On Friday the 24th of April, Armenians in Belgium will commemorate a hundred years since the 1915 massacres, during which 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed. During a demonstration in Brussels, members of the Armenian community called on the Belgian authorities to penalise denial of the term “genocide”. The term has remained controversial as Turkey has always denied the campaign of elimination carried out by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Belgium’s position on the subject remains ambiguous. The Armenian community in Belgium is made up of 20,000 to 30,000 people, according to Christian Vrouyr, the president of the Committee for Armenians in Belgium. Its members will meet in front of the monument commemorating the Armenian genocide in Brussels’ Michaux square on Friday. They will then call for denial of the genocide to be penalised during a political meeting that afternoon. According to Mr Vrouyr, “the majority of Armenians would be reassured by a law”, as is the case in France.
Around twenty countries recognise the Armenian genocide, including Italy, France, and Russia. Belgium has no clear position. The Belgian senate recognised the Armenian massacre was “genocide” in 1998 through a resolution inviting the Turkish government to take steps towards accepting the term. However, Belgium’s position is not set out in a parliamentary resolution. “The term ‘genocide’ has a specific judicial signification, and it’s up to (national or international) tribunals to decide”, explains Hendrik Van de Velde, the spokesman for Belgian diplomats. “No good would come from another power meddling with what should be handled by a judicial power”, he said.
Today, Belgium is content to simply encourage Armenia and Turkey to continue their efforts to improve bilateral relations.