Statements by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, on April 13, 2015, April 21, 2015, September 7, 2017, and April 22, 2021 about the UN position on the necessary qualifications to label an event as genocide and “Armenian genocide” allegations

Excerpt from the daily press briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on February 28, 2022

Question: Russia has mounted two major allegations that in the heart of the United Nations’ work. One, Russia has accused the Ukrainians of committing genocide in eastern Ukraine, one. I wonder whether the UN has anything to say about this fact or false or I don’t know. Second, Russia has been saying also now that what is… what they’re doing is the denazification of Ukraine. So, this is a major role that the United Nations played after the World War, and I wonder whether you have anything to say about that, as well.

Spokesman: I’m not going to start commenting on some of the rhetoric we’ve heard. I think it is very important to see not only a stop in the military activities, but a lowering of tensions, which includes in what is being said. On the issue of genocide, I think what is clear is… you may… I don’t know if you were here, but last week, I think the Secretary‑General was asked the question by one of your colleagues; he answered very clearly, which is for the United Nations, the use of the term “genocide” has to be… is designated through various well‑established legal processes. And I would also add that our UN Human Rights Office continues to have people on the ground in eastern Ukraine and to report back what they see.

Excerpt from the daily press briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on April 22, 2021

Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Apologies if this question has been raised before recently. We and maybe others reported that Biden… President Biden’s going to announce on Saturday that the United States is now going to consider the events of more than 100 years ago, the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to be a genocide.

And I wondered if you could tell me, specify to us, what precisely is the Secretary-General’s position on whether this was a genocide? Is that somewhere in a document, or has he stated this clearly in any way?

Spokesman: No, I mean, this is a question that has come up a number of times over the last few years or more that I’ve been here under different administrations. We have no comment, as a general rule, on events that took place before the founding of the UN, and genocide as… and as we’ve said this in different occasions for different circumstances, genocide needs to be determined by an appropriate judicial body, as far as the UN is concerned.

Excerpt from the daily press briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on September 7, 2017

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  About Myanmar, the UN Secretary-General's Adviser for Prevention of Genocide basically said that the country is on the brink of a genocide.  It's not there yet, but it's on the brink of a genocide.  Most of the credible reports, or reports out of Myanmar, indicate that it's just like the days and months before the genocides like Anfal in Iraq or Rwanda.  In the letter of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, there was no indication about this.   Does the Secretary-General hope to make steps… like, the Security Council to make steps to the prevention of genocide possibly, because they hold only one meeting, and they discussed it as a humanitarian crisis.

Spokesman:  What's clear is that the international… the responsibility to prevent any further violence against civilians in Myanmar is the responsibility of the authorities in Myanmar.  I would refer you back to what the Secretary-General said two days ago now.  I think he was very clear in his language, in his concern at the ongoing violence.  He answered a question, I think from one of your colleagues, about ethnic cleansing.  His position is unchanged.  As a matter of principle, the labelling of an event as a genocide needs to be taken by a competent judicial body.

Excerpt from the daily press briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on April 21, 2015

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  There has been some information circulating in the media that I hope you can vanquish for us, that Mr. Ban Ki‑moon does not acknowledge the Armenian genocide, especially taking into consideration the recent developments; we know Pope Francis acknowledged it as the first genocide of the 20th century.  European Parliament passed a special resolution.  Germany acknowledged it, recognized it, and called it genocide.  Mr. Ban Ki‑moon, as UN Secretary‑General, shouldn’t he be at the forefront of this movement of rightful recognition?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Anna, I hear your question.  I think you may have missed the briefing last week or the week before, where I answered that clearly and on the record.  I would also add it’s not as if… for the United Nations, the determination of a genocide is made by legal body.  But I would not… I would refer you back to what I’ve already said.

Excerpt from the daily press briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on April 13, 2015

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Dujarric.  On the Pope's statement yesterday about genocide in Armenia, I've noticed I could only find the one UN reference to this.  In 1985, the special rapporteur wrote a report saying it was genocide.  Am I wrong?  Does the Secretary-General, has he a position?  Has the General Assembly ever had a position on this?

Spokesman:  Well, I don't… I think you'd have to scour through the General Assembly archives.  I think the Secretary-General is very mindful that, on 24 April of this year, the Armenia nation and others around the world commemorate the centenary of the tragic events of 1915.  He's also fully aware of the sensitivities related to the characterization of what happened in 1915, 100 years ago.  The Secretary-General firmly believes that commemorating and remembering those tragic events of 1915 and continuing to cooperate with a view to establishing the facts about what happened should strengthen our collective determination to prevent similar atrocity crimes from ever happening in the future.