Dedicated to Ernst Zündel - Prisoner of Conscience
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|News Archive||Printer Version||August 28, 2007|
Revisionism in Europe: Trying to lock the barn door after the horse has bolted
Germany (denial, trivialisation, approval)
On April 14 1994 Germany criminalised Holocaust denial under section 130 (3) of the law against public incitement, a law passed in 1979 which was essentially the evolution of a Communist era war against the incitement of class warfare. The insertion of the specific law against denying, trivialising, or - to use the Orwellian text of the law - 'rendering harmless' the events referred to as the "Holocaust" came about through the Federal Constituional Court deciding that the penalisation of "denying of the Holocaust" constituted not a violation of human rights but a law to protect against those said to be malicously spreading untrue statements.
The law allows for a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 21,600 EUR. Before this, a 1985 law could see a Holocaust denier imprisoned for up to one year but was dependent upon the victim lodging a complaint under the terms of a text revision of a law against defaming the dead, an unconsitutional practice which continues to this day.
Currently the law allows Germany to prosecute anyone in the world if they are making the offending material available on a website which is possible to view in Germany.
Minor offences are heard by one judge and two lay-judges, offences deemed more serious are heard by 3 judges and 2 lay-judges, neither procedure utilises a jury.
In its role as EU President for 2007, Germany was partially successful in enforcing a EU-wide criminal offence of "Holocaust denial". On April 19 2007 the law was adopted, but with the provision of member states having the right to decide whether to use it if no such law existed in their country. It was a controversial measure. Britian and Denmark opposed the law, and Lithuania opposed the law on the basis that it would only outlaw the denial of, of course, the "Holocaust" and also the Rwandan genocide but not the Communist crimes against humanity.
Austria (denial, gross trivialisation, approval, justification)
The Soviet occupiers of Germany, in an act aimed at preventing the reforming of the NSDAP (the political party commonly referred to as the Nazi party) passed the 1947 NS-Prohibitory Law, as part of what is now termed 'denazification' procedures. Considering the climate at the time and just how much of a sore on the Earth Stalin was, it's no surprise that the law allowed for prison sentences of up to ten years, and in the case of repeat or dangerous offenders twenty years or in lesser cases a fine of up to 2,200 EUR.
The absolute disgrace is that the Austrians have kept these ridiculously severe penalties in the text of the law. An amendment of 1992 added "Holocaust denial" under section 3h. Most recently, the 2006 imprisonment of David Irving has created debate over the law but Irving was also charged under section 3g which accused him of actually attempting to revitalise the NSDAP itself through his utterances in 1989 speeches on Austrian soil.
The law's vadility has been challenged in the European Court of Human Rights who unbelievably did not order it's removal or downscaling. Cases are heard by a panel of 3 judges and eight jurors.
Switzerland (denial, coarse trivialisation, justification)
In order to join the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Switzerland had to have a law against racial discrimination on its books and so hastily passed the law commonly referred to as the Rassimus Strafnorm in 1995.
In a referendum, 55% of the Swiss parliament opted to include a clause against genocide denial but in actuality this law has proved grossly disproportianate in its application. For example, Jurgen Graf was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for denying the "Holocaust" whereas a Turk denying the Armenian genocide was given a 90-day suspended sentence. It allows for a prison sentence of up to 3 years. Cases are heard by a district tribunal with a panel of judges.
France (disputing, contesting)
On July 13 1990, the French government opted to make amendments to the 1881 Freedom of the Press Law which would criminalise "Holocaust denial" under two different acts.
First, the disputing or contesting of crimes against humanity as defined by the International Military Tribunal would be punished with a fine (maximum: 45,000 EUR) or up to one years imprisonment. The law is commonly referred to as the Fabius-Gayssot Act after two of its architechts. Like the Austrian law, its legality was challenged in a European human rights committee but again, unbelievably, ruled as necessary to counter anti-semitism.
A 2006 political measure, rooted in France's opposition to Turkey joining the European Union, aimed also explicitly at criminalising denial of the Armenian genocide, though this measure has been passed up to the Senate, having cleared the governmental stage. Cases are heard by a magistrates court.
Belgium (denial, gross trivialisation, approval, justification)
The Negationism Law of March 23, 1995 bans Holocaust denial and results in prosecution, bizarrely led by a government-run anti-racism group - the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunites and Opposition to Racism. It allows for imprisonment of up to one year and fines of up to 2,500 EUR.
