Wednesday, October 11, 2006

France Proposes Genocide Denial Bill...

This bill sets a dangerous precedent. At the very best it is can be read as an attempt to stall Turkey's bid to join the E.U. At the worst it could set a precedent for further restrictions on freedom of speech. If expanded it could, in effect, be used against any journalist or academic who challenges the official view of events (such as those who question the Western line on the events in Bosnia, for instance).

'Genocide' is defined as a deliberate and planned policy of ethnic cleansing, which is difficult to prove in most cases. Mass deaths in a civil war, for instance, where there have been atrocities on every side, would not necessarily qualify. Some academics have criticised the definition as it only applies to national groups, not to political or social groups. For example Joseph Stalins extermination of the Kulaks (wealthy peasants) would not count as such as they were a social group, not a nationality. But did that make it any less of a crime?

Holocaust deniers are using crank history for political ends. David Irving is one such example. But his views have no credibility among mainstream historians as the Nazi genocide is a proven fact. His followers are only a small band of far right extremists, who would have their views with or without him. His views should be dismissed, but he shouldn't be in jail.

It is dangerous to give the State power to clamp down on any expression. Another example is the illegality in The Czech Republic and Hungary of communist symbols. In the Baltic States communist organisations find their activities curtailed, while fascist groups can operate legally. In December last year part of a resolution by the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)resolution read that:

“Communist parties are legal and active in some countries, even if in some cases they have not distanced themselves from the crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes in the past.”

This resolution is in effect a threat. In effect laws that curtail political expression can be used against anybody, be they of the left or the right.

No comments: