ess conference with Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, second from left (Nora Erdmann (GfbV) photo)

Group photo at press conference with Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo,   second from left (Nora Erdmann (GfbV) photo)

Armenians Commemorate Genocide Anniversary with Moreno Ocampo in Germany as Aliyev Visits

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
the Armenian Mirror Spectator
BERLIN, MAY 3, 2024― Every year on April 24, Armenians and Germans gather in the historic St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt and the French Cathedral in Berlin to pay homage to those who perished. Representatives of the government, the Armenian ambassador and other diplomats, local political leaders, and leaders of the religious communities speak, and a special guest holds a keynote address.
This year was different. Not only in the political and business capital cities were there events, but also in numerous other locations, during the entire week of April 21 to 28, from a gathering at the Ecumenical Monuments in Berlin, to other cities and towns: Neuwied, Hanau, Braunschweig, Leipzig, Cologne, Duisburg, Bremen, Munich, Halle and er Saale, Hamburg, Potsdam, Nürnberg, Höchstadt/Aisch, Giessen, Bielefeld and Kehl.And the commemorations were not only solemn, but eminently political. On April 25-26, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was expected in Berlin, for talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The timing was probably not coincidental, but what awaited him in the German capital was perhaps a surprise.

Moreno Ocampo Calls It Genocide
The ceremony in Frankfurt’s St. Paul’s church, where the first popularly elected German National Assembly convened in 1848, was organized by the Central Council of Armenians in Germany (ZAD), the Diocese of the Armenian Church and the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia. ZAD Chairman of the Board Jonathan Spangenberg opened the event and Armenian Ambassador Viktor Yengibaryan delivered an address. Greetings came from City Treasurer Dr. Bastian Bergerhoff, Vice President of the Hessen State Parliament Angela Dorn-Rancke, and Martin Rössler, State Secretary of the Hessen Interior Ministry. Corinna Kulenkamp provided a literary contribution and Primate of the Diocese Bishop Serovpé Isakhanyan concluded the event with a prayer.
The guest speaker was Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), who issued an expert report last August on the threat of genocide in Artsakh. Moreno Ocampo’s speech was a bold denunciation of Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policy, a charge he would repeat days later in Berlin. Remembering the genocide, Moreno Ocampo posed the question of how it started on April 24. “Destroying the leadership was the strategy in 1915,” he stated, “and destroying the leadership is the strategy in 2024.” He said that last September, “all the Armenians living in Artsakh were victims of genocide; they were removed by force and starvation from their ancestral land. In addition, twenty-three of them, including three former Artsakh presidents and five other community leaders, were incarcerated by Azerbaijan.” They remain in Baku, in prison, up to the present. The message delivered to the Armenians by these measures was that “if you come back to Nagorno-Karabakh, you will be starved, incarcerated, or killed. The Armenian leaders became hostages.”
Moreno Ocampo then turned to the responsibility of Germany’s political class, saying that “this historic place,” St. Paul’s, “should be an informal parliament to represent the Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh,” who otherwise have no such representation or “judges to protect their rights.” The former prosecutor offered his assistance to  Scholtz “by providing detailed information” on Aliyev’s intentions. Here he referred to the American Judge Gassia Apkarian, of the Center for Truth and Justice, who a week earlier had called on the ICC to investigate Aliyev for genocide. Although it is difficult to prove intent to commit genocide if the perpetrator conceals it, Moreno Ocampo said that Apkarian had succeeded, by providing proof in statements made by the Azerbaijani president over the last decade. These included a statement in April 15, in which Aliyev warned, “If you do not want to die, then get out of Azerbaijani lands.” Then he quoted Aliyev’s declaration last September, that if the Armenians failed to do so “of their own free will, we will chase them away like dogs, and we are doing that.”
He continued by citing a resolution adopted by the Azerbaijani Parliament, titled “Statement of the return of Western Azerbaijanis to their historical homeland,” as evidence of the intention to assert sovereignty over Armenia, “a genocide approved by Parliament.”
Moreno Ocampo stressed that genocide occurs not only by killing but by “starvation and mental harm,” according to the Genocide Convention, and that both were evident in Artsakh. Nor, he said, was it a matter of opinion; even German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had denounced the hardship caused by the blockade of the Lachin corridor, which led to lack of food, medicine and fuel. Baerbock had said that thousands had been forced to leave their homes, and she denounced the military aggression. If she made these statements, Ocampo asked, “What will you do?”
As for the juridical aspect, he clarified that prevention of genocide, as per the convention, requires no conclusive proof; “it is enough to show that there is a ‘serious risk’ that genocide will be committed.” This raises the question: why is there no prevention? Ocampo cited European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s well-known statement that Europe needs gas imports from “reliable partner” Aliyev. The country is able to provide 3 percent of the gas Europe needs, he said, because it receives gas from Russia; that is not much, but even if the EU needed 80 percent, he asked, would that be acceptable?
To solve the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, negotiations are necessary, he agreed, “but genocide is a limit impossible to ignore in a ‘constructive dialogue.’” Acknowledging that his speech would lead to personal attacks against him by Azerbaijan, he said he would simply ignore them. He closed by stating, “Germany’s obligation to prevent genocide requires the chancellor to confront President Aliyev’s genocidal intention to attack Armenians, to guarantee the rights of the Armenians to return to Nagorno Karabakh, and to ensure the immediate release of the ‘Armenian hostages.’”

