Yesterday’s and today’s genocides and crimes against humanity: what should we do tomorrow?
Interview with Mr. Vincent Nioré, Paris Bar lawyer
For its first edition, the Globe Lawyer had the chance to meet a prominent Paris Bar lawyer, Mr Vincent Nioré. He is particularly known for his role as delegate coordinator of the president for lawyer objections.
He has been admitted into the Paris Bar Since 1983, former first secretary of the Conference and former board member of the Order, he is now also Chairman of the Institute of Criminal Law of the Paris Bar and member of the National Bar Council.
The Globe Lawyer provides you the details of this private interview, lawyer to lawyer!
1) At what age did you decide to become a lawyer and why? Was it vocation or good luck?
I decided to become a lawyer when I was a teenager, corrupted by my mother, a home worker, who systematically scolded the social security employees that had tormented certain immigrant workers who were accused of never delivering the right document that they were forced to return. She took their defence and unknowingly demonstrated the definition of the Latin phrase advocatus.
I remember those endless queues and long waiting hours in administrative offices.
This was actually the exasperation of a woman of Armenian origin, born in France, but with stateless parents. She perceived administrative institutions as totally contemptuous in respect to the immigrant population this reinforced her criticism. This was about 45 years ago in Issy Les Moulineaux.
This timely trigger is ultimately the reason for my decision.
As for the root cause, it lies in the injustice endured by the Armenian people. In the eyes of a teenager the solution was to embrace the legal profession in order to continue fighting.
I swore 32 years ago that the Armenian people could have justice. This is a true calling since I still battle for the Armenian cause.
2) The twentieth century has had its fair share of genocides, the first being the Armenian Genocide. Being Armenian in origin, what legacy do you uphold?
A lasting legacy, I lived with my maternal grandfather for fifteen years, where I was born, at No. 49 rue de la Defense in Issy Les Moulineaux, this was near the House of Armenian Culture, which was at No. 45. He told me about the genocide, that is to say the slaughter of his entire family. He remembered his memories clearly. ‘The killers were everywhere armed with knives, from ten year olds to the elderly”, he said. It was impossible to escape.
He showed us the bullet wounds in his legs. The portrait of General ANTRANIK had pride of place in the living room in his house. The whole family lived in the same building. A family that had taken him in and who subsequently had him circumcised saved him. But after an investigation into the survivors, we are not certain that it was a Muslim family.
I have maintained a perfect memory. Memory is our blood. That is why I ascertain that as a survivor’s grandson, I am a direct witness of the Armenian Genocide.
3) What do you think is special about the Armenian genocide?
The peculiarity of the Armenian genocide lies first in the extent of the carnage; out of 1.8 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire 1.5 million were massacred, from babies to the elderly, intellectuals to the lower class.
Secondly, since the Armenians occupied 90% of the economy, this genocide contributes to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
Finally, because it was carried out by a minority of Young Turks of the Union and Progress Committee in Salonika, who were totally committed to Western ideas of freedom, equality and brotherhood, who overnight proved to be a real band of bloodthirsty killers.
4) You have spoken several times as a supporter of penalising the denial of the Armenian genocide. However, do not you think that this creates a hierarchy between the different communities, a hierarchy that could fuel sectarianism and hatred?
Absolutely not. We must think in terms of universality. We must punish the denial of all recognized genocides, which is the case for a majority of historians.
I disagree with the recognition criterion by an international criminal court, in which the understanding is that at the time of the Nuremberg Tribunal the legal concept of genocide did not exist. Raphael Lemkin created the concept in 1943 but the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide did not take place until 1948. The London Charter deliberately ignored this as indicated by the historian Annette Becker.
For crimes against humanity, there is no hierarchy among populations. I strongly believe in solidarity and fraternity. Some of my family members told me recently that my grandfather had hosted a Jewish family under the name of COHEN during the occupation.
I heard, that about forty years ago one of the family members went to the family home in order to find my grandfather.
I only believe in this kind of kinship.
5) In many countries, truth and reconciliation commissions have multiplied as an alternative or to complement judicial procedures, what do you think of their utility?
They are useful. Turkish civil society has begun to recognize the Armenian genocide as such. These efforts must continue.
6) Today we see a decline in identity and community. According to you, as a lawyer but also as a citizen, what would be useful means of prevention?
Communication regarding universality. Marek HALTER is correct in reminding us that is it not rights that are universal but Man. Genocide denial by countries or states forces the ostracised communities to wither, as they feel persecuted by what must be called "the highest stage of genocide" as described by Bernard-Henri Levy.
7) GL Question: What is the essential object for a globe lawyer like you?
My Iphone 6.