Category: Press Releases

18 Apr 2018


The Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC is watching. Once again we monitor the movements of peaceful protestors in Yerevan. Once again we are shocked by the conduct of policing authorities.

Our concern is not which political party is at the helm: we are not a political organization. It is the departure from international norms impacting the civil rights of Armenian citizens that concerns us.

It is not reasonable for the Yerevan Police to blindly throw a flash-bang device into a crowd of innocent bystanders and peaceful protestors, absent a strong governmental interest. And, here, there was no government interest at all supporting such an act.

The protestors were nonviolent. They were unarmed. They were not physically menacing. They posed no danger to themselves. They posed no danger to the police. The tactics utilized by the police in Yerevan today bore no reasonable relation to the circumstances and served no public safety purpose.

The promised reforms have not tempered the arbitrary use of force by the Yerevan police. They have not curtailed the human and civil rights violations brought upon Armenian citizens. They have not bolstered any meaningful support for the rights of Armenian citizens to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

That is unfortunate. The world is watching as our policing authorities attack the fundamental rights of civil society again. And again the Yerevan police demonstrate that they know well how to protect and serve the establishment. We just wish they could bring themselves to protect and serve the citizens instead.


04 Apr 2018

We have lost one of our own: Justice Armand Arabian.

One of our giants left us yesterday and, while the Armenian Bar Association mourns his passing, we consider ourselves as doubly-blessed to have cherished California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian and, in turn, to have been cherished by him. He was one of a kind.

A founding member and staunch supporter of the Armenian Bar–literally traveling the world for 25 years to participate in and headline our programs–Justice Arabian’s contributions to humanity and to jurisprudence were so vast and exceptional that he is one of only a select few who has been conferred with the highest honor of the Armenian Bar Association, an Honorary Life Member.

Born in New York City, the son of immigrant survivors of the darkest chapter of Armenian history, Justice Arabian remained a fierce advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the quest for restorative justice for the Armenian people. His autobiographical masterpiece, From Gravel to Gavel, captures the triumph of the human spirit over the unimaginable atrocities that his family endured during the Genocide.

At this time, we reflect upon Justice Arabian’s glorious legacy as a decorated United States Army paratrooper, his numerous landmark court decisions upholding the rights of women which led to the passage of reform legislation in all 50 states, his commitment to the advancement of the rule of law in Armenia, and his countless acts of benevolence with his wife, the late and beloved Nancy Arabian. Their compassion, their spirit of giving and serving, touched the lives of so many.

For our members, we are truly fortunate and grateful to have had such an inspirational leader among us. While his loss leaves a great void, we take solace in knowing that he is resting with our Lord and find peace in the teachings of our Christian faith, which he shared, that the spirit of Justice Arabian will live on eternally.

19 Mar 2018

East Coast Post

History has demonstrated over time that transformative movements which captivate hearts and move minds often begin with the passion, commitment and sacrifice of a few, and are often symbolized in one emblematic person. Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Vartan Mamigonian, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Khrimian Hayrik, Gomidas, General Antranik, John F. Kennedy, and Mikayel Gorbachev come to mind. For the Armenian Bar Association, that exemplary model of inspiration is our founder, Raffi K. Hovannisian who, nearly thirty years ago, had his eyes on the sunrise in the horizon ahead. What emerged is our shared Armenian Bar landscape of an evergreen and perennially blooming
organization with wonderfully-devoted members in cities, states, and countries all over the globe.

Click HERE for the PDF.


28 Feb 2018

Armenian Bar Association’s Michael Amerian and Amy Ashvanian Appointed to the California Judicial Bench

