Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Loyola Launches Genocide Studies Program With Donation
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Loyola Law School announced the launch of a genocide studies program yesterday after receiving $100,000 from alumni Mark J. Geragos and Brian S. Kabateck as part of a settlement of life insurance benefit claims left unpaid in the wake of the Armenian genocide.
Joined by co-counsel Vartkes B. Yeghiayan, Geragos, a 1982 Loyola graduate, and Kabateck, a 1989 graduate, presented a check to Loyola Dean David W. Burcham and Professor Stanley A. Goldman and announced the foundation of the Center for the Study of the Law & Genocide in a press conference at the school’s downtown campus.
Kabateck said the donation represents seed money to build a center for the study of genocide issues worldwide from the Armenian genocide to the present, including the Holocaust during World War II and current events in the Darfur region of Sudan.
According to the Armenian National Institute, an organization that describes itself as being dedicated to the study, research and affirmation of the Armenian genocide, the Turkish Ottoman Empire massacred or forcibly deported 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923.
The current Republic of Turkey, successor to the Turkish Ottoman Empire, denies that the events constitute “genocide,” calling the 1.5 million figure “grossly erroneous” and attributing the deaths of Armenians in that period to “intercommunal” political, rather than ethnic and religious, conflict.
Goldman citeed the example of Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent whose interest in the plight of Armenians led him to coin the term “genocide” in 1943 and to lobby the League of Nations to criminalize such conduct prior to World War II, said the program will study the crime in order to bring its perpetrators to trial and provide victims with redress.
“Genocide is a 20th century concept,” he said, “but slaughter of groups is as old as time.”
The program is the first of its kind in the country and will offer classes every other year on related law topics, Goldman said. It will also present programs for the bench and bar.
The funds for the center come from part of a $20 million settlement with New York Life Insurance Co. for unpaid life insurance benefits to victims of the Armenian genocide.
The case began with Yeghiayan, who determined in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that approximately 2,000 policies issued by the company in the names of genocide victims remained unpaid. He approached Kabateck and Geragos to enlist their help in pursuing benefits on behalf of surviving heirs, Kabateck said.
Yeghiayan, Kabateck, and Geragos are all descended from survivors of the Armenian genocide.
After successfully lobbying the state Legislature in 2006 to reopen the statute of limitations in order to pursue the matter, the three filed a class action suit against New York Life in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in November of 1999.
In January 2004 the company settled, agreeing to pay all valid claims relating to the policies and to contribute at least $3 million to Armenian civic and charitable organizations. Kabateck said that this amount was later increased to $7 million because so few heirs of policy holders remained, leaving an additional $4 million in funds after the initial distribution of benefits.
He also said that suits currently remain pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Germany’s Victoria Insurance Company, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank. Victoria is accused of similarly withholding unpaid benefits from life insurance policies, and the banks are accused of wrongfully taking Armenians’ property to Germany and freezing Armenian bank accounts at the outbreak of World War I.
A similar suit against French insurer AXA Corporation for unpaid life insurance benefits was settled in 2005.
Geragos said that the timing of the announcement of the program was somewhat ironic, given that a Congressional committee is to consider House Resolution 106, which would formally recognize the Turkish Ottoman Empire’s actions as genocide, this week.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company