Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Court Rules French Genocide Law is Unconstitutional

A contentious French law criminalising the denial of the Armenian genocide was ruled unconstitutional by the country's top judicial body Tuesday. The Constitutional Council said the law, which had angered Turkey, infringed on freedom of speech.

AFP - France’s top judicial body ruled Tuesday that a law backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy to punish denial of the Armenian genocide was unconstitutional as it infringed on freedom of expression.

“The Council deems the law contrary to the constitution,” the Constitutional Council said of the legislation that plunged France’s relations with Turkey into crisis.


President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered his government to draft a new law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide Tuesday after France's top court struck down a previous bill.

Noting the "great disappointment and profound sadness" of the law's backers, a statement from Sarkozy said: "He has ordered the government to prepare a new draft, taking into account the Constitutional Council's decision."

“The council rules that by punishing anyone contesting the existence of... crimes that lawmakers themselves recognised or qualified as such, lawmakers committed an unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression,” it said.

France had already officially recognised the killingis as a genocide, but the new law sought to go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).

The Council said that it was concerned “not to enter into the realm of responsibility that belongs to historians”.

While the Council’s ruling is final, Sarkozy, who is facing a tough re-election battle in less than two months, vowed on February 1 that he would submit a new draft of the law if the Constitutional Council rejected it.

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