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Holocaust Denial in the EU

Holocuast Memorial Day logoThe Holocaust Memorial Day Trust will be holding its second annual conference on Monday 30th April at the Town Hall in Leeds, England (conference details pdf here). No doubt there will be much discussion of the merits of legislation against denial. The German proposal in January to have the EU make holocuast denial a criminal offence as a matter of EU law (blogged here by me, and with great insight by Section 14 and Liberal England) was debated in the Parliament in March, and was adopted by the Council of Ministers yesterday (see: press release (pdf) | BBC | FT (also here) | IHT | Independent | Irish Times | David Farrar’s Kiwiblog | Dizzythinks | Johnathan Calder on Liberal England | Marketplace of Ideas | and of course Section 14). From the EU press release:

The following intentional conduct will be punishable in all EU Member States:

Publicly inciting to violence or hatred, even by dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material, directed 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.

Publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising

  • crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Articles 6, 7 and 8 ) directed 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, and
  • crimes defined by the Tribunal of Nüremberg (Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, London Agreement of 1945) directed 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.
  • Member States may choose to punish only conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting.

    The Independent reports:

    Consensus over the deal has been achieved by whittling away at the impact of the legislation, leaving a great deal of discretion to individual countries to implement their own law.

    British officials said yesterday that the text would require no legal changes in the UK, which has long punished incitement to racial hatred and last year passed a Religious and Racial Hatred Act. They say that academic freedom to question aspects of the Holocaust or other historical events would not be compromised in Britain.

    (Update (20 April 2007): There is a typically incisive post today over on Cedar Lounge Revolution on this development; well worth reading.)

    I do not doubt the Germans’ bona fides here, but the EU development is, to say the least, regrettable. It may force Ireland’s hand into expanding the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989 (also here) to cover religious as well as racial hatred; though Jamie Smyth in the Irish Times comments:

    … the final text of the legislation has been weakened to such as extent that many member states, including Ireland, will not have to change their own laws.

    Whether or not we have to amend the 1989 Act (and, despite Jamie’s comments, I suspect we do, not least becuase the EU proposal covers all manner of things other racial hatred, which is the exclusive focus of the Irish Act) there are many inconsistencies in the EU proposal: why some holocausts and genocides and not others; why this kind of historical revisionism but not others? Moreover, there are problems of principle with the proposal: the best answer to speech is more speech; the best answer to holocaust denial is to argue against it in the strongest possible terms. The quickest route to forgetting about it is not to discuss it; and we must never forget.

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    7 Responses to “Holocaust Denial in the EU”

    1. […] an offence (Liberal England, Iain Dale). I’m intrigued though by the suggestion that the Religious and Racial Hatred Act already covers the scope of this […]

    2. Frank Little says:

      Thanks for the link to our post but to be honest I think you have a much more comprehensive analysis here. Excellent blog. Maith thú

    3. Eoin says:

      Tá fáilte romhat, Frank. I’m trying to meet the same high standards that you Cedars guys!

    4. PhxFreddy says:

      Outlawing free speech is the best way you can be SURE that you will have more holocausts. Its tragic. NAZI is an abbreviation for NATIONAL SOCIALIST…….and as Europe is wildly socialist they are always just a hairs bredth away from national socialism. And just what will the new national socialists outlaw in the way of speech? Without free speech you will have only the gun to rely on. Ohyes that’s right, Europe has alot of gun control. So then….its a forgone conclusion. Europe will have yet another holocaust of some variety.

    5. Eoin says:

      Query: would the publication of the controversial Mohammed cartoons (also this post and this one, all on Michelle Malkin) by the Dutch newspaper Jyllands-Posten qualify as “publicly inciting to … hatred, … by dissemination … of … pictures …. directed against a group of persons … defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”?

    6. click here says:

      To add a related comment (and without addressing the above query!), quite honestly I think that the proposal is, or at least will be treated as, making plenty of well-intentioned noises and a lot of back-slapping for those who feel very pleased with themselves altogether.

      In the meantime, however, no real action is in fact taken in relation to genocide or other crimes against humanity that are taking place at this moment in time (and may have been continuing for years). An example would be the actions of the Sudanese government in their country.

      At home, then, we still have the ineffective – nay, useless – Incitement To Hatred legislation.

      It all sounds to me like guff, and I find it pathetic.

      (Gah! It’s so frustrating! – End of rant.)

    7. […] in principle with the Framework Decision. I’ve already said so on this blog (see here, here, and here). Conscious that today is Holocaust Memorial Day, my view is that the best way to ensure […]

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