By Hrach Melkumian
The author of a draft law that declares denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide a crime expressed on Saturday confidence about its eventual passage by the parliament.
The legislation unveiled by parliament deputy Hmayak Hovannisian in February makes it illegal for any Armenian citizen or resident to “deny, justify or call into question” the fact of the genocide.
The National Assembly refused to include the draft in its agenda after several deputies voiced strong objections. They said the bill is ambiguous in defining genocide denial.
But Hovannisian, who leads the Agro-Industrial group of non-partisan deputies, said it enjoys the government’s backing and will be approved by the National Assembly later this year. “Despite the delay, the draft has won the government’s approval,” he told a roundtable discussion in Yerevan.
However, one informed government official denied the claim. He told RFE/RL that the government will put its weight behind the bill only if it undergoes “certain amendments.”
Hovannisian did not specify whether the would-be law should be enforced against Armenian members of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC). They have been accused of hampering Armenian efforts to achieve international recognition of the 1915 tragedy.
One of the commission’s members, Moscow-based political analyst Andranik Migranian, dismissed Hovannisian’s initiative as “ludicrous” last week, saying that it could be used against attempts to improve relations between Armenia and Turkey.
Hovannisian made no mention of the TARC, but attacked former Armenian government officials who tried to normalize relations between Yerevan and Ankara. He specifically referred to Jirair Libaridian, ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s top foreign policy aide, and Murad Bojolian, a former foreign ministry official charged with spying for Turkey.