On Friday, April 19, Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court arrived in Lebanon upon the invitation of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I. The same evening, he gave a public lecture at the Main Hall of the Catholicosate for representatives of the Armenian community educational, social, and political organizations, and other related bodies, invited by His Holiness. The topic of the lecture was: “75 years after the Genocide Declaration, why is the world still not responding to its terms?”

Rita Melikian, member of the Armenian Church University Student Association, welcomed the speaker and the guests. The session began with the opening speech of Nora Bayrakdarian, member of the Central Executive Committee of the Catholicosate and Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese University.

She briefly introduced international law and the process of the adoption of the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948 Genocide Convention) and their role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). She then explained how ICC in turn shaped international law and added that the Genocide Convention, which was primarily set in response to the Armenian Genocide, remains an important legal instrument. However, the binding impact is insufficient as demonstrated in the case of the Armenian Genocide. Therefore, she said, to understand the inefficiencies and weaknesses of the instrument, His Holiness Aram I invited Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first prosecutor of the ICC to the event.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo thanked His Holiness for the invitation, commended the unyielding power of perseverance of Armenians, and strongly encouraged not to give up by mentioning three notable examples in the pursuit of justice, beginning with Gassia Apkarian, Judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, California, who announced a lawsuit for the genocide committed by Azerbaijan against the Armenians of Artsakh.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo told the audience that Judge Apkarian not only provided evidence on the last war and Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s deportation plan of Armenians, but also on Azerbaijan’s genocidal intent in Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia. Apkarian shared her evidence on Aliyev’s intentions expressed through his statements, written documents, and the measures he has taken. According to her, everything Aliyev executed in 2023 against the people of Artsakh match his pronouncements and documents since 2015. In Apkarian’s view, Aliyev continues to spread terror and fear among the population in Armenia.

The second example Mr. Moreno Ocampo provided was that of Artak Beglarian, from Artsakh, a public figure and former Human Rights defender of the Republic and former head of staff of the President’s office. During the first Artsakh war, at a young age, Artak lost his father, then his eyesight because of a land mine explosion, and soon after, his mother. Despite all difficulties, Beglarian remained defiant. He continued his education in Armenia and in the Diaspora and returned to Artsakh to serve his people. Ocampo noted that only people who have suffered from genocide can understand it, and its consequences. Therefore, deported people of Artsakh have every right to demand international protection to live in security on their land.

The last example Mr. Moreno Ocampo brought up was that of Leon Carlos Arslanian. The son of a Genocide survivor born in Argentina, León Carlos Arslanian decided to study law to overcome injustice. In his job search, he contacted a Prosecutor and applied. During the interview, he explained his motivation and commitment to pursue justice. Soon after, he was selected for the job. He worked hard and strived to become a barrister. In 1985, he became the Chief Justice of the court that oversaw the trial and conviction of the military juntas that ruled Argentina from 1976-1983.

His Holiness Aram I thanked Mr. Moreno Ocampo for accepting the invitation and his encouraging presentation. and concluded the meeting by sharing his thoughts on the issue and emphasized the importance of the prevention of genocide in the following five points:

  1. Prevention of crimes against humanity should start at home, on the national level. Recognition and respect for human rights are of utmost importance. In fact, when human rights are neither respected nor protected, and might is considered right, such a perception and practice may lead to crimes against humanity.
  2. Silence vis-à-vis genocide will simply mean its endorsement. Impunity will encourage new genocides; it will make “never again” become “once again.” Therefore, impunity should not be granted to those who have committed crimes.
  3. If international law is not fully implemented, it will become a sheer concept. Accountability is crucial as an effective preventive measure. The international community must go beyond judicial processes and impose its political will. This will imply the creation of early warning systems, building public awareness through conscientization and dialogue, imposing diplomatic and economic sanctions, and in extreme situations, resorting to humanitarian intervention.
  4. Crimes against humanity are a crime against God. Respect for human dignity, freedom, justice, peace, tolerance, non-violence are core values in all religions. Therefore, each religion, in its own way, has a particular responsibility to promote and protect ethical and human rights values.
  5. The creation of global governance with effective mechanisms to implement its decisions is a must. It will significantly help prevent crimes against humanity.

As an expression of the appreciation of Mr. Moreno Ocampo for his commitment to the Armenian people’s demand for justice, His Holiness decorated him with the “Knight of Cilicia” insignia of the Catholicosate of Cilicia.