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DID THE SUPREME COURT REALLY REJECT THE ‘ARMENIAN THESIS’ ? – YüksekMahkeme ‘Ermeni tezleri’ni ret mi etti?


Below article  has been copied from a publication and which is credit on the header of the article. Opinions  expressed does not necessarily represent opinion of OIA or its governing boards






(translated from the original article in Turkish

Published by Agos Weekly Newspaper on June 14,2013)


Pursuant to a decision published this week, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected the appeal filed by Armenian plaintiffs of the ruling by a lower court in favor of the German Insurance Company Munich Re (Munchener Ruchvershieherungs-Gesellschaft Aktiengesellschaft).



Newspaper headlines (in Turkey) reported this as “The United States Supreme Court rejects the Armenian Thesis“ . This is not an accurate representation of the ruling. The question before the High Court was not the accuracy of the Armenian Thesis (or the Cause/ Position);  it was not whether the Genocide did or did not happen.  The real question before the Court centered around whether or not a conflict existed  between the State of California and the federal government of the United States of America that involved an alleged infringement by California on foreign policy powers of the federal government. Depending on the existence of such conflict of authority, the follow up question the Court had to address was whether or not a California Statute should be stricken down. That was the dispute before the Supreme Court.





To be able to understand this complex matter better one needs to review the history of the legal proceedings. Approximately ten years ago the Legislature of the State of California passed a law extending the statute of limitations for filings against certain life insurance carriers. Generally, and based upon legal tradition,  laws that involve regulations and obligations pertaining to insurance companies have been the domain of individual and sovereign states.  In other words, insurance laws differ from each other in New York, Florida and California. The legislation in question was passed based upon the understanding of the legal and constitutional traditional powers possessed by the State of California ; and provided a ten year extension of the statute of limitations for filing law suits against life insurance companies, by the  heirs of those individual citizens of the Ottoman Empire , who owned life insurance policies, and lost their lives , were exiled or escaped to save their lives, between 1915 and 1923.



The key area of contention of the statutory language is its reference to the time period  of 1915 through 1923, as  the era commonly known to be the “Armenian Genocide”. Nevertheless, despite the misrepresentations in the Media, the deceased policy holder is not mandated to be a victim of the Armenian Genocide or exclusively of Armenian ancestry. In other words, the deceased person could have passed away in his house in Kayseri or Sivas due to natural causes and this insured (Ottoman) citizen could have been a Greek, or a Turk or an Albanian.  Due to the prevailing chaotic circumstances of the time period, the present day  heirs would have not been able to have access to the insurance policies , and this law would enable them to pursue their just claims for compensation against the German insurance company.  The statutory reference in essence is descriptive of the time period as it is known to the California Legislature.  The right to compensation ,however, does not rest on proof that the description of the Era is accurate. Consequently, however, the descriptive terminology rests at the core of the legal dispute.



Hence a legitimate private lawsuit against a private German Insurance company, all of a sudden gets turned into an international dispute due the  terminology used in its enabling legislation.  The fact that the parties to both sides of the dispute are either private individuals or private companies gets totally ignored.  Moreover, the blaring injustice of  the windfall obtained by German insurers who sold thousands of policies, collected premiums and never had to pay up when the time came; got cast aside.  One of the most disturbing aspects of these cases is the evidence that was discovered in the course that the French, British and German life insurance companies had a policy to target Armenians in general as part of their sales efforts in the Ottoman Empire. The marketing and sales training manuals  taught salespersons that compared to other ethnic and religious groups  the Armenians were more sensitive to providing for their families should they pass away; while the others had shied away for such close contemplations of their own mortality; and thus were less attractive as potential customers of life insurance policies. These observations do not necessarily establish the accuracy of such stereotyping, but do explain the fact that Armenians disproportionately held more policies than other groups.



The U.S. Supreme Court decision did uphold the decision by the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, reached after a long period contemplation, various reversals and historic oral arguments,  determining that the California law interfered with the foreign policy powers and authority of the federal government. Prior to the ruling upholding the 9th Circuit decision, the Supreme Court asked the Obama Administration their views as to the legal dispute.  The Solicitor General who represents the Executive Branch before the Supreme Court, presented an extraordinarily long position statement which was factually and legally questionable. The Solicitor General , also supported by the State Department indicated that they were concerned and apprehensive about the implications of this law on foreign policy ; expressing support for the decision of the Court of Appeals.  One of their most controversial contentions in that brief was that the issue of compensation for Armenian Victims had been resolved via the Lausanne II Treaty between the U.S. and the Republic of Turkey; despite the fact that is an invalid treaty not even remembered by most observers. Specifically, that was a Treaty that was never approved by the Senate and therefore had no legal effect as an international treaty. Even if it were a valid treaty, it had no impact on legal disputes for compensation between private individuals and business entities.



