Denying Armenian 'genocide' is no crime: European court

STRASBOURG, France Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:30am EST

A monument with the inscription at its base, ''To the Memory of the the 1,500,000 Armenians who were Massacred during the Genocide in 1915'' is seen in a square in Decines, near Lyon, December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Pratta

A monument with the inscription at its base, ''To the Memory of the the 1,500,000 Armenians who were Massacred during the Genocide in 1915'' is seen in a square in Decines, near Lyon, December 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Pratta

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STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Denying that mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 were genocide is not a criminal offence, the European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday in a case involving Switzerland.

The court, which upholds the 47-nation European Convention on Human Rights, said a Swiss law against genocide denial violated the principle of freedom of expression.

The ruling has implications for other European states such as France which have tried to criminalize the refusal to apply the term "genocide" to the massacres of Armenians during the breakup of the Ottoman empire.

A Swiss court had fined the leader of the leftist Turkish Workers' Party, Dogu Perincek, for having branded talk of an Armenian genocide "an international lie" during a 2007 lecture tour in Switzerland.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915 but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that it constituted an act of genocide - a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments.

"Genocide is a very narrowly defined legal notion which is difficult to prove," the court said.

"Mr Perincek was making a speech of a historical, legal and political nature in a contradictory debate."

The court drew a distinction between the Armenian case and appeals it has rejected against convictions for denying the Nazi German Holocaust against the Jews during World War Two.

"In those cases, the plaintiffs had denied sometimes very concrete historical facts such as the existence of gas chambers," the court said. "They denied crimes committed by the Nazi regime that had a clear legal basis. Furthermore, the facts they denied had been clearly been established by an international tribunal."

The judges cited a 2012 ruling by France's Constitutional Council which struck down a law enacted by then President Nicolas Sarkozy's government as "an unconstitutional violation of the right to freedom of speech and communication".

Switzerland has three months to appeal against the ruling.

(Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac, Writing by Paul Taylor, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (6)
Zeken wrote:
“… very concrete historical facts such as the existence of gas chambers …”

Well, there are reconstructions still available for public perusal and “edification.”

But really, should denying anything be a crime? If someone is wrong, then just trot out the facts and be done with him.

Prosecution for incitement of violence against an individual is one thing, but jailing people for saying things one doesn’t like is medieval.

Dec 17, 2013 9:36am EST  --  Report as abuse
Dron wrote:
@Zeken, you are right, it should never be illegal to deny whatever it is. Same should be with Holocaust, where they silence any debate about it even among those who don’t deny it. If its not a crime to deny the Armenian Genocide, then it should not be a crime to deny the Holocaust either.

Dec 17, 2013 10:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
xhaber wrote:
@Dron Using the term genocide aims to manipulate people..There is no court decision to confirm that phony genocide
There is no such evidence that shows the INTENT of Ottoman government to destroy, in whole or in part, of Armenian nation because of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. So, according to the judicial process, no evidence, charges should be dismissed!
Armenian’s provide testimonies as proof, which isn’t proof of Genocide.Ancestors of modern Armenians aren’t as innocent as you might think.Why are Armenians trying to copy the jews & blacks by also playing the victim card, ad nauseum..cos some armenians are suffering from necrophilia.

Dec 17, 2013 12:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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