Recognition by the Grand Council of Vaud

Lausanne, Palais de Rumine, 5 July 2005

 

The Grand Council of the Canton of Vaud Formally Recognizes the Armenian Genocide

 

In the same room in which the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, after a dignified debate, the Grand Council (legislative bodies) of the Canton of Vaud rejected this morning a report of the State Council (executive body) - written under the supervision of the Federal Council (Swiss government), published on January 12, 2005 - refusing to characterize the massacres of the Armenians in 1915 as Genocide. This report has been issued by the State Council as an answer to the postulate Sandri, adopted in 2003 by the Grand Council, which was demanding the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the State Council.

 

While not wanting to condemn either the Turkish people or the current government, yet maintaining the importance of honoring the Armenian people, the Grand Council followed the recommendations of the commission charged with examining the original report, and adopted a formal resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

 

Before voting, the final brief intervention of Cantonal Minister Jean-Claude Mermoud, director of DIRE (Institutions and External Relations Department) no longer evoked the main arguments of the report: the absence of intention of the crime committed by the Young Turks against the Armenians at the turn of the last century and the points aimed at diminishing the importance of the worldwide recognition of the Armenian genocide. The document, which was rife with imprecisions and omissions - more than simple misjudgment - reflected the desire not to displease the Swiss Foreign Ministry and the Seco (State Secreteriat for Economy), given the obvious fact that a topic close to the highly sensitive nerves of an economic partner (Turkey) was being touched. Minister Mermoud said that the only difference with the commission was in "how" to accomplish the task of remembrance and that he would not place any obstacles in the work of the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

 

Fortunately, the representatives - of all political backgrounds - recognized the erroneous arguments of this report and rejected it with overwhelming majority (with 85 votes in favor, 51 against, and 12 abstentions). Moreover, they reiterated the task of remembrance assumed following the adoption of the Sandri postulate, on 23 September 2003, which resulted in the cancellation of Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey’s visit to Turkey ten days later.

 

In the very place where the great European powers and Turkey sanctioned in 1923 the termination of the political rights of the Armenians, the Grand Councilors today reaffirmed not only the appropriateness, but also the responsibility of political bodies to characterize as genocide this crime against humanity in adopting by an overwhelming majority (86 votes in favor, 35 against, and 25 abstentions) the following resolution:

 

« The Grand Council of the Canton of Vaud recognizes the Genocide of the

Armenian people of 1915 and honors the memory of its victims. ».

 

Interventions:

 

Upon the presentation of the commission’s conclusions, introduced by Rep. Roger Saugy, recommending the rejection of the Report of the State Council and the adoption of the resolution, Rep. Alexandre Bidaub (Socialist Party) articulately analyzed in great detail the contradictions inherent in the report. He recalled the 1968 UN Convention on Imprescriptibility of Crimes of War and Against Humanity, concluding that Federal States, as politically independent entities, have the same competence and ability to assert their position on human rights issues as do federal parliamentary bodies.

 

Rep. Jean-Claude Gogniat (Liberal Party), speaking against the adoption of such a resolution, pointed out the fact that many genocides remain unrecognized, and that therefore, there was no reason to recognize or single out a specific one as opposed to others. His conclusion was that Turkey should accomplish its task of coming to terms with its own history alone, and without the weight of externally applied political pressure.

 

Rep. Jean Martin (Liberal Radical Party), reiterated the right of the Grand Council to assess whether or not a genocide took place. He was followed by François Cadosch (Liberal Party), who affirmed the importance on the part of Turkey to remove this bloody stain from its flag.

 

Rep. Régis Courdesse (Liberal Party) underlined the superficiality and insufficiency of the report of the State Council, while Rep. Christian Polin (Liberal Radical Party), pointing out the very recent events of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the German Bundestag, stated that it would be ill-advised to unintentionally become complicit with the denial of this crime against humanity.

 

Rep. Massimo Sandri (Workers Party), author of the postulate which led to this report, recalled Hitler's famous phrase, "Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?" in concluding that it was entirely necessary to be having these discussions, particularly in the same room in which the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. To make his point, he exhibited on a projector a photograph of the room from that era, with the same recognizable tables upon which the treaty was signed heralding the birth of modern Turkey while at the same time condemning Armenians to oblivion.

 

Rep. Pierre Zwahlen (Socialist Party) intervened, stating that this resolution could help Turkey in its task of facing its past, and that Article 91 of the Vaud Constitution authorized the Grand Council to undertake the launching of such a formal recognition.

 

Rep. Denis Bouvier (Workers Party) then introduced an amended version of the resolution, where the name of the Ottoman Empire appeared as the entity responsible for this genocide. Upon the criticism emanating notably from the conservative parties (Rep. Jacques Chollet, UDC), which preferred the concise version of the resolution, Rep. Bouvier decided to withdraw his proposal. Rep. Jean-Claude Rochat (Radical Party) underlined the importance of honoring the victims of this genocide and reminded that exactly through external pressure governments could be pushed to carry out their duty to remembrance.