Another irony is the fact that this California Statute was found to be unconstitutional  since the terminology offended Turkey as alleged by the defendants and the Obama Administration; while over 40 State Legislatures and Governors officially have and continue to recognize the Armenian Genocide; and President Obama in his April 24 statements  ,while avoiding the usage of the word Genocide to the dismay of Armenians , utilizes words and phrases which should have the same end result of the perceived offensiveness.



In similar lawsuits that involved other life insurance companies, New York Life and French carrier AXA had chosen to reach settlements with the heirs. The German insurer Munich Re rejected that path and by litigating this all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court was able to prevail due to a favorable interpretation of the Constitution of the United States on an issue involving federalism, which gives primacy to the federal executive on matters that are deemed to involve foreign affairs. However, the real question one must ask and answer is whether or not justice was rendered. When considered in the historical perspective isn’t the responsibility of Germany even greater ? More importantly, considering what took place in Anatolia in 1915, why should the Republic of Turkey not pass a law similar to the one passed in California?



The insurance companies conducted business within the borders of Turkey, they sold insurance policies and the purchasers are certainly not alive today. Naturally, the documentation that would have entitled their beneficiaries to the proceeds disappeared in the chaotic atmosphere, and only surfaced through valiant efforts of attorneys who pursued these companies and compelled the release of the names of policyholders. Whomever has a grandfather or grandmother who had purchased life insurance policies from these companies within the borders of the Ottoman Empire (the legal predecessor of the Republic); and had been victimized during World War I, irrespective of  their cause of death,  should as their legal heirs  be entitled to their contractual rights.  Isn’t  unjust enrichment a reprehensible form of injustice that offends our collective notion of justice? 