The Armenian Bar Association is pleased to announce that two of its stalwart members-Michael Amerian and Amy Ashvanian– have been appointed as judges to the California Superior Court in Los Angeles.  Their appointments were announced on February 27, 2018, in a press release issued from Governor Brown’s office, which included Michael’s and Amy’s biographies below:
Michael R. Amerian, 43, of Los Angeles, served as a deputy city attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office since 2003. He served as a law clerk for the Honorable Dickran M. Tevrizian, Jr. at the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, from 1999 to 2000. Amerian earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Southern California School of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge R. Carlton Seaver.
Armenui A. Ashvanian, 46, of Glendale, has been appointed to a judgeship in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Ashvanian has served as a deputy district attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office since 2005 and has been an adjunct assistant professor at the Glendale University College of Law since 2014. She was an associate at Yeghiayan and Associates from 2004 to 2005. Ashvanian earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Glendale University College of Law and an Associate of Science degree from Glendale Community College. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge George Genesta.
In 2017, the Armenian Bar Association assembled a team of accomplished and highly-reputed trial attorneys from across California to serve as members of the organization’s Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC).  Newly-appointed Amy Ashvanian was the first applicant to matriculate through the Armenian Bar’s JEC. The committee’s mission is to evaluate applicants and potential appointees to the California judicial bench and to make recommendations to the Governor and the Appointments Secretary for those candidates who are deemed to be well-qualified. The organizing body recognized that to have an effective voice in the judicial appointment process, it would be necessary that the recommendations be made by those with proven talent and relevant experience as trial attorneys.
You can learn more about the JEC here.
02 Feb 2018

Chair’s Message

Sitting here at the computer in the deep hours of night, with the work day done and my children tucked warmly into bed, I hear the echoes of the prophetic words of the great Armenian poet and patriot Yeghishe Charents:

“Oh, Armenian people, your only salvation lies in the power of your unity.”

He wrote that hidden, visionary message while enduring the consequences of his idealism as a victim of Stalin’s repressive purges in Soviet Armenia in the 1930’s.  And how telling were those words when they rang true in 1975, in and around the Bourj Hamoud district of Beirut, Lebanon!  The harmonious mosaic of people, cultures and religions that made up this city endearingly dubbed, “The Paris of the Middle East,” was fracturing at all its seams, plunging this tiny nation-state, head-first, into a 15 year anarchic crisis, which saw disputes among neighbors no longer resolved by the rule of law, but rather at the unforgiving end of a Kalashnikov.

Having found a welcoming haven in idyllic Lebanon from the cataclysm of the Armenian Genocide 60 years earlier, by 1975, the Armenian community of Lebanon became the largest center of diasporan Armenian life, where our cultural and political institutions thrived, our people prospered, and our future looked promising.

Then, as if plagued by a Sisyphean destiny, in 1975, the Armenians of the Bourj Hamoud district of Beirut, Lebanon faced yet another defining moment.   Surrounded and pressured by a multitude of factions which were supported by outside powers who had the destruction of Lebanon in mind, the leadership of the Armenian community of Lebanon had an existential choice in front of it.  Does the Armenian community take sides in this destructive campaign that surely has no victory in store for the Lebanese?  Or, do we lay down our historic differences, band together in solidarity, remain neutral, and pledge to each other that our collective well-being as Armenians, as Lebanese-Armenians, will be paramount against all else?

Possibly guided by the teaching of some of our heroic leaders from the First Republic of Armenia who made Lebanon their home, such as Simon Vratsian and Levon Shant, and possibly heeding the glorious words of Yeghishe Charents, the leadership of the Tashnagtstyoun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation-ARF), the Ramgavars (Armenian Liberal Democratic Party) and the Hnchakians (Armenian Social Democratic Hnchakian Party) came together and chose the path of unity, a collective self-defense of their lives, rights and property.  In so doing, the words of Charents rang prophetic, as this unified Armenian effort was the salvation for our community.

As if a prelude to the acts of self-determination that were to come in about 15 years in Armenia and Artsakh, the Armenian community of Lebanon in 1975 and the years that followed was a beacon of self-governance in a sea of lawlessness: where a commonality of purpose, of self-preservation, took its rightful precedence over political and religious differences.

We, at the Armenian Bar Association, take example from this era in recent Armenian history. Some of our leaders and members participated in the self-defense of the Armenian community of Lebanon.   We, as an organization, take pride in being a truly independent, all-encompassing, all-inclusive organization.  Every segment and dimension of the Armenian community is represented among the ranks of our membership.  We believe that this unity of Armenian community is the very essence of our strength.

