Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) Executive Director Kate Nahapetian emphasized the importance of property rights in the protection of religious freedom and genocide prevention during the State Department’s first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which began in Washington, DC on July 24th.
“If we are able to work to return properties, we eliminate the profit motive for persecution and genocide,” stated Nahapetian during the meeting plenary session, where she applauded the State Department’s recent successful efforts to return properties to religious minorities in Iraq.
Pat Davis, Director of Office of Global Programming at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor agreed that the return of properties to religious minorities needs to be a focus in addressing religious persecution and atrocity crime prevention. “That is something we have started doing more and more of . . . as recognition of that exact same phenomenon that you talked about.”
The Armenian Legal Center has been collecting information related to religious and personal properties stolen or confiscated during the Armenian Genocide as part of a process for their eventual return or compensation. It is the only community organization to do so, understanding the importance of consolidating this information in one place as a means towards redress and accountability for the genocide.
Over 300 religious freedom leaders from 80 countries around the world — including Armenia – gathered in Washington DC for the Ministerial. Individual testimonies from religious minorities across the globe punctuated the program. In his opening remarks, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback highlighted the case of imprisoned American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has spent nearly two years in a Turkish jail on baseless charges. Following White House and State Department pressure, and a Senate threat to block international financial corporation assistance for Turkey, the Erdogan regime moved Brunson from jail to house arrest.