13 October 2006

Alert

National Assembly passes draft law criminalising the denial of Armenian genocide


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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF strongly regrets the first reading passage of a law that would make it a crime punishable by prison sentence to deny the 1915 Armenian genocide. The organisation notes that memorial laws are part of the creation of an official historical truth - a practice typical of totalitarian regimes - and expressed the hope that senators, who are to examine the draft law shortly, will have the wisdom to reject it.

The French National Assembly passed the draft law on 12 October 2006. The law would make denial of the Armenian genocide a crime punishable by five years in jail and a 45,000-euro fine.
The law complements a 19 January 2001 law which publicly recognised the genocide.

"There is obviously no question of going back on the recognition of the Armenian genocide, but legislating on it will expose anyone denying it to harsh judicial penalties set out by the 18 July 1881 law on press freedom (Article 24a). Memorial laws contribute to the creation of an official historical truth. This practice, typical of totalitarian regimes, is incompatible with France's fundamental values, starting with freedom of expression," said the organisation.

"Not only is it absurd that free expression ­ however contestable, and that is not the question ­ should be subjected to a constraint which is, in addition, a threat, but it seems to us that this legalistic concept of history will be much more likely to stoke up antagonism than to promote debate.

"It is particularly symbolic that this vote should have been held on the same day of the awarding of the Nobel Prize for literature to Orhan Pamuk, who was himself taken to court by the Turkish authorities for having raised the issue of this genocide," RSF stressed.

RSF hopes that senators due to examine the law on second reading will pay less attention to upcoming elections and have the wisdom to reject it. If not, it could have incalculable consequences for all historians as well as for press freedom.



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