The bill passed with absolutely no votes against or abstentions, a full 194 votes in it's favor in the Chamber of Representatives. The European Court of Human Rights upheld the law's legality in 2003.
In June 2005 there was a brief chance of the law being adopted to cover the denial of the Rwandan and Armenian genocide, but this was not approved. Cases are heard by a high court and jury.
Czech Republic & Slovakia (denial, putting in doubt, approval, justification)
When the two countries came into existence they both inherited Czechoslovakia's legal code. In 2001 both adopted a measure outlawing denial of the "Holocaust" and punishing it with up to 3 years imprisonment.
The law is applied, but not at the same regularity of countries such as Austria, France and Germany. In December 2005, the Czech government approved a text revision which similarly outlawed the denial of communist crimes.
Slovakia's justice ministry proposed the law's removal in 2003 but the Jewish community protested, resulting in the law been retained until February 2005 when it was nullified under a postive vote of 108-1 with 19 abstentions.
Israel (denial, diminishing, justification, approval)
The 1986 Prohibition of Holocaust Denial Law was the first worldwide to criminalize "Holocaust" denial. It allows for sentences of up to five years. A 2004 amendment allowed for application of the law to internet sites available in Israel, regardless of where they actually originate from. Cases are heard by a panel of judges and no jury.
Luxembourg (contesting, trivialisation, justification, denial)
Luxembourg is a small, almost city-sized country, yet it too has a law against "Holocaust" denial, enacted in 1997. It is a little bit mediocre in severity compared to, say, Austria and Germany, allowing for prison sentences of eight days to six months.
It also operates on the basis of the victim lodging a complaint to begin proceedings akin to the original German law. In 2005 Luxembourg, as EU president, attempted to get all EU-member states to adopt a law against "Holocaust" denial but was unable to secure either the UK, Denmark or Italy.
Poland (contradicting contrary to the facts)
On December 18 1998 the Polish government issued the seemingly benign Act of the Institute of National Remembrance, which began with pages of burecratic language on what did and didn't define a crime against humanity and how the crimes would be acknowledged - only to include a law under Article 55 which would allow for imprisonment of up to 3 years for denial of either communist or national socialist crimes.
A notable (and rare) case was that of Dariusz Ratajczak, acquitted in 1999, since his work was not widely distributed, though the court did deem it to be "Holocaust" denial.
Romaina enabled itself with the criminalization of Holocaust denial under Emergency Ordinance no.31 of March 2002 with a prison sentence of up to five years available for Holocaust denial. The law was highly controversial for not criminalizing denial of communist crimes, which had greatly affected Romania during the war.
Portugal & Spain (denial, justification)
The laws of Portugal and Spain are often overlooked. This may be because they are rarely applied and not successful.
Firstly the usual recipitent of the wrong end of the Spanish law (Art 607 (3)) has been Pedro Varela, a distributor and publisher of revisonist material. Initially due to the lack of a law against genocide denial, he was actually charged with genocide. Thankfully this was re-adressed, but not so thankfully, Varela was imprisoned for two years but appealed and had his sentence revoked by a tribunal who deemed the law unconstitional.
The Constituional Court upheld the law and Varela was last arrested in April 2006.
The Portuguese law is different from most Holocaust denial laws in that it stipulates 'denying war crimes and crimes against peace or humanity' as a factor to be considered in prosecution of cases of incitement to racial hatred. Cases are heard, without jury, by a district court judge.
Nearly, not quite... Italy -
On February 15, 2007 the Italian government approved a draft law imposing jail terms for racist or ethnically motivated crimes but rejected a specific Holocaust denial law, proposed by Justice Clemente Mastella, which would have passed into law a prison sentence of up to four years.
The Netherlands -
On June 10, 2006 Leon Meijer (Christian Union Party) presented draft legislation for a law against "denial or glorification of genocide with the intent to hurt others" and sought to add the law as an article to already existing legislature against race discrimination (137c and 137e). The law proposed a maximum prison sentence of one year but was rejected.
United Kingdom -
A Holocaust denial law was proposed in 1997 and 2001, cleared the Commons but was thrown out by the House of Lords. The law, if it could be called as such, was intended as a amendment to the Public Order Act 1986 which would read: "any words, behaviour or material which purport to deny the existence of the policy of genocide against the Jewish people and other similar crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany ("the Holocaust") shall be deemed to be intended to stir up racial hatred".