As we begin 2018, we look forward to a new year that will continue to emphasize the unified pursuit of the Armenian Cause, the defense of the rights of all Armenians, anywhere and everywhere, regardless of their religious, political or social background.  Through our Armenian Rights Watch Committee, we have already spoken out against the abhorrent use of anti-Armenian racial epithets as the butt of a crude joke on national television.  Our Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee is engaged in efforts designed to restore the rights of all Armenians in their historic homeland.    In addition, we have a robust agenda of events and activities to promote Artsakh’s statehood and provide legal assistance to its citizens, to help the elderly here in the United States, to assist Armenian law students through scholarships, mentoring and judicial clerkships, to honor our legal educators and to foster the professional development of our membership.  Here is a list of just a few of our upcoming activities that we have planned:

February 3, 2018, the Armenian Bar Association and the National Armenian Law Students Association are hosting a pro-bono clinic aimed at helping non-violent, non-serious offenders clear their criminal records.  The clinic will be held at the Glendale Adult Recreation Center, 201 E. Colorado St., Glendale, CA 91205

February 8, 2018, 10:30 a.m., the Armenian Bar Association and the City of Glendale have partnered to present this second installment of a two-part public forum on the Early Warning Signs of Elder Abuse and Financial Scams.  The forum will be presented in English by LA Deputy District Attorney and ArmenBar member, Amy Ashvanian.  It will take place at the Sparr Heights Community Center, 1613 Glencoe Way, Glendale, CA 91208.

February 12, 2018, Armenian Bar Association’s Internship Program with the Artsakh Ombudsman’s.  Applications must be filed by this date.

February 24, 2018, 9:00 a.m., Southwestern University School of Law, 7th Annual Networking and Information Event where many of our members will give insights into their practice areas and offer advice to aspiring students.  This event is co-sponsored by the Armenian Bar Association.

March 3, 2018, 11:00 a.m., Brookside Golf Course, Pasadena, CA–Vicken Ishkhan Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship Golf Event.  All proceeds to go to the Armenian Bar’s general scholarship fund which is named after our dearly-departed former chairman and best friend, Vicken Simonian.

March 5, 2018, Southwestern University School of Law, Southwestern University’s Armenian Law Students Association and Southwestern University are holding a career development day.  Active Armenian Bar Members Raffi Zerounian and Chris Saffarian will be speaking.

March 29, 2018, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA—The Armenian Bar Association joins with the Arab-American Bar Association, the Eastern European Bar Association and the Iranian American Lawyers Association for Continuing Legal Education presentations and a grand soiree for networking and professional development.

April 7, 2018, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Chicago, Illinois, Vicken Ishkhan Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship Reception and Fundraising Event.  Event will be held at the Oscar Isberian Rug Gallery in the historic core of downtown Chicago.

April 15, 2018, Armenian Bar Association Scholarship Programs applicants must file their applications by this date.

April 21, 2018, 2:00 p.m., United Armenian Council of Los Angeles, 103rd Armenian Genocide Commemoration + 50th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Armenian Martyrs Monument, Armenian Martyrs Monument, Bicknell Park Montebello.

April 22, 2018, Times Square, New York, 103rd Armenian Genocide Commemoration.

April 24, 2018, Pan Pacific Park and Turkish Consulate, Los Angeles, Armenian Genocide Committee (AGC), 103rd Armenian Genocide Commemoration.  March and Rally for Justice.

May 21-30, 2018, Annual Meeting, Artsakh and Armenia.

For more information and to register for these events, you may visit our website at or our Facebook page.

On behalf of the Board of Governors of the Armenian Bar Association, I wish you a Happy New Year and welcome your participation in the activities of our organization as we strive, in solidarity of purpose and determination, to fulfill the mission of the Armenian Bar Association.

15 Dec 2017

ArmenBar Launches Pro Bono Clinic in Artsakh, Armenia

On November 1, 2017, in the capital city of Stepanagert in the Artsakh Republic, the Armenian Bar Association in conjunction with Yerevan State University (YSU) and Artsakh State University (ArSU), teamed together to open the first of its kind, pro-bono legal clinic.

The establishment of the clinic came about through a memorandum of understanding developed by two-term Armenian Bar Chairman, Garo Ghazarian, Artsakh Human Rights Defender, Ombudsman, and Armenian Bar Association member, Ruben Melikyan, and representatives of YSU and ArSU, during Mr. Ghazarian’s recent trip to Artsakh in July of 2017.

“This pro-bono legal clinic brings much needed legal services to an underserved segment of Artsakh society.  We are thrilled that the Armenian Bar Association is a partner in this unique endeavor which seeks to better the lives of Artsakh citizens by promoting access to justice,” said Mr. Ghazarian in an interview following the grand opening of the event.

The clinic will primarily assist participants with legal questions in the field of administrative law, providing citizens with information to navigate through government, such as licensing, permits and regulatory compliance.   At its Mid-Year meeting in Washington, D.C., the Armenian Bar Association, upon the motion of Mr. Ghazarian, unanimously decided to approve both the provision of technical expertise as well as provide the monetary funds necessary  for the legal office to run efficiently.

At the ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the clinic,  Mr. Melikyan emphasized that, “This pro-bono clinic brings a constructive benefit to the citizens of Artsakh as well as providing an environment where Armenian law students and young lawyers can provide a vital public service to the community.”  The Armenian Bar Association will also be funding a six week internship program for Armenian law students from the United States to serve at the clinic in Artsakh.  “The pro-bono Legal Clinic and the Internship Program will be a win-win for all those involved, the citizen-participants, the law students and lawyers,” stated Lucy Varpetian, the Bar Association’s Chair of Student Affairs Committee.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to be of service to our brothers and sisters in the Republic of Artsakh,” stated Saro Kerkonian, Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association.

“The Armenian Bar Association will continue to strive to take every necessary step to defend the right of self-determination of the Armenians of Artsakh fulfilling the promise of a free and independent Armenian Nation.  Building a stronger Artsakh is a critical step towards realizing that sacred promise.  It is our duty to our forefathers and to future generations of Armenians,” concluded Armen Hovannisian, founding member and three-term Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association.

05 Dec 2017

Message from the Chair

The Հայ Կամաւոր, the “Armenian volunteer,” is a figure rightfully revered through the annals of Armenian history and celebrated in our national songs and literature.

Whether on the plains of Avarayr, the shores of Lake Van, the juggernaut of Sardarabad or the cliffs of Shushi, the indelible spirit of the Armenian volunteer has been one of true service—service not for the sake of being liked, rewarded or acknowledged but an unshakable commitment to the idea that our people’s way of life, our culture, our faith and our right to live together as a community on our ancestral lands is a fundamental right worth risking life and treasure, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.

It is this spirit of the Armenian volunteer that propels members of the Armenian Bar Association from every segment of Armenian community and life to carry out the good work of Armenian Bar.  Whether it is providing scholarships to worthy students who have demonstrated service to the community or the establishment of a pro bono legal clinic in Stepanakert or our singular voice advocating for basic due process of an accused in Armenia, the work of the Armenian Bar Association is accomplished by nothing less than the committed, tireless efforts of our volunteer attorneys, professors, judges and law students.  These are volunteers who fiercely believe in defending the rights of Armenians everywhere and in taking those meaningful steps that will assist Armenia and Artsakh in developing a civil society governed by the rule of law in order to enhance the strength of our nation and people.

In fact, it is this very spirit that draws the Armenian Bar Association to Armenia and to Artsakh this May 2018.  There, we will gather to remember and celebrate, with our brothers and sisters, the victories and heroism of the Armenian Volunteer, at an Annual Meeting that promises to again imprint the work of this Association into the history of our people.

To be clear, it is this volunteer spirit that has been building tremendous momentum for our organization in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut region where our members are holding joint events with sister Armenian organizations such as the Armenians In Banking and Finance.  It is this volunteer spirit that has motivated our organization to create a Young Lawyers Committee dedicated to serving the needs of the hundreds of young Armenian members of the bar across the nation so that they, too, can thrive and professionally develop and, in turn, leverage their own knowledge and expertise to serve the needs of our community for decades to come.

And it is this Armenian volunteer spirit that enabled our members to assemble with over 50 members of the California judiciary at a sold-out Annual Judges’ Night event in Glendale, California to honor Judge Victor Chavez, Judge Huey Cotton and Judge Holly Fujie for their commitment to advancing the cause of inclusion, diversity and the independence of the California and Federal Judiciary.

Our work—actually, the inspiring work of our members on behalf of our Armenian Bar Association—is sheer inspiration and purpose.  We acknowledge and hold in the highest regard the very fact that, in pursuit of its defense of the rights of the Armenian people and the Armenian Cause, time and again, it is the Armenian volunteer who has risen to the challenge.  The Armenian Bar Member is indeed a true Hye Gamavor.

