PARIS — The Armenian Genocide’s memory will never fade, since the pain and suffering are transferred from generation to generation, stated French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who on Tuesday paid his respects in Paris to the Genocide victims and reaffirmed his pledges to draft a new bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide if he wins France’s presidential elections next month. His Socialist challenger Francois Hollande also reaffirmed his pledges to draft a new genocide bill.
The two men joined thousands of French-Armenians in marking the genocide anniversary in a downtown Paris square on Tuesday evening. Making separate appearances, they addressed the crowd in front of a statue of Komitas, a prominent Armenian composer and survivor of the 1915 massacres in Ottoman Turkey.
Both Hollande and Sarkozy urged Turkey to recognize the Genocide of some 1.5 million Armenians. They also said that a new bill making it a crime to deny that the massacres constituted genocide would be brought before the French parliament already in June.
Hollande, who narrowly defeated Sarkozy in the first round, said he would make sure that the new law is drafted with “utmost legal security” in order to ensure its approval by the country’s highest court. “We can no longer commit an imprecision that would again leave us with the impossibility of having the text validated,” he said.
Sarkozy, who was instrumental in the last’s bill passage, made an emphatic case for criminalizing any public denial of crimes against humanity. “There are statements that are not opinions,” he said. “Democracy is not about authorizing anyone to say anything without respecting the victim. This is not what democracy is all about.”
“Disputing a truth like genocide is unacceptable in the territory of the French Republic,” he said in a speech videotaped and posted by his press office on website of the presidential Elysee Palace.
Sarkozy also renewed his calls for Turkey to “revisit its past” and stop denying the first genocide of the 20th century. “The entire world has recognized that it was a genocide,” he said.
Significantly, the French leader spoke out against the idea of Turkish and Armenian historians jointly studying the events of 1915 and determining whether they indeed amounted to genocide. “Would anyone have an idea to tell our Jewish compatriots that there needs to be a commission of historians to clarify whether the infamous act of the Holocaust existed in Europe?” he argued. “That would be offensive, unacceptable and intolerable.”
The incumbent president stated that he was “stunned” by what he saw at the Armenian genocide memorial in Yerevan during a state visit to Armenia last October. “I want to tell all those who haven’t made such a trip, who haven’t seen what I saw, and who haven’t heard what I heard that they cannot understand the memory of this unspeakable pain of all Armenians,” he said.
“Visiting Yerevan, I understood what millions of Armenians feel when thinking about that genocide because I could imagine each of them putting themselves in the place of their grandparents and ancestors and wondered how I myself would have reacted,” added Sarkozy.