The French Constitutional Council Has Spoken

On February 28, the French Constitutional Council struck down the draft law that would have criminalized the denial of an Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks. A French law from 2001 recognizes the Armenian genocide as fact, but does not call for sanctions for those who contest it. If the draft law were upheld, punishment for the denial of the genocide would have been up to one year in prison and a fine of up to 45,000 euros. The Constitutional Council ruled that ‘“the legislature did unconstitutional harm to the exercise of freedom of expression and communication’ in approving the legislation.” Turkey “hailed