And the value of our work is literally sewn into the fabric of our people’s history.  The flags of two of the largest, historic Armenian political parties brandish not only the sword—but also the pen.  We, the members of the Armenian Bar Association, recognize the importance of that pen and, since our very founding, have toiled proudly and commitedly to writing the story of justice, of fairness and of rights into the hearts, minds and future of the Armenian people.  With pen in hand, and our return to the Homeland on our horizon, we stand unwaveringly united with the Armenian people—and we push forward.

We push forward with the continued commitment that—with all of our collective strength and without rest—we will volunteer the service of our legal expertise, our assembled resources and the unrelenting spirit of our unbreakable Armenian Gamavor to the pursuit of the Armenian Cause, to the security of the Armenian people and, of course, to the promise of justice that is the very root of our Armenian story.

05 Dec 2017

Armenian Bar Starts Thanksgiving Week Early with Spectacular Judges’ Night Gala

On November 16, 2017, members and friends of the Armenian Bar Association gathered at the landmark Glen Arden Club in Glendale, California to celebrate and honor the best of California’s judiciary during the Annual Judges’ Night Dinner.  Nearly 50 judges of the state and federal court systems turned out to rejoice as three prominent jurists of the Los Angeles Superior Court were honored—Judges Victor Chavez, Holly Fujie and Huey Cotton.

The Annual Judges’ Night has fast become the Association’s signature celebration, drawing hundreds of attendees from all walks of the legal profession in the most convivial and interactive of atmospheres.  The Association honors those jurists who have distinguished themselves beyond the laudable lines of high intellect, efficiency and consistency.  The Armenian Bar singles out for distinction those who have opened broadly the public’s access to justice, advanced the precepts of the rule of law, incorporated compassion into the fabric of their characters, and guided others in profession and in life.

“We are fortunate to have so many distinguished members of the California judiciary join us this evening.  We thank them for their devoted public service,” said Mistress of Ceremonies, Vanna Kitsinian, member of the Executive Board of Governors of the Armenian Bar Association.

The evening began with a high-octane reception where guests networked and socialized before advancing into the grand ballroom for dinner and presentation of the awards. There, solo artist Toukhman Khachatourian began the program with a stirring rendition of the national anthems of the United States of America and Armenia. Next, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, delivered an inspiring invocation and asked for the Lord’s  blessings to confer on the judges the strength and wisdom to carry on their good work.  The Archbishop’s invocation was followed by a dinner of delicious Armenian cuisine.

Chairman of the Board, Saro Kerkonian, assumed the podium amidst great fanfare and thanked the honorary guests and their fellow judges for their outstanding contributions in furtherance of the independence of the judicial branch of government. Mr.  Kerkonian paid eloquent homage to the judges’ professional examples of instilling in the public the trust that California’s courts are bastions where the rule of law reigns supreme.  With flags of country, state and organization adorning the stage in the background, he offered reflections into the work of the Association as it relates to the United States, Armenia, the Artsakh Republic and the State of California.

Board member and Association Treasurer Gerard Kassabian introduced the first honoree, Judge Victor Chavez.  Mr. Kassabian greeted the guests with a “hello and welcome” in ten different languages and spoke of the 30-year career of Judge Chavez on the bench.  In a moving tribute, Mr. Kassabian endearingly Armenianized Judge Chavez’s name by adding an “ian” to the end and presented him with a beautiful photograph of the honoree, daughter California Appellate Justice Victoria Chavez and Governor George Deukmejian, on the occasion of Judge Chavez’s swearing-in to the bench by his daughter.  Judge Chavez fondly recalled as a child how his mother read to him the famed book by Franz Werfel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, recalling the heroic self-defense of the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.  He explained how the book left a lasting impression on his life.

The next honoree was former California State Bar President, Judge Holly Fujie.  Judge Fujie was introduced by Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Amy Ashvanian.  Ms. Ashvanian shared with the audience the tremendous career Judge Fujie has had and the countless bar activities she has initiated and led.  Judge Fujie congratulated the Armenian Bar Association on its work in the field of mentorship and judicial evaluations.  She urged collaboration between the Armenian Bar and the California State Bar with respect to their respective mentorship programs.

The third honoree of the evening was Supervising Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Northwest District, Judge Huey Cotton.  He was introduced by noted criminal defense attorney and member of the Armenian Bar’s Judicial Evaluations Committee, Alexandra Kazarian.  Ms. Kazarian praised the evening’s final honoree for his leadership on the bench, his activism and his compassion for litigants and young and learning lawyers.  Judge Cotton passionately told inspiring stories of Armenians in his life and courtroom.

