February 6, 2017
Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) welcomes the recent ruling by French Constitutional Council to overturn a law that would criminalize the denial of a disputed Armenian genocide in 1915.
On January 26, 2017, the French Constitutional Council ruled that the criminalization of denying the Armenian genocide is an “unnecessary and disproportionate attack against freedom of speech” and rescinded the ruling, which labeled the denial as a “hate crime.”
On October 14, 2016, the French Senate had approved a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. The law carried the punishment of a 45,000-euro fine to all those who failed to observe it.
On October 15, 2015, the European Grand Chamber affirmed the European Court of Human Rights’ invalidation of a Swiss law the criminalized disagreeing with or questioning the Armenian allegation of genocide.
The French Court’s decision parallels the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dated December 16, 2013, which ruled that “Free exercise of the right to openly discuss questions of a sensitive and controversial nature is one of the fundamental aspects of freedom of expression and distinguishes a tolerant and pluralistic democratic society from a totalitarian or dictatorial regime.”
The deaths of Armenians in Eastern Anatolia in 1915 occurred after some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties. Turkey has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.
Importantly, by French Council’s decision, Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis was also vindicated for France’ illegal incrimination of him for lecturing that the Armenian case did not constitute genocide. On April 14, 2002, at the National Press Club on C-Span 2, Lewis stated:
“[T]hat the massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was the same as what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany is a downright falsehood. What happened to the Armenians was the result of a massive Armenian armed rebellion against the Turks, which began even before war broke out, and continued on a larger scale.
But to make this a parallel with the holocaust in Germany, you would have to assume the Jews of Germany had been engaged in an armed rebellion against the German state, collaborating with the allies against Germany. That in the deportation order, the cities of Hamburg and Berlin were exempted, persons in the employment of the state were exempted, and the deportation only applied to the Jews of Germany proper, so that when they got to Poland they were welcomed and sheltered by the Polish Jews. This seems to me a rather absurd parallel.”