France constitutional court declares genocide denial ban unconstitutional

[JURIST] The Constitutional Council of the French Republic [official website, in French] on Tuesday ruled [judgment, in French] that a French law [materials, in French] making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered a genocide by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 is unconstitutional. Ultimately, the Council found [AFP report] that the law's provisions allowing the imposition of a €45,000 fine, a one-year prison sentence, or both, on those who deny the genocide violates various free speech safeguards within France's founding documents, namely the Constitution of France [text] and the Declaration on Human and Civic Rights [text, PDF]. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu [official profile] welcomed the ruling and added that Turkey's foreign affairs cabinet would meet to consider whether to restart economic, political and military contracts with France, which were temporarily gridlocked because of the genocide denial ban. In an official statement [text, in French], French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] ordered his government to draft a revised version of the law, noting that the court's decision was met with "great disappointment and profound sadness" by its proponents. "The President of the Republic considers that [genocide] denial is intolerable and must therefore be punished," read the statement, which was released by the president's office.

Despite one Senate committee's rejection, France's genocide denial ban was passed [JURIST reports] by both the Senate and the National Assembly [official websites, in French] in mid-January. However, the law was contested [JURIST report] only a week later when opposition members of both houses of parliament gathered the necessary signatures to warrant the law's review by the Constitutional Council. Although Sarkozy previously insisted that the law did not specifically target Turkey, the Turkish government repeatedly warned that and affirmation of the law would result in Turkey imposing sanctions on France [AFP report].

 

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