Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Governor Signs Bill Extending Time for Armenian Genocide Suits
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation giving victims of genocide in Armenia and their heirs and beneficiaries another 10 years to sue for the loss or theft of assets deposited in European or Asian banks.
SB 1524, which the governor signed on Monday, extends the limitations period for such claims to Dec. 31, 2016. The bill is similar to prior legislation allowing additional time for victims to sue for unpaid insurance proceeds or restitution of misappropriated artworks.
A group of plaintiffs earlier this year sued Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank. The putative class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Deirmenjian v. Deutsche Bank, A.G., CV 06-00774, alleged the banks wrongfully held Armenian assets and froze Armenian bank accounts during the period of the Armenian Genocide.
The plaintiffs are represented by three attorneys of Armenian descent, Brian Kabateck, partner with Kabateck Brown Kellner; Mark Geragos, partner with Geragos & Geragos; and Vartkes Yeghiayan of Yeghiayan and Associates.
“Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank were approached by Turkish leaders to store Armenian artwork, gold and other valuables that were illegally seized by the Turks during the Armenian Genocide,” Kabateck explained in a release. “The assets and the money deposited by Armenians in these banks mysteriously disappeared and were considered lost for decades. With most of the rightful owners massacred, these banks apparently thought they could get away with stealing family assets from an entire generation of Armenians. A new generation of Armenians has set out to right this wrong.”
The class action plaintiffs estimate that the banks took more than $22.5 million in looted assets, based on 1915 dollars.
Schwarzenegger also signed AB 424, permanently designating April 24 as the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
He explained in a statement:
“Between 1915 and 1923, a systematic and deliberate campaign of genocide by the Ottoman Turkish government resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million Armenians and the exile of a people from their historic homeland. During this period, tens of thousands of displaced Armenians took refuge in the United States, many in California. These survivors embraced this country and this state. Among them and their descendents emerged leaders in business, agriculture, sports, academics and the arts. Today, a few survivors remain as a living testament to the horror that took place 90 years ago. We must recognize crimes against humanity if we are to prevent them; silence in the face of genocide effectively encourages those who would commit such atrocities in the future.”
The Turkish government has called the 1.5 million figure “grossly erroneous” and has attributed the deaths of Armenians in that period to “intercommunal” political, rather than ethnic and religious, conflict.
Schwarzenegger earlier signed a bill directing the state’s public employee retirement funds to divest from companies that do business in Sudan, where the government persists in denying reports that an estimated 200,000 black Africans in the Darfur region have been killed and many times that number displaced as a result of attacks by Arab militias.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company