Thursday, October 12, 2006

French Legislature Passes Law Outlawing Denial of Armenian Genocide

From Hürriyet, Armenians in France Celebrate Passage of the Bill

The French lower house has passed a resolution making it a crime to deny that the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I constituted genocide. The resolution passed by a margin of 106-19, though the large majority of the legislature's 557 parliamentarians did not show up. The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet ran a headline suggesting that France had chosen "stupidité" instead of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" [thanks again to Anne for helping me with Turkish verbs!]. French President Jacques Chirac had previously expressed his disapproval over the vote, calling it "redundant and unnecessary," since France already recognizes the Armenian Genocide. But the law means that those who argue that the killings, while regrettable, were not genocide are liable to face the same kind of punishment as those who deny the Shoah - one year in prison and fines up to 45,000 euros.

The bill was proposed by the Socialist Party but also supported by UMP legislators. Indeed, its most prominent advocate was MP Patrick Devedjian, who is close to presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy. Turkish leaders were voiciferous in condemning the resolution in the lead-up to this vote, threatening serious consequences for Franco-Turkish relations. In light of the bellicose rhetoric emanating from Anakara, which apparently hoped to scuttle passage of the bill, Chirac might think twice before officially signing the resolution into law. The resolution might have significant repercussions beyond France, as many Turks see this as a larger European or even Western conspiracy against their country - there are already theories to the effect that the vote was timed to coincide with the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Orhan Pamuk on Thursday. Pamuk is one of Turkey's most critical voices, who has challenged the taboo on the Armenian genocide and suffered accordingly for his dissent.

At this point, it seems impossible for Turks to accept this as anything but an insult delivered specifically at them, together with the recent slights by various EU members who seem ever more wary of admitting the country to their club. That opposition, of course, is not based on moral concerns about Turkey's failure to confront its past but on much greater European anxieties about this non-Christian other.

One question is how Turkey will actually be able to respond in the short term. Will France suffer economic consequences? If so, how significant will these really be? But the more important problem is what effect this will have on Turkish society and politics. Who will gain, and how will the country's orientation to the rest of the world change?

See also earlier coverage by Kishkushim of this bill's pre-history (it was shelved in May).


John1975 said...

In my opinion France will be the one to suffer from this.

This is absolutely insane to pass a law that says it's illegal to say something wasn't something during WWI. This kind of law is a threat to every single French citizen as well as every citizen of the world.

There has got to be a way for honest and decent civilians of the world to stand up and fight back against this kind of corruption.

It really blows my mind!

Anonymous said...

John1975, you must therefore also be against the 'loi Gayssot', the 1990 French law making it a crime to deny the Holocaust. The law against denial of the Armenian Genocide is modelled on it.

Amos said...

Anonymous - I support this latest legislation but perhaps more as a tactical than a strategic move. Correct me if I'm wrong, but does the legislation on Holocaust denial make it a crime to deny that the Holocaust was genocide or does it make it a crime to deny that millions of people were killed by the Nazis and their allies during WWII? Obviously, just like in the Armenian case, the claim that the killings of the Jews and the Roma, were not genocide is absurd but maybe John1975 is correct on principle in arguing that making a claim, along the lines of "1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks during WWI, but this was not the result of a policy of genocide" should not be forbidden. Of course, in reality, those who deny the Armenian Genocide also tend to insist that the number of victims was in the 100,000 range and that it consisted of insurgents.

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, 'The Gayssot Act (Loi Gayssot), voted for on July 13, 1990, makes it an offense in France to question the existence of the category of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter of 1945, on the basis of which Nazi leaders were convicted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-46 (art.9).'

I think that any kind of legislation criminalizing speech i.e. with respect to the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust or the like, is wrong. Free speech means nothing if offensive, even outrageous speech is sanctioned.

That said I understand well the desire to restrict the unending efforts of denialists which often leads to racism, anti-semitism and violence (see the theft of a monument commemorating the Armenian Genocide in France this week and the violence by Turkish groups during this year's April 24th commemoration in Lyon).

John1975 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John1975 said...

I totally agree with Anonymous!!!

It's basic common sense that you don't go and make a law that says I'm going to be a criminal because simply I say something didn't happen.

It's the same thing with all these rioting muslims over some stupid cartoons. Learn tolerance and grow up! Sometimes I honestly feel I'm back on the grammer-school playground!

If I say something you don't like, its easy, IGNORE ME! It doesn't get easier! If you don't like what you are seeing on the TV, CHANGE THE CHANNEL! What, are you guys going to try and outlaw certain TV shows too?

What the hell is wrong with you people????????

Karl G. Mund said...

Sorry that I'm coming a bit late to this debate. I simply didn't know this blog before.

But the recent gathering in Tehran of the worldwide denier-elite surely keeps these topics on the political agenda.

One thing is definitely right: criminalizing the denial of Shoa or the state-orchestrated mass murder of Armenians (plus, not to forget: Arameans!) will not prevent future genocides just like capital punishment will not prevent future "ordinary" murders.

In my country, Germany, there are still many people who think the law against denying Shoa has been forced upon Germans by the occupying powers after 1945, and therefore should be considered unjust, and still, not only in the backyards of some obscure pubs are those politicians vilified who once introduced that law.

As a German "political animal" I usually debate the issues as if this law does not exist. I do not need it for arguments against any kind of nazism, be they old or new. But there is one good asset of such a law: it helps to defend yourself against being vilified, ostracized and in some cases physically attacked by deniers or their auxiliary gangs of self-styled stormtroopers.

The issue of "free speech" is like the issue of freedom itself. Sure, it is also the freedom of the dissident, but this is not a one-way-street, even not in Israel or Palestine, definitely not in Turkey or Armenia. Any freedom ends, where it denies the freedom of the other person. This applies to the denier of Shoa as well as to the person that informs about Shoa. If this understanding is achieved without a specific state-law, only the better.

Amos said...

Lieber Karl,

Vielen Dank fuer Deinen Beitrag zur Debatte!

I am still uncertain about my position on these laws. One thing that worries me after I see people like David Duke (former KKK leader) being interviewed live on CNN while attending the denial conference in Tehran is that the stupid and evil ideas which he propagates actually have a great deal of traction among many people. The problem with which Kant and others struggled during the Enlightenment, about the limits of free speech, is still with us. I was starting to be convinced that maybe the American situation, where people can deny all they want, is better. But I'm really not sure. Without the constant monitoring done by Jewish organizations and their allies, Holocaust denial would have a lot more currency in the U.S. Private groups here invest tremendous amounts of money in education and in combating antisemitic denialist groups. I think you might find this blog, which has several posts on the Armenian genocide denial law in France, interesting.

I read your biographic blurb on your website. Very interesting! I have been thinking about the Yezidis as well as the Assyrians (or "Arameans" or Chaldaeans ...) in Iraq. Doesn't the KRG now have an Assyrian minister? Nimrud something. It would be great if you could put an RSS feed on the site - that way people could easily know when there have been updates on it. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.