Bu hafta açiklanan bir kararla
ABD Yüksek Mahkemesi
Ermeni asilli davacilarin
bir alt mahkemenin Alman
sigorta sirketi Munich Re
(Munchener Ruchversiherungs-
Gesellschaft Aktiengesellschaft,
AG) lehine vermis
oldugu karara itirazlarini reddetti.
Haber basliklarinda bu
ABD Yüksek Mahkemesi Ermeni
tezlerini reddetti diye
geçti. Oysa bu dogru bir degerlendirme
degil. Yüksek
Yargi’nin önündeki soru, Ermeni
tezinin dogrulugu, yani
soykirim oldu mu, olmadi
mi degil; Kaliforniya Eyaleti
ile ABD Federal Hükümeti
arasinda bir dis politika konusu
veya yetki ihtilafi var mi
ve varsa Kaliforniya’nin geçirmis
oldugu bu yasa geçersiz
sayilmali mi? Mahkemenin
önündeki soru bu.
Davanin tarihçesi
Bu konuyu anlamak için
davanin tarihçesine bakmak
gerekiyor. 10 yil önce, Kaliforniya
Eyaleti hayat sigortasi
sirketlerine karsi dava açma
hakkiyla ilgili zaman asimini
uzatan bir yasa geçirdi. Genelde
ve hukuki gelenek açisindan,
ABD’de sigorta sirketlerinin
faaliyetlerini ve sorumluluklarini
düzenleyen yasalar eyaletlerin
kendi özerk iradelerine birakilmistir.
Yani New York ,
Florida veya Kaliforniya’da sigorta
kanunlari farklidir. Bu
anayasal yetkiye dayanarak geçirilmis
olan yasa 1915-23 arasinda
Osmanli vatandasi olarak
hayatini kaybetmis, veya kurtulmak
için yurtdisina kaçmis
veya sürülmüs, hayat sigortasi
poliçesi sahibi olan tüm fertlerin
varislerine bu sigorta sirketlerine
karsi zaman asimina
ugramis olan davalarini açabilmeleri
için yeni bir on senelik
süre taniyor. Yasanin
tartismali tarafi; 1915-1923
arasindaki dönemi tanimlarken;
genelde “Ermeni Soykirimi”
diye bilinir tarifi yapiliyor.
Fakat basinda saptirildiginin
tersine, ölen kisinin soykirim
kurbani olmasi veya Ermeni
olmasi sart kosulmuyor.
Yani ölen sigortali kisi, Kayseri
veya Sivas’taki evinde dogal
nedenlerden olmus olabilirdi ve
bu sigortalanmis vatandas
Rum, Türk veya Arnavut da
olabilirdi. Fakat kaos ortami
yüzünden varisleri bu poliçelere
ulasamadiklari için, bugün verilere
dayanarak kanunu haklari
olan ödemeyi Alman Sigorta
sirketine yaptirabilirlerdi.
Bu yasa hak sahibi olan kisilerin
yasamis olduklari dönemin;
Kaliforniya Eyalet
Meclisi tarafindan tanimlanmasi
anlamina geliyor. Tazminat
hakki tanimlamanin ispatina
baglantili degil. Binaenaleyh
bu tanimlama meselenin
ve sürtüsmenin de odaginda
yer aliyor.
Özel bir Alman sigorta sirketine
açilmis bir dava; birdenbire
ona olanak saglayan
yasa terimi yüzünden uluslararasi
soruna dönüstürülmüs
oluyor. Bu davadaki
taraflarin özel sahislar ile özel
sirketler oldugu atlaniyor. Alman
sigorta sirketlerinin satmis
olduklari binlerce hayat sigortasi
poliçelerinin bedellerini
ödemek zorunda kalmadan
paralarin üstüne oturarak;
adil olmayan bir gelir elde etmis
olmalari bir kenara atilmis
oluyor. Isin en üzücü yanlarindan
biri, elde edilmis evraklara
göre, Osmanli döneminde
faaliyet gösteren Fransiz,
Ingiliz ve Alman sirketleri
genelde Ermenileri hedef almislar.
Pazarlama ve satis elemanlarina
verilen sunum ve
kitapçiklarda; diger etnik
gruplara nisbeten Ermenilerin
kendilerine birsey olursa, ailelelerinin
muhtaç kalmamasi
için daha hassas olduklarini,
diger din ve mezheplerin
mensuplarinin ise ölümle içiçe
olmaktan kaçindiklari için
bir müstakbel müsteri olarak
daha az cazip olduklarini belirtmisler.
Bu izlenim dogrulugu
degil ama Ermenilerin
kendi nüfus yüzdelerinin üzerinde
hayat sigortasi almis bir
kesim olmasinin arkasindaki
nedeni de açikliyor.
Yüksek Mahkemenin
onayladigi karar, 9. Temyiz
Mahkemesi’nin uzun bir süreç
ve birkaç karar degisikliginden
sonra verdigi ve Kaliforniya’nin
geçirmis oldugu
kararin federal hükümetin
dis politikasina müdahele oldugu
için iptal etmis oldugu
bir karar. Yüksek Mahkeme
bu iptal kararindan önce Obama
hükümetinden konuyla ilgili
görüserini talep etti. Yürütmeyi
Yüksek Mahkeme
önünde temsil eden basyetkili
çok uzun ve bazi hususlarda
gerçekligi tartisilan bir sunumla
kendilerinin bu yasa
yüzünden endiseli olduklarini
ve temyiz mahkemesinin
yasayi iptal hükmünü savunduklarini
belirtti. En tartisilan
konulardan biri geçerliligi olmayan
ve çok az kisinin hatirladig
Ikinci Lozan Antlasmasi’na
deginerek tazminat islerinin
halledildigini savunmasi.
Oysa bu antlasma, Senato
tarafindan onaylanmadigi
için kanun önünde mütareke
olarak tanimlanamaz ve
öyle olsa bile özel sahislar ve
sirketler arasindaki tazminat
ihtilaflariyla ilgisi yoktur. Ayrica
40’tan fazla eyaletin parlamento
ve valilerinin resmen
soykirimi tanimis olmasi,
Baskan Obama’nin 24 Nisan
konusmalarinda soykirim
sözcügü yerine ayni soruca
varan deyimler kullanmasina
ragmen bu sigorta yasasinin
Türkiye’yi incittigi
için geçersiz sayildi.
Benzer davalar
New York Life ve Fransiz
AXA sigorta sirketleri kendilerine
karsi açilan benzer davalari
varisler ile uzlasma yoluna
giderek kapatmislardi.
Alman sigorta sirketi Munich
Re bunu reddetti ve
ABD Yüksek Mahkemesi’ne
kadar isi götürerek, ABD
Anayasasi’nin Disislerinde Federal
Yürütmeye öncelik taninmasi
gerektigi seklinde
yorumlanmasi sayesinde bu
davayi kazanmis oldu. Fakat
adalet gerçekten tecelli etti
mi? Almanlarin sorumluluklari
tarihsel perspektiften bakilinca
daha büyük degil mi?
Daha önemli olan, 1915’te
Anadolu’da yasananlar gözönüne
alindiginda Türkiye neden
böyle bir kanun geçirmesin?
Bu sirketler Türkiye sinirlari
içerisinde ticaret yapmislar,
sigorta satmislar ve
müsterilerinin bugün hayatta
olmasi imkansiz. Belgeler
tabii ki kaos ortaminda kaybolmus
ve bu davalar sayesinde
sirketler isimlerini açiklamak
zorunda kalmislar. Kim
ki dedesi veya ninesi bu sirketlerden
Osmanli sinirlari
içerisinde hayat sigortasi almis
ve Birinci Dünya Savasi sirasinda
magdur olmus ise, vefat
sebepleri ne olursa olsun, varisler
olarak niye haklarini
alamasinlar? Haksiz kazanç
kavrami hepimizin adalet anlayisina
ters düsen bir hakkaniyetsizlik
degil mi?
14 HAZ!RAN 2013 AGOS 19


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