By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian government will help eligible descendants of the 1915 Armenian genocide victims to claim their unpaid life insurance benefits as part of a recent $20 million settlement with a major U.S. insurance firm, Justice Minister David Harutiunian said Friday.
The settlement with New York Life, approved by a California court in June, stemmed from a class-action suit filed by Armenian-American holders of the policies sold by the company in Ottoman Turkey before the mass killings and deportations of its Armenian population.
About 2,400 insurance policies are believed to have still not been compensated. New York Life says it was unable to locate their original holders and will now pay their descendants in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
It is not known how many of them live in Armenia. Harutiunian said that whatever their number, the government in Yerevan will provide logistical assistance to relevant Armenian citizens and has even received some financial assistance from the U.S. court for that purpose. He said the Justice Ministry is translating the long list of the holders of New York Life policies into Armenian and will post them at every post office in Armenia and Armenian diplomatic missions abroad.
“If a person has an insurance policy but does not find their relatives’ name on the list, they still have a chance to apply for compensation,” he told a news conference. “Starting from September 20, we will publish the names and contact information of those institutions that are ready to assist our compatriots in that process.”
The deal with New York Life has been criticized by some Armenian-American organizations which say that it does not go far enough in restoring justice and protects the company against further legal action.
Harutiunian said he is also unhappy with some of its provisions. “I regret that the court ruling does not carry the term Armenian Genocide,” he said. “I think the parties’ decision not to use it for political considerations was wrong. Nonetheless, I consider this a victory and the beginning of a big process.”
Meanwhile, a group of other U.S. citizens of Armenian extraction filed a similar class-action suit against two big German banks in a Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday. The plaintiffs are descendants of Ottoman Armenians who had cash deposits in Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank before being killed in the genocide. They say the banks have failed to pay the money back to the victims’ heirs and accuse them of helping the Ottoman regime of Young Turks exterminate the Armenian subjects of the empire and loot their property.
(Note to readers: More information about the New York Life settlement can be found at www.ArmenianInsuranceSettlement.com.)