STRASBOURG — In a landmark verdict, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday that Dogu Perinçek, a Turkish politician, executed his right of free speech when he denied the Armenian genocide. The ECHR’s 17-judge Grand Chamber, whose rulings are final, announced its decision in the politically charged case at a public hearing in Strasbourg, France, on October 15.
Judges further said Perinçek’s statement, which was a matter of public interest, “could not be seen as a call for hatred, violence, or intolerance towards the Armenians” and “could not be regarded as affecting the dignity of the members of the Armenian community to the point of requiring a criminal law response.”
Perinçek was convicted by a court in Switzerland, where denying the Armenian genocide is criminalized, for his remarks branding the genocide “an international lie” in that country. He had argued that the denial was in line with his freedom of speech and took the case to the ECHR. The verdict was later confirmed by a Swiss appeal court and the Federal Supreme Court, and Perinçek took the case to the ECHR, arguing that his freedom of speech was infringed upon.
A lower chamber of the ECHR rejected the Swiss court’s conviction in December 2013, saying the Turkish politician’s remarks fell within the boundaries of free speech. The case came before the ECHR’s Grand Chamber after Switzerland appealed that ruling.
It gained additional attention in January 2015, when prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who is also the wife of American actor George Clooney, represented Armenia at a hearing.
The Swiss side argued that denying the Genocide took place is tantamount to “accusing the Armenians of falsifying history, one of the worst forms of racial discrimination.”
Armenia and Turkey were acting as third parties in the case.