Law Would Allow States to Require Insurance Companies to Disclose Armenian Genocide Era Records

October 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was joined today by Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) in introducing legislation that would allow states to assist Armenian Genocide survivors and their descendents to pursue personal insurance claims, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Specifically, the “Armenian Victims Insurance Fairness Act,” would allow states to require that insurance companies open their Armenian Genocide era archives (1875-1923) and provide lists of policy holders from that time period. The bill goes on to express Congressional disapproval of “any Executive branch policy or agreement that preempts State efforts to collect insurance information to resolve outstanding claims.”

“We welcome this initiative by Congressmen Schiff and Radanovich to clarify the legal obligations of insurance companies that, to this day, still have outstanding debts to the Armenian Genocide-era victims of Ottoman Turkey,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are hopeful that this measure will be adopted, providing new opportunities for the just resolution of the many private claims against insurance companies that have – over the course of more than eight decades – benefited greatly, although undeservedly, from these unpaid policies.”

Upon introduction of the measure, Rep. Schiff noted that, “California enacted legislation to assist both Armenian victims and Holocaust victims in recovering outstanding insurance claims.” However, he went on to explain that “in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court in AIA v. Garamendi recently struck down the California disclosure law, citing Administration efforts to settle Holocaust insurance claims…” He went on to argue that “Although no similar Administration efforts have interfered with the settlement of Armenian claims, it is important for Congress to speak clearly on this issue. Private settlement negotiations between insurance companies and families have been slow with no final resolutions reached to date. Families should not have to wait any longer for disclosure of policyholder lists.” The California Democrat has also introduced a related measure (H.R.3129) regarding the recovery of Holocaust era insurance claims.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, major U.S. and European insurance companies were actively selling policies in the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that tens of thousands of policies were sold to Armenian citizens, who were later killed during the Turkish Government’s campaign to annihilate the Armenian population. This effort to allow the descendents of these insurance policyholders to collect funds owed to them is distinct from the broader issue of the reparations and restitution owed by the Turkish government to the Armenian nation as a result of the Armenian Genocide.

Representatives Schiff and Radanovich, in April of this year, teamed up with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) in introducing legislation marking the 15th anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the Genocide Convention. That measure, H.Res.193, has over 110 cosponsors and received the unanimous support of the House Judiciary Committee on May 21st.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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