Henry C. Theriault, Ph.D., associate vice president of academic affairs at Worcester State University, will inaugurate a new lecture series on genocide prevention and punishment presented by the Armenian National Committee of America in Washington, D.C.
The Feb. 27 event launches the Raphael Lemkin Policy Series on Genocide, which will become an ongoing Capitol Hill conversation about legal and political challenges and opportunities related to the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
Theriault is president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, is an expert on the Armenian Genocide, Theriault will speak at 2 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
Theriault was invited to kick off the new lecture series by U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff, who is slated to host the lecture. “I would be honored if you would accept our invitation to be the keynote speaker at this event,” Schiff wrote, in a letter to Theriault. “You would provide important insight into the life of the great Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term genocide, characterizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1923 in the Ottoman Empire,” Schiff said. Estimates of the number of Armenian deaths in the genocide range from 800,000 to 1.5 million.
The series honors Lemkin, who led the global movement to adopt the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by the United Nations in December 1948. A landmark of international law, the Convention defines genocide as an international crime.
“Lemkin’s legacy is crucial for those committed to human rights today,” Theriault says. Lemkin devoted himself completely to the outlawing of genocide, to the point of impoverishing himself and destroying his health. He died in poverty at age 59, in 1959. “He gave us this great law but unfortunately, it has rarely been used despite the dozens of genocides the world has witnessed in real time since 1951,” he says. “This mocks the memory of Lemkin and the millions of genocide victims, including the 49 members of his family who were killed in the Holocaust. There is no reason we cannot begin enforcing this law in a sincere and meaningful way.”
For this reason, Theriault says, the Armenian Genocide remains relevant. “Its impact is still felt today in the dispersion of Armenians around the world and the vulnerability of their identity, as well as their small population and security weakness in the face of its aggressive neighbor Turkey, the perpetrator of genocide a century ago that espouses anti-Armenian attitudes and follows anti-Armenian policies that encourage real violence against Armenians,” Theriault says.
“We look forward to Dr. Theriault’s inaugural lecture and to an ongoing, justice-oriented exploration by Congressional and foreign policy community stakeholders of a core challenge of our time – the punishment and prevention of genocide, two core principles at the heart of the Rafael Lemkin’s life work, the UN Genocide Convention,” ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian said, in a press release. “This is a particularly timely program – coming so soon after the enactment of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, and amid renewed atrocities against vulnerable populations around the world.”