By Hovannes Shoghikian
Nearly 2,000 Armenian citizens have laid claim to compensation by a French insurance company that had sold life policies to their forebears massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, a government official said on Friday.
The claimants hope to receive cash payouts as part of a $17.5 million deal that settled in 2005 class-action suit brought by U.S.-based descendants of the Armenian genocide victims against the French group AXA.
The insurer disbursed last month the first $1 million installment of the money to three French-Armenian charities. They are to receive a further $2 million in the next two months. The rest of the money is go to an estimated 5,000 individual policy-holders mainly living in Armenia, France and the United States. They have until January 7 to file for compensation.
Armenia’s Justice Ministry is also involved in the process, receiving and processing necessary documents by Armenian nationals seeking compensation. “We have so far received about 1,900 applications, 700 of which have already been forwarded [to AXA,]” Tamara Shakarian, an advisor to Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian, told RFE/RL. “The rest of them are being processed and will be forwarded soon.”
More than 1,200 Armenian citizens have already been compensated this year as part of a similar settlement made by the U.S. New York Life Insurance company with Armenian-American heirs to genocide victims in 2004. Lawyers that negotiated the $20 million deal have similar actions pending against Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank of Germany.
Shakarian said that individuals hoping to be compensated by AXA have to fill out five-page forms and submit more detailed information about their relation to original policy-holders than was required by New York Life. The Justice Ministry provides them with counseling free of charge, she said.
“The process is a bit cumbersome,” said one woman whose family has been paid $2,000 by New York Life and is going to lay claim to AXA as well. “You have to come [to the ministry] in early in the morning and wait for many hours. But maybe that’s the way it should have been.”