Demonstration outside chancellor’s office, with a sign on a Karabakh flag saying “For genocide in Nagorno Karabakh, send Aliyev to the Hague.” (Gabi Damm photo)

Demonstration outside chancellor’s office, with a sign on a Karabakh flag saying “For genocide in Nagorno Karabakh, send Aliyev to the Hague.” (Gabi Damm photo)

Aliyev’s Welcome in Berlin
Days before the scheduled arrival of the Azerbaijani president, Armenian and German civil society organizations joined to protest the visit, issuing a petition to Scholz and announcing a demonstration in front of the chancellor’s office. In their appeal to Scholz, the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV), the ZAD, Against Genocide, for International Understanding (AGA) and the International Society for Human Rights announced that Moreno Ocampo was in Germany “to inform media and responsible political circles of the dictatorial Azerbaijan regime’s genocidal crimes.” They urged Scholz, who had not responded to earlier warnings of genocide, to open his eyes now and deal with the issue. Furthermore, he should announce sanctions in case of repeated aggression, demand the liberation of all political prisoners from Artsakh, the right of return for the expelled Armenians, with guarantees for security, liberty, and the right to self-determination, as well as the end to anti-Armenian education and culture policy.
Aliyev met first with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on April 26, then with Scholz. Neither of the German leaders demonstrated any acknowledgement of reality in the Caucasus. In a joint press conference on April 26, Scholz had warm words of welcome for his guest, noting they had talked about the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and “agreed that this conflict must now be resolved peacefully.” Scholz said that the prospects looked good, given Aliyev’s personal contact with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at their Munich meeting, where both had “assured me that outstanding issues would only be resolved peacefully.”
Germany, he added, had a standing offer to “support a lasting and viable solution.” Otherwise, the German president praised climate policy plans by Azerbaijan, which is to host COP29.
Steinmeier praised Azerbaijan as “an important partner for Europe’s security of supply, including in energy matters” and thanked his guest “for the cooperation, which has been and continues to be an important contribution to stabilizing our energy supply.”
Aliyev thanked his host for supporting his country’s role, and offered to supply Germany not only with natural gas but also green energy. On regional security issues, Aliyev said he held “the peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan in high regard,” and thanked Scholz as well as Baerbock for their contributions. On Artsakh, he said his country had “liberated a large part of its sovereign territory from occupation in 2023” and in September “restored its full sovereignty,” secured its territorial integrity, a “historic achievement,” all “on the basis of international law,” and “by military and political means.” He boasted of progress in negotiating border demarcations, and in the recovery of four villages, etc. He thanked Germany for its support.
None of the journalists present asked about the blockade and subsequent expulsion of more than 100,000 people; instead, they criticized the lack of human rights and press freedom, charges Aliyev cheerfully denied: “There is no censorship in Azerbaijan. There is free internet in Azerbaijan.”
Scholz did his part by assuring the press that he and Aliyev had addressed this issue, and merely acknowledged that “it is no secret that we see a need for improvement, so to speak.” Outside the Chancellor’s office a spirited demonstration was taking place, with protestors carrying pickets denouncing Azerbaijan’s genocidal policy.
At the same time, the group of civil society organizers held a press conference with Moreno Ocampo, who reiterated the points he had made in his major address in Frankfurt. “The German Chancellor has a chance to halt the situation,” he said. He stressed that Germany, as signatory to the Genocide Convention, has the responsibility to prevent genocide. He added, “I cannot believe that the German Chancellor would talk about energy and at the same time ignore the facts described by his foreign ministry and the evaluation presented by the UN special advisor regarding the danger of genocide.”
“The German government remained silent about the starvation of Karabakh Armenians as well as their expulsion,” said Sarah Reinke, director of Human Rights at the GfbV. She said Baerbock was demanding Armenia and Azerbaijan make peace, “without mentioning what has happened in Karabakh.” Aliyev was taking advantage of Russia’s war against Ukraine, she added; “Germany and the EU think they need Aliyev for its oil and gas. And in Karabakh there is lithium, a critical raw material. Has the chancellor learned nothing from the utterly unsuccessful Russia policy of previous governments?” Reinke asked.
Tessa Hofmann of the AGA added, “In the course of a century, Armenia was not only subjected to repeated genocide, but also to the traumatic experience of a so-called international community that looked on passively. The German government in World War I as well as in 2023 looked on without taking action. As signatory to the UN Convention as well as the Rome Statute, Germany has failed to assume responsibility to prevent genocide and thus contributed to the fact that the wounds suffered in genocide have not healed. The expelled people’s right to return to their homeland was and is ignored. Now the legal consequences of this behavior must be dealt with, to avert further future damage,” said Tessa Hofmann.

Gerayer Koutcharian at demo (Tessa Hofmann photo)

Gerayer Koutcharian at demo
(Tessa Hofmann photo)

This year’s commemoration in Germany of the 1915 genocide was a dramatic confrontation between Moreno Ocampo and the accused Aliyev. The German political representatives appeared almost as witnesses for the defendant. And the jury? In 2016 the Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, a political move long awaited, which embodied the hope that Germany would shape its foreign policy accordingly. Perhaps with this idea in mind, he also addressed the political body that passed the resolution. On April 25, he delivered a report on the international legal aspects of Azerbaijan’s deportation of Armenians from Karabakh to the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid of the German Bundestag. Followed his presentation, Moreno Ocampo engaged in discussion with members of the human rights, foreign relations, legal affairs, and economic cooperation and development committees of the Bundestag.