 

In conclusion, State Minister Jean-Claude Mermoud finally took the floor, affirming that his only divergence with the speakers was the manner in which remembrance was undertaken. He exposed the diplomatic difficulties that arose upon the adoption of the Sandri postulate, and that this was the cause for which contact was made with Mrs. Calmy-Rey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He hoped that this resolution does not cause more difficulties in diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Turkey. After seventy minutes of interventions in great dignity, destined for the larger public of the entire Vaud and Swiss society, the discussion came to a close with the adoption of the resolution affirming the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

 

Related documents

- Rapport du Conseil d'État du canton de Vaud [PDF]

- Réponse de l'ASA au rapport du CE [PDF]

 

Postulat Sandri accepted by the Grand Council of Vaud

Mardi 23 septembre 2003, le Grand Conseil du canton de Vaud a accepté à une très large majorité le postulat de M. le député Massimo Sandri proposant des mesures propres à reconnaître officiellement le génocide commis en 1915 par le gouvernement ottoman à l'encontre du peuple arménien et qui a fait un million et demi de victimes.

 

Le texte du postulat Sandri

POSTULAT MASSIMO SANDRI ET CONSORTS demandant au Conseil d'Etat de prendre des mesures propres à recoonaître officiellement le génocide arménien de 1915

 

Texte du postulat

 

En 1915, durant la première guerre mondiale, les troupes de l'armée ottomane massacraient plus d'un million d'Arméniens. Un peuple valeureux aux origines bimillénaires était ainsi disloqué. Ses régions orientales, jadis occupées par la Russie, formaient la plus petite des républiques soviétiques, ou encore étaient absorbées par l'Iran, alors que les survivants des massacres de la vaste région occidentale émigraient en masse en Europe occidentale et outre-Atlantique.

 

Depuis lors, les Arméniens se battent pour la mémoire du génocide. Si le Traité de Sèvres de 1920 a reconnu le fait politique arménien, le Traité de Lausanne de 1923 entra la Turquie et les alliés sortis victorieux de la guerre a rayé l'Arménie de la carte, tout en ne mentionnant pas l'ampleur des exactions dont cette population a été victime.

 

C'est donc ici à Lausanne que, il y a quatre-vingt ans, le destin de l'Arménie a été scellé.

 

Le moment est venu pour le canton de Vaud de recoonaître par un acte solennel le drame de la persécution des Arméniens.

 

Cet acte pourrait consister en l'édification, tant à Lausanne qu'à Erevan, d'une plaque à la mémoire des hommes et des femmes massacrés dans les horribles tueries de 1915; et en une démarche du Conseil d'Etat appuyée par le Grand Conseil, auprès des Autorités fédérales, engageant la Suisse dans la même direction.

 

Par l'adoption du présent postulat, le canton de Vaud contribuerait ainsi à l'établissement d'une paix juste et durable entre Turcs et Arméniens, paix dont l'obstacle principal réside aujourd'hui dans un "négationnisme" qui maintient et renforce la douleur ainsi que le traumatisme de toute une population. Il est important de rappeler que ce génocide a été reconnu par l'ONU en 1985 et par le Parlement européen en 1987. Au cours de ces dernières années, de nombreux parlements européens ont fait de même, dont les français, suédois et italien.

 

En Suisse, le génocide arménien a été officiellement reconnu par le Grand Conseil genevois en 1998 et par le Conseil d'Etat du même canton en 2001. De plus, un objet déposé par le conseiller national Jean-Claude Vaudroz sera bientôt traité par le Parlement Fédéral.

 

Une blessure béante est ouverte dans la sensibilité arménienne et, face au tragique des disparitions, peu de place reste pour la réparation et le pardon. Seul le travail de la mémoire pourrait contribuer à restituer la dignité à celles et à ceux qui ont été engloutis à tout jamais.

 

Lausanne, le 20 janvier 2003 Massimo Sandri

 

Related press release of the SAA

Septembre 24, 2003

 

Tuesday, 23rd September 2003, the Grand Council (i.e. Regional Parliament) of the Canton of Vaud (Swizreland) accepted with a large majority the postulate of the deputy, Massimo Sandri, proposing proper measures to officially acknowledge the Genocide committed in 1915 by the Ottoman Government against the Armenian people, causing one-and-a-half million victims.

 

All the parties spoke in favour of the postulate, except for one deputy from the UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre).

 

Mr. Massimo Sandri emphasised the similarities between the two mountainous countries lacking natural resources and reminded of the great solidarity expressed by the Swiss since the beginning

of the massacres, in XIX Century, when they collected in a petition 453'015 signatures.

 

Mr. Massimo Sandri envisages to visit Yerevan next summer and plant a tree near the monument dedicated to victims of the Genocide.

 

Documentation

Documentation historique sur les Traités évoqués dans le Postulat Sandri:

- Le texte du Traité de Sèvres (1920)

- La carte géographique du Traité de Sèvres (source: Atlas historique)

- Le texte du Traité de Lausanne (1923)

- La carte géographique du Traité de Lausanne (source: Atlas historique)

 

Documentation sur le Postulat Sandri:

- Le procès verbal de la séance du 5 juillet (Grand Conseil vaudois)

- Extraits du procès verbal (partie Sandri seule) de la séance du 5 juillet (Grand Conseil vaudois)