France senate panel rejects genocide denial ban

[JURIST] A committee of the French Senate [official website, in French] voted on Wednesday to oppose a law that would outlaw genocide denial [press release], including the World War I-era killings of more than one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers. The proposed law [materials], which was approved by the French National Assembly [JURIST report] in December, sparked animosity in Turkey, which does not consider the 1915 killings genocide. If passed, the law would impose criminal penalties on those who are deemed to be "condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide." In a press release, the committee expressed concern about the constitutionality of the law:

[This committee] has long questioned the legitimacy of legislative intervention in the field of history—whereas the adoption of resolutions and organizing commemorations were probably more appropriate ways to express the solidarity of the Nation with the suffering of the victims. It considered that the creation of a criminal offense ... recognized by law incur[s] a high risk of being at odds with several principles recognized in our Constitution—in particular the principle of legality of crimes and sentences, the principle of freedom of opinion and expression and the principle of freedom of research.
The committee resolved to oppose the bill and will move to dismiss the legislation from the Senate on Monday.

The Armenian genocide is also a contentious issue in US law and politics. In November the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] decided to revisit a case [JURIST report] to determine whether a California law declaring Armenian genocide in Turkey conflicts with US foreign policy. In August 2010 a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] unanimously dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the exclusion of materials questioning the Armenian genocide from a school curriculum. In March 2010 the Obama administration announced its opposition to a resolution [JURIST report] labeling the World War I-era killings as genocide. The announcement came after the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the resolution [JURIST report] by a vote of 23-22. Erdogan condemned the resolution, and the Turkish government recalled its ambassador to the US.

 

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