Judges Chavez, Fujie and Cotton were each presented with a beautiful work of classical art prepared by renowned artist Seroon Yeretsian, each with an original inscription of praise and honor.  The program concluded with a moving benediction by Reverend Father Vazken Movsesian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.

Following the official program, many stayed on and maintained the high-energy levels that lasted throughout the night.  Valerie Dean, co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, called the evening “One of the best, diverse, Judges’ Nights I have ever been to.”

“We are thrilled we could once again showcase the great talent, intellect and diversity that is the strength of the California Judicial System at our annual Judges’ Night,” said the the Association’s Judicial Evaluations Committee Co-Chair Lucy Varpetian.  “We look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come,” said Garo Ghazarian, organizing committee chair and former two-term chairman of the Armenian Bar Association.

Judges’ Night 2017

30 Nov 2017

Washington, D.C. Midyear Meeting A Success

Historic Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., was the setting as members and guests of the Armenian Bar Association gathered for its 2017 Mid-Year meeting. The event featured an outstanding blend of keynote speakers, continuing legal education by top scholars in the field of reparations law and social justice and fun-filled professional development and networking opportunities.

“We were thrilled to see such a great turnout of members and guests to the conference that far exceeded our expectations,” said Armen Hovannisian, three-term chairman and lead organizer of the weekend’s events.

The festivities began on Friday, October 13, as the Board of Governors held their Mid-Year meeting. Several important matters were disussed including the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Armenian Bar Association, Artsakh University and Yerevan State University to establish an Armenian Bar Association legal clinic in Stepanagerd. In addition, the Board discussed the implementation of the newly-created Young Lawyers Committee for lawyers under 5 years of practice or 40 years of age. Furthermore, the board members unanimously approved that the 2018 Annual Meeting shall be held in Yerevan and Stepanagerd in conjunction with the celebrations taking place in Armenia and Artsakh to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the independence of the First Republic of Armenia in 1918.

“The board of governor members are excited to embark on these important initiatives for Armenia and Artsakh in pursuit of our organizational mjssion as well as support the legal careers of our young lawyer members which are a vital part of our organization, said Garo Ghazarian, two-term chairman and co-chairman of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee.

On Friday evening, members gathered at The Marvin, an iconic restaurant in the heart of Washington where the young Marvin Gaye, the gifted American singer often performed early in his career. Members were welcomed by organizing committee member Jacob Bournazian and Chairman Saro Kerkonian and everyone enjoyed a scrscrumptious dinner together.

On Saturday, October 14, the conference continued at the hallowed halls of Howard University School of Law, where US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall received his legal education. The conference featured an address by Richard Hartunian, the immediate past United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York. Mr. Hartunian, a third generation Armenian-American from Albany, New York and current partner at Manatt Phelps presented the audience with some intriguing insight into his experience at the US Attorney’s office.

Mr. Hartunian’s speech was followed by a panel on social and restorative justice moderated by Armenian Rights Watch Committee co-chair, Karnig Kerkonian. Mr. Kerkonian assembled a phenomenal panel which brought together Professor Darin Johnson of Howard University School of Law and attorney Dan Lewerenz, counsel at the Native American Rights Fund and former attorney at the Department of the Interior.

Mr. Kerkonian, who holds a post-doctoral diploma in international law from Cambridge University decisively set the tone for the panel by describing the trauma that consumes the Armenian nation following the Genocide and how reparations is a necessary pursuit to achieve social justice for the immense wrongs wrought upon the Armenians.

Professor Johnson presented a comprehensive analysis of the concept of restorative justice in the context of the African-American experience during and following slavery and drew relevant parallells to the crimes against humanity endured by the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. He also provided guests with an eye-opening review of some of the significant cases iinvolving the quest for reparations for the wrongs suffered by African-Americans with the hope that these cases could provide examples that could be used in Armenian genocide related cases.

Mr. Johnson’s presentation was followed by an equally thought-provoking presentation by Dan Lewerenz, who drew on his experience in the field of the legal rights of native Americans. Mr. Lewerenz desribed various treaties which concern native Americans and some of the successes native Americans have achieved in courts of Law and through negotiations in the political process.

Both panelists fielded several questions from the guests at the conclusion of the presentation.

