Turkey may face reparation demands after U.S. recognises Armenian genocide – Turkish politician

Ahmet Taşgetiren

Armenians in the United States may seek a reparations ruling after the U.S. House of Representatives’ on Tuesday voted in favour of recognising the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire a century ago as genocide, a veteran Turkish politician said.

The Armenian plaintiffs could seek to appeal against a previous ruling by a California court before the deadline on Nov. 9 after last Tuesday’s House ruling, said Cemil Çiçek, former speaker of the Turkish parliament and current member of Turkish presidency’s Higher Advisory Board.

The House vote on Tuesday came amid bipartisan anger in Congress over the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces that fought the Islamic State alongide U.S. forces.

Çiçek told Ahmet Taşgetiren, a columnist for Karar newspaper, that the U.S. Congress’ move might have wider repercussions.

“Armenians of Turkish origin have been filing reparation cases against Turkey for a while,” Taşgetiren quoted Çiçek as saying on Friday.

“The latest decision of the U.S. House of Representatives’ on genocide in one way has fulfilled the demands of the Armenians in the political dimension. Moreover, the number of votes in favour (405 to 11) could encourage Armenians. The courts from now on might not justify their decisions by saying the matter should be left to politics,” he said.

Çiçek was referring to a decision of the United States Court of Appeals on Aug. 9 to deny the appeal of two lawsuits brought by several Armenian-Americans demanding compensation from the Republic of Turkey and two of its banks for confiscating their properties shortly after the period when the Armenian genocide took place. The decision of the court can be appealed until Nov. 9, the politician said.

The first lawsuit was filed in 2010 by Alex Bakalian, Anais Haroutunian, and Rita Mahdessian seeking $65 million from Turkey’s central bank and state-owned Ziraat Bank. The second lawsuit was filed by David Davoyan and Hrayr Turabian against the Republic of Turkey, the Central Bank of Turkey, and Ziraat Bank.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in 2013 dismissed the two lawsuits declaring that “under the political question doctrine which says certain questions—in this case, determining whether Turkey’s actions were genocide—should be handled by the executive branch, not the courts.”

The court in August rejected the appeal against its previous decision, saying that the two Armenian lawsuits were time-barred.

“The Armenians right now may seek to ensure a ruling from the higher court in favour of reparations by thinking that the current climate in the United States right now can have results to their advantage,” Çiçek said. “Such a reparations decision can create problems for Turkey which it might struggle to overcome for 100 years,” he said.