The best judges I have experienced in my 39 years as a lawyer spoke from the heart. Just > Justice > Judge > Judicious. Many of those judges were people of faith. I say that as an atheist.
In the interview below, hearing Justice Gassia Apkarian of the Center for Truth and Justice (“CFTJ”) I recalled one of Australia’s living national treasures, one of Irish heritage, the former judge of the highest court in Australia, Justice Michael Kirby. I’ll get back to him in a moment.
First, take a moment to listen to Justice Apkarian.
Justice Apkarian speaks on the utility in international legal forums and systems for gathering evidence of breaches of human rights, cultural property rights and war crimes.
Her work escalated as a consequence of the war of aggression conducted by Azerbaijan, Turkey and their mercenaries against Armenians for 44 days in 2020. Their timing was intentional, it was under cover of, and at the height of, the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In the ongoing human rights and cultural property rights case of Armenia vs Azerbaijan, the International Court of Justice’s (“ICJ”) evidence gathering has been and will continue to be submitted to the ICJ. The ICJ’s hearing resumes in January 2023. Its 7 December 2021 decision set out “provisional measures” in favour of Armenia. (* see the endnote for some context.)
Now back to Kirby. Like Justice Apkarian, Justice Kirby has been a career-long advocate for human rights law.
He spoke at the Sydney Opera House at a 1980s Armenian Genocide April 24 commemoration. I was seated next to him in the front row. While Armenian language speakers spoke I whispered in his ear short translations every few minutes so he could continue reading the paperback of Yeats poetry he’d brought with him.
After his keynote speech he invited me to attend his office the following week. It was in an office building in central Sydney on Philips Street, the hub of legal wig wearers.
In conversation with tea in his office he was triggered wondering about the precise geography of Armenia.
He reached over to open a side cabinet where he’d neatly stored a long row of black-bound and identically-sized dairies, the thin ones that fit in a suit or shirt pocket.
He found the one for the year he was looking for, from a land travel trip he said he’d taken, in the late 60s or early 70s, I’ve forgotten when exactly.
Turning to the pages he’d recalled, he said: “So I see here I crossed from Iran over the border into Turkey.”
I cross-examined him on some details, and then said: “That would be Eastern Turkey, you’ve crossed across ancient Armenia, specifically Western Armenia.” At that moment a gleam appeared in both our eyes.
Having heard Justice Apkarian, on Facebook I’m now following her human rights advocacy organisation, the Center for Truth and Justice. Its website is cftjustice.org.
(*) Context: On 4 October 2022 Armenia forwarded to the International Court of Justice and to the European Court of Human Rights a graphic video initially spread on Azerbaijan online networks showing the mass execution of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijan servicemen. I’ve restrained myself from publishing images here of horrors from Azerbaijan’s 2020 war of aggression. War crimes committed included photos spread online of the heads of decapitated Armenian soldiers proudly held aloft by Azerbaijani soldiers, victims with severe burns and holes in their bodies caused by Azerbaijan’s use of phosphorus bombs, and a video of the decapitation of an elderly civilian Armenian male.
The context for such abomination is that the Aliyev family dictatorship, in power in Azerbaijan for almost three decades, has made the dehumanisation of Armenians, ie Armenophobia, a basis for its power grab and a national policy of indoctrination for kindergarten children and adults.