“It was a tremendous privilege to have Professor Johnson and Mr. Lewerenz grace our stage. Their scholarship and extensive experience as litigators in reparation cases provided valuable information which we intend to invoke as we seek to recover for the tremendous losses suffered during the Armenian Genocide,” said Mr. Kerkonian following the lecture.


Following the panel, guests were treated to two very special keynote speakers, His Excellency and Ambassador Plenipotentiary for the Republic of Armenia to the United States Grigor Hovhannissian and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh to the United States of America, Robert Avetisyan.

Ambassador Hovhannissian was introduced by Armenian Bar Association Tresurer, Gerard Kassabian who fondly recalled witnessing the Ambassador receiving his certification in Havana, Cuba when he became Ambassador to that nation as well as Mexico and several Central American countries. He also beautifully described Ambassador Hovhannissian’s diplomatic service as Consul General in Los Angeles, where the largest diasporan community of Armenians resides.

Ambassador Hovhannissian’s remarks were highlighted by a review of the present status in relations between the United States and Armenia. He mentioned that the relationship has now transitioned “from that of aid to one of trade.” In this regard, Ambassador Hovhannisaian explained that trade and economic treaties will be negotiated and invited the Armenian Bar Association to offer the expertise of its members to participate in the drafting of these treaties. Ambassador Hovhannissian also acknowledged the work of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee in issuing constructively critical statements on current issues facing the Republic. He said this is far more preferable to the alternative of staying silent.

Following Ambassador Hovhannisian’s remarks, Armenian Rights Watch Committee Co-Chair and two-term Chairman, Garo Ghazarian, introduced Permanent Representative Avetisyan. Mr. Ghazarian eloquently informed the audience of the great importance of Artsakh. He stated “Artsakh is to Hayastan and us, what Hayastan is to the Diaspora.” Mr. Ghazarian then described how Artsakh is a critical aspect of the Armenian Bar Association’s mission. He pronounced the decision of the board to adopt the memorandum of understanding to establish an Armenian Bar Association Legal Clinic in Stepanagerd. He praised Mr.Avetisyan for his devoted public service to the people of Artsakh and righteously called on everyone to no longer address Represetative Avetisyan as Permanent Representative, but rather as Ambassador.

Ambassador Avetisyan gave an outstanding and concise review of the history of Artsakh from ancient to modern times showing how the region has been nearly exclusively populated and governed by indigenous Armenians for millenia. He described the importance of Artsakh statehood being recognized in the international community and offered a persuasive legal analysis how that statehood exists for Artsakh under international law. He stressed that maintaining security is the top priority of the Artsakh government and that the Artsakh Army is strong.

“It was a great honor having the two esteemed diplomats of Armenia and Artsakh participate in our conference. We look forward to continuing our dialogue and work with Armenia and Artsakh,” said Garo Ghazarian, following the luncheon.

Immediately following the luncheon, guests were invited to a private screening of the critically-acclaimed doxumentary, Architects of Denial. With the permission of executive producer and fellow Armenian, David McKenzie, Garo Ghazarian introduced the film by reading a moving letter written by survivor of the Armenian Genocide to the grandchildren he had not met yet, one of whom, Armenian Bar member Meline Mkertchian, was in attendance at the conference. Mr. Ghazarian also introduced attorney Levon Grigorian from Spain. Mr. Grigorian is a survivor of the Baku pogroms against the Armenians in 1991. He gave a moving statement urging that the Genocide is not over, but that it is continuing through acts of aggression against Artsakh and the pograms in Sumgait and Baku.

The film Architects of Denial is a compelling documentary tying the Armenian Genocide and it’s denial to other modern acts of Genocide, from the Holocaust to Darfur, and persuasively showing how genocide denied is genocide continued. The film also links the Genocide of 1915 to the current conflict and human rights abuses in Artsakh.

The weekend was topped with a celebration of the 2999th anniversary of the City of Yerevan/Erebuni at the Armenian Embassy hosted by Ambassador Hovhannissian and the gracious Embassy staff.

“We were absolutely thrilled at the success of our Mid-Year Meeting” said Student Affairs Committee Chairwoman Lucy Varpetian. “It has inspired us to accomplish more than ever before in pursuit of the Armenian Cause and the protection of the civil and human rights of Armenians everywhere.”


Midyear Meeting 2017: Washington, D.C.