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Sassounian: Court Finds Armenia & Azerbaijan Guilty: Baku Hides Loss, Declares Victory

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Monday, 13 July 2015 23:24

Harut-SassounianRuling simultaneously on the Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan and Chiragov vs. Armenia cases, the European Court of Human Rights decided on June 16, 2015 that Armenia and Azerbaijan had violated the rights of refugees who had fled during the Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict.

Azeri government officials, however, misled their citizens, declaring that Azerbaijan had won and Armenia had lost.

Here are the details of both court cases: On April 6, 2005, six Azerbaijani Kurds filed a joint complaint against Armenia with the European Court. They claimed to have been forced to flee their homes during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in 1992, after Armenian troops took over the Lachin region which separated Armenia from Artsakh. The Azerbaijani refugees alleged that Armenia had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights: 1) protection of property, 2) right to respect for private and family life, and 3) right to an effective remedy.

On August 11, 2006, Minas Sargsyan filed a similar complaint against Baku in the European Court of Human Rights. He charged that Azerbaijan had violated his rights, the same ones claimed by the six Azerbaijani refugees, since he too was forced to flee in 1992 from his native village of Gulistan in the Shahumian region, controlled by Azerbaijan.

Both parties asked that their property rights be restored and demanded fair compensation.

In March 2010, after years of inactivity, the Court forwarded both cases to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, consisting of 17 judges from Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Cyprus, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine. The Grand Chamber's decisions are final and not subject to appeal.

A decade after the these cases were first filed, the Grand Chamber issued two identical judgments on June 16, 2015, finding that both Armenia and Azerbaijan had violated the rights of each other's refugees. In a lengthy document of 221 pages, including the two verdicts and the dissenting and concurring opinions, the Court ruled that the 20-year long peace negotiations did not free the two governments from their responsibility to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Grand Chamber noted that there are over 1,000 individual applications pending before the Court, filed by Armenians and Azerbaijanis displaced during the Artsakh conflict.

The six Azerbaijani applicants claimed they had suffered $9 million in monetary damages and $330,000 in non-monetary damages. They further estimated their legal expenses to be around $65,000 as of October 2013. The Azerbaijani applicants' representatives requested that an expert be appointed to evaluate the total damages their clients had incurred.

On the other hand, the Armenian applicant Minas Sargsyan had requested the restitution of his property, including the right of return to his home. He claimed $415,000 in monetary damages and $210,000 in non-monetary damages, in addition to non-specified legal fees.

Acknowledging "the exceptional nature" of the two cases, the Court did not make a final determination on awarding compensation or "just satisfaction." The Grand Chamber asked the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments and the respective applicants to submit their "written observations on the matter" within 12 months, and "to notify the Court of any agreement that they may reach."

In my opinion, the European Court's parallel decisions were aimed at pressuring the two governments to expedite a negotiated settlement that would resolve all outstanding issues, including rights of refugees.

One of the most significant, yet unexpected outcomes of these court cases were the two written opinions -- 25 pages each -- by Judge Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque of Portugal and appended to the court's verdicts, in which he presented a strong legal case for Artsakh's independence: "Whenever a part of the population of a State is not represented by its government and the human rights of that population are systematically infringed by its own government, ...the victimized population may have recourse 'as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression,' to use the powerful formulation of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The Judge also wrote that when a State systematically abuses the human rights of a seceding population, it is lawful for another State to take military action in favor of the seceding population, after the latter has established control of its territory and declared its secession.

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

A Personal Tribute on the Passing of Kirk Kerkorian: an Extraordinary Man

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015 07:35

Harut-SassounianSince his passing on June 15, thousands of journalists have highlighted Kirk Kerkorian's amazing business accomplishments and substantial charitable contributions. However, these journalists had never met this great man, as he rarely gave interviews to the media.

Having worked with Mr. Kerkorian for almost three decades as Senior Vice President of The Lincy Foundation and President of the United Armenian Fund, I would like to offer a personal tribute about this compassionate Armenian-American and wonderful human being.

I remember vividly the first time I met Mr. Kerkorian. It was at a Beverly Hills restaurant in the mid 1980's during a small gathering of wealthy Armenians who supported Gov. George Deukmejian's reelection. I was there as editor of The California Courier newspaper. When I walked over to introduce myself, Mr. Kerkorian recognized me right away and told me that he was a regular reader of my weekly columns. I was greatly surprised and flattered....

The next time I met Mr. Kerkorian was in his Beverly Hills office on November 1, 1989, eleven months after the devastating earthquake in Armenia. We discussed the possibility of forming a coalition of seven major Armenian-American organizations, including The Lincy Foundation, to airlift humanitarian aid to Armenia. Mr. Kerkorian offered to pay the full cost of transportation and went on to generously pledge to cover not only the cost of one airlift, but "all future airlifts as long as Armenia needed assistance." Within a few days, the United Armenian Fund was born which successfully delivered over the next 25 years $700 million of relief supplies to Armenia and Artsakh, on board 158 airlifts and 2,250 sea containers.

In 1998, Mr. Kerkorian invited me to travel with him to Armenia, his first trip during which he pledged to Pres. Kocharian to allocate $100 million (raising it later to $242 million) to build or renovate tunnels, bridges and dozens of schools throughout Armenia and one in Artsakh; hundreds of miles of highways, roads and streets; 34 cultural institutions and museums; 3,700 apartments in the earthquake zone; and $20 million of loans to small businesses. These projects not only dramatically improved Armenia's infrastructure, but also provided much needed employment to over 20,000 workers. Mr. Kerkorian asked me to supervise these projects, in my capacity as Senior Vice President of The Lincy Foundation.

Over the years, Mr. Kerkorian's Lincy Foundation contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to Armenians worldwide, including $14 million to provide heating oil for Armenia's freezing population during the harsh winter of 1993, $4.5 million in 2006 to all 28 Armenian schools in Lebanon, and millions of dollars to Hayastan All-Armenia Fund's projects in Artsakh. It is estimated that from 1989 to 2011, The Lincy Foundation contributed over $1 billion, split equally between Armenian and non-Armenian charities.

In 2011, when The Lincy Foundation closed its doors, unfounded and false rumors began circulating about the supposed reasons for its closure. The fact is that Mr. Kerkorian had planned all along that at a certain advanced age he would no longer deal with the deluge of daily requests for funding from around the world and distribute the bulk of his wealth after his passing.

I would like to conclude by mentioning some of the likes and dislikes of this remarkable Armenian-American:

-- Mr. Kerkorian detested the divisions among Armenians. It upset him to no end that Armenians could not get along with each other. He often said: "Why can't they unite and march in the same direction?" He was pleased to see seven major Armenian-American organizations working together under the umbrella of the United Armenian Fund.
--He cared deeply about the destitute condition of the people in Armenia and was constantly worried about emigration. He sought to create jobs so Armenians won't have to leave their homeland.
-- He hated the limelight and never lent his name to any building or institution.
-- He was extremely wealthy, yet lived very modestly and spoke gently and politely. He preferred that people address him as Kirk rather than Mr. Kerkorian.

Finally, no one had to prompt Kirk to donate money to worthy causes. He often volunteered to make large contributions without being asked.

The Armenian nation and the world owe him a great debt of gratitude.

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier


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