemoration of the victims of Genocide;
- Establishing regional and sub-regional cooperation.
As a result, the Resolution was co-sponsored by 60 UN member states.
The next Resolution on Genocide Prevention was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015. The Resolution presented by Armenia and adopted by consensus in 2013 served as a basis for the appropriately amended and revised version of the latter to be submitted for consideration in 2015. This time as well the modifications made to the text had their imprint in the development and enactment of the UN policy on Genocide prevention. These modifications included:
- The necessity to perpetuate the memory of the victims of Genocide;
- Condemnation of the policy of denialism, viewing Genocide as the most vicious crime against humanity and demonstrating the consequential connection between impunity and denialism, which, whilst becoming a constituent part of state policy, eventually hinders the reconciliation process between peoples;
- Proposal to the General Assembly to establish the 9th of December as the International Day of the Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of Genocide;
- Proposal to draft up a list of those involved in coordinating Genocide prevention issues.
The 2015 Resolution was co-sponsored by 72 states and was also adopted without a vote, by consensus.
In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly, at its 69th session, adopted by consensus the resolution initiated by Armenia on designating December 9 as the “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime”. The resolution was co-sponsored by 84 states.
The latest of the Resolutions on Genocide Prevention was adopted in March of 2018, with the co-sponsorship of 64 states. Given the fact that the year 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Resolution made a special reference to this significant event. It was considering this important anniversary that Armenia had suggested to hold a high-level panel discussion in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Convention during the 39th session of the Human Rights Council that took place in September, 2018. During the panel discussion opening remarks were delivered by the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan․
One of the most catching contributions to the high-level panel discussion was that of the prominent expert in Genocide Studies Mr. William Schabas, who, when delivering his speech, spoke also of the Armenian Genocide.