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Brussels, 23 May 2007 (FH) – Last April, European Ministers of Justice met in Luxemburg in order to engage their states in the prosecution of “public incitement to violence or hatred” and also of acts “publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

On 19 April 2007 the European Ministers assented by consensus to a proposition of the European Commission raised in November 2001 in adopting a framework decision. This legal tool binds the member states of the European Union to the result but leaves the form and means to achieve it to them.

Before that, laws concerning negationism dealt only with the negation of the genocide of Jews committed by Nazi Germany. The crimes which are now prosecuted are defined by both the Statutes of the Tribunal of Nüremberg and the International Criminal Court.

The term “negationism” was created to define the denial of the existence of the Shoah. Today, as underlined by the European Ministers, this term includes denying, contestation or minimisation of all historical crimes.

Between 1990 and 1997, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Austria, Luxemburg and Switzerland adopted laws concerning this matter, whereas Scandinavian and Anglo-saxon states refused to do so, opposing all restrictions of the freedom of speech. In July 1996, the Council of the European Union noticed the lack of uniformity of domestic legislations concerning definitions and sanctions and some problems relative to extradition.

In France, a law prohibits all racist, antisemitic or xenophobic speech. It also provides the contestation of the existence of crimes against humanity as criminal offence. Pursuant to this text an intellectual, Robert Faurisson, was sentenced to three months imprisonment after having contested the existence of the gas chambers.

The crimes of negation as defined by the common position must have been committed “against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”. The genocide of Tutsi is therefore covered by this definition. The notion of “social group” is not mentioned by the decision but the declaration accompanying the decision provides that it will be asseted if it is necessary to add it two years after the entry into force of the decision in domestic legislation.

The European states will have the choice to either prosecute conducts “carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order” or the ones which are “threatening, abusive or insulting”. Efficiency has clearly been sacrificed to the consensus rule in the Council.

In spite of its double engagement, the United Nations kept their restrictive definition of negationism. Last 26 January, the General Assembly adopted a resolution which condemns without any exception all denying of the Holocaust and engages the States to do the same.

© Hirondelle News Agency