By Vic Gerami

If you think that no one is keeping a record of Azerbaijan’s crimes against humanity, violations of international law, and war crimes, then you are in for a surprise. The Center for Truth and Justice was established in November 2020 in response to the invasion of Artsakh (formerly Nagorno-Karabakh) to do just that. They are a group of lawyers overseeing the collection of firsthand testimonial evidence from war survivors via in-depth, recorded interviews. The attorneys run two law clinics, one in Armenia and one in Artsakh, which are the first of their kind. Through their clinics, they train Armenian law students and young lawyers to interview survivors of the war and record their testimonies. They have conducted hundreds of interviews and trained nearly one-hundred current or future lawyers. By being a permanent home for the testimonials, CFTJ is a resource for academic and legal practitioners who seek to use the evidence for education and/or legal action.

On October 13, 2023, the Center for Truth and Justice (CFTJ) will hold its third annual gala titled ‘Raise Their Voices: Break the Blockade’ in Los Angeles, with guest of honor Garo Paylan. In no uncertain terms, the CFTJ and Paylan do God’s work, making this union and the event much more significant.

The recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 was possible due to the overwhelming evidence collected by experts, including testimonies, photographs, interviews, and other sources. Given Azerbaijan’s track record of practicing revisionist history, disinformation, and propaganda, the evidence that the CFTJ collects is invaluable.

The mission of the CFTJ is to be a living memorial to crimes against humanity. By being a permanent home for testimonials, the Center makes eyewitness accounts available for study, education, and legal action to foster education, empathy, justice, and change. They preserve evidence and make it accessible for current or future proceedings in Armenia or abroad.

Garo Paylan, An Armenian born in Turkey, was among the few Armenians elected to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and served for two consecutive terms in 2015-2018 and 2018-2023, representing Istanbul and Diyarbakir. Though a politician, Paylan is also a leading democracy activist in Turkey. He is a founding member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and, since 2016, was the first Armenian in the history of the Republic of Turkey to publicly discuss the Armenian genocide of 1915 from the podium of the Turkish parliament. Paylan is recognized for his activism on human rights and minority rights in Turkey. He has received several awards, including the Grand Vermeil Medal, and has twice been nominated for the Nobel
peace prize.

Artsakh is finally getting some attention after nearly three years of deafening silence from the international community and the media, following the report by the founding prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, who classified the situation in Artsakh as Genocide. Meanwhile, Armenia requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to address the ‘deterioration of the humanitarian situation’ in Artsakh due to Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting the Republic of Artsakh to Armenia and the rest of the world.

In August, the founding prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo classified the situation in the region as Genocide. He said, ‘There is an ongoing Genocide against 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno- Karabakh, also known as Artsakh.’ He continued, ‘The blockade of the Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.”

He added, ‘There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.’

CFTJ recently announced that Ocampo will make a special appearance at their gala. Ocampo has been working closely with CFTJ since the 2021 Yerevan inaugural conference.

The attendance of Paylan and Ocampo at the CFTJ’s gala is significant and rare. Neither public servant is keen on self-promotion nor rarely travel long distance for an event.

In addition to the special guests, the CFTJ will present their last year’s achievements and announce their new initiatives. The event aims to collect funds for the CFTJ’s initiatives of collecting evidence of war crimes, preparing public reports and confidential filings, and offering the facts that international law experts need to hold Azerbaijan accountable.

To learn more about the gala and the CFTJ and to purchase tickets, please visit cftjustice.org

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