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16 Touro Int'l L. Rev. 25 (2013)
Is It Nobody's Business but the Turks': Recognizing Genocide

handle is hein.journals/touint16 and id is 25 raw text is: 


                         IS IT NOBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE TURKS' ?:
                                    RECOGNIZING GENOCIDE

                                          By  Stan Goldman

       Why   doesn't the United States Government recognize the early 20th century massacre of
Armenians  at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide? The  answer, to the surprise of
many,  is that we may have already done so.

       How   politically inconvenient this near century old crime of barbarity has proven to be.
So inconvenient, in fact, that state legislatures are now precluded from providing their resident
victims with what otherwise would be lawful access to potential, and never resolved, remedies
arising out of issues from this crime against humanity. These limitations seem particularly ill-
conceived given the fact that America's lawmakers had for long periods of time acted upon the
assumption  that the massacre of the Armenians was in fact genocide. In addition, this denial of
access to state courts in order to pursue civil litigation would seem to be somewhat inconsistent
with federal statutes which appear to permit state criminal prosecution of even foreign
perpetrators of genocide committed anywhere  in the world. This paradox was recently on
display in the Ninth Circuit.

       The  case of Movsesian v. Victoria Versicherung AG1 had originally been brought on
behalf of the descendants of the victims of the 1915-1921 Turkish massacres of Armenians. The
appeal had arisen out of a lawsuit filed against insurance companies in an effort to recover the
unpaid proceeds of policies that had been issued to victims of this genocide.3 The state law
under which  these claims were brought specifically allowed California courts to hear just
insurance lawsuits arising out of the Armenian genocide.4 This type of lawsuit would be
permitted so long as the defendant, as was true for the insurer in this particular case, also
happened  to be doing business in California.5 The law, additionally, eliminated any statute of
limitation barriers to such claims.6 The Ninth Circuit federal Court of Appeals, sitting en banc,

* Stanley Goldman is a Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California. He is the founder and
director of the Loyola Center for the Study of Law and Genocide. Mr. Goldman would like to thank his research
assistant Gayane Khechoomian, Loyola Law School class of 2013, for her constant dedication and hard work.
1 Movsesianv. Victoria Versicherung AG, 670 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2012).
2 Id. at 1077. The Ninth Circuit decision, of course, is not binding on federal appellate courts in other circuits.
Thus, if any other state enacts a statute similar to California's, it does not mean that federal courts in those other
circuits will automatically declare those laws unconstitutional. On June 22, 2012 plaintiffs filed a petition for writ
of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court and are, as of this writing, awaiting the decision of the Supreme
3 Movsesian v. Victoria Versicherung AG, 578 F.3d 1052, 1055 (9th Cir. 2009) reh'g granted, opinion withdrawn,
629 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2010) on reh'g enbanc, 670 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2012).
4Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 354.4 (West).
5 Movesesian, 670 F.3d. at 1069-70.
6 Id. at 1070.

Volume   16, No. 12013


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