Top French Court Strikes down Armenian Genocide Law


Patrick Ollier (left), parliamentary relations minister, speaks during the Senate vote session for a bill criminalizing the denial of the genocides, including the Armenian Genocide.

PARIS (AFP) — France’s top court 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.

Turkey welcomed the ruling — but Sarkozy, whose right-wing party had put forward the bill, swiftly vowed to draft a new version of the law that has plunged France’s relations with Turkey into crisis.

France had already recognized the killings 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).

However, the Constitutional Council labeled the law an “unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression” and it said it wished “not to enter into the realm of responsibility that belongs to historians.”

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said France had averted a “historical mistake” and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the decision “an important step that will legally avert future exploitations.”

However, Sarkozy’s office quickly put out a statement saying the president “has ordered the government to prepare a new draft, taking into account the Constitutional Council’s decision.”

Sarkozy noted “the great disappointment and profound sadness of all those who welcomed with hope and gratitude the adoption of this law aimed at providing protection against revisionism.”