Menendez Blocks Bush Nominee For Ambassador To Armenia

Menendez Blocks Bush Nominee For Ambassador To Armenia

Washington - United States Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today placed a hold on the confirmation of Richard E. Hoagland, the Bush administrations nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. The hold, a parliamentary privilege afford to U.S. Senators, is in response to the Bush administrations refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide.

The Ottoman Empire brutally tortured and killed nearly 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 and forced half a million Armenians to flee their homeland. When asked why the administration refuses to recognize the Armenian genocide during his confirmation hearing, Hoagland responded: The U.S. believes that the question of how to characterize these horrific events is of such enormous human significance that it should not be determined on the basis of politics, but through heartfelt introspection among academics, civic leaders and societies.

As a leader and defender of democracy, it is our nations responsibility to speak out against injustice and support equality and human rights, Menendez said. But if the Bush administration continues to refuse to acknowledge the atrocities of the Armenian genocide, then there is certainly cause for great alarm, which is why I am placing a hold on this nominee.

I will continue to work with my colleagues in the United States Senate to make strides toward ensuring that all people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, receive protection from policies of discrimination and hate that lead to genocide.

# # #

The full text of Senator Menendezs remarks, as prepared for delivery, follows:

It is well known that more than 90 years ago, the Ottoman Empire brutally tortured and killed 1.5 million Armenians. Between 1915 and1923, innocent men, women, and children were murdered or forced to flee their country and live in exile. Though the horrors suffered by the Armenian people have haunted them for the past century, many -- including our very own President -- have refused to label the atrocities for what they are: genocide.

In my view, all Americans must recognize that the atrocities committed from 1915 to 1923 constitute genocide. We do not use that word lightly. But the word itself makes a powerful statement about the horrors suffered by the Armenian people. As Samantha Power, the leading expert on Genocide said in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, The extermination of Armenians is recognized as genocide by the consensus of scholars of genocide and Holocaust worldwide. The failure to acknowledge this trivializes a human rights crime of enormous magnitude."

Recent developments have caused many to wonder about the administrations actions regarding the Armenian genocide. Over the past few months, there has been great controversy surrounding the departure of John M. Evans, the Ambassador to Armenia. Ambassador Evans, a highly respected diplomat with a record of service, is leaving his three year assignment one year early. Under normal circumstances, this would not be cause for great alarm. However, we know that the Ambassadors departure comes after he went against the Bush Administrations stance and acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. The fact that he is being replaced after vocalizing that the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the twentieth century, is cause for great concern among all who advocate for human rights.

The Senate is planning to vote on the nomination of the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard E. Hoagland. Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Hoagland has declined to acknowledge the mass killings of the Armenians as genocide, and has said that if confirmed, he would work to represent the Presidents policy. I have great concerns that Mr. Hoaglands confirmation would be a step backward. Considering Mr. Hoaglands refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide as anything more than horrifying events, I do not feel that his nomination is in the best interest of Armenia and her Diaspora.

I simply cannot support the confirmation of a new Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia until all of questions over Ambassador Evans replacement have been answered. I believe that the United States, Armenia, and all who are committed to human rights should support an Ambassador to Armenia who recognizes the genocide that took place there more than 90 years ago.