Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

French Panel Annuls Law against Genocide Denial

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

French Panel Annuls Law against Genocide Denial

Article excerpt

The Turkish government hailed the ruling and moved to lift recently imposed penalties, but President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to introduce a rewritten bill criminalizing denial of Armenian genocide.

The French Constitutional Council has struck down a draft law that would have criminalized the denial of an Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks, legislation that has soured relations between France and Turkey.

The controversy over the bill is likely to persist, however. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who backed the legislation, vowed Tuesday to submit a new bill with revised language. He has in the past indicated that he would push to see that denial of an Armenian genocide is made a crime even if the council ruled against the draft law.

Mr. Sarkozy offered no indication as to how he thought a new bill might overcome the objections of the council, which ruled Tuesday that "the legislature did unconstitutional harm to the exercise of freedom of expression and communication" in approving the legislation.

After passage of the bill in the French Senate last month, dozens of lawmakers from across the political spectrum submitted appeals to the council, insisting that the legislation violated free speech rights and that it was not the place of the legislature to impose its own explanation for the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deaths that began in 1915, amid the chaos of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The government in Ankara, the Turkish capital, shared that assessment and hailed the council's decision on Tuesday. Turkish leaders will meet to consider the lifting of economic sanctions imposed because of the bill and the reinstatement of political and military cooperation with France, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday. It remained unclear how Turkey might react should Mr. Sarkozy submit a new bill.

"We consider the annulment of the legislation by the Constitutional Council as a step that complies with the principles of freedom of expression and research, the rule of law and international law in France," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Tuesday evening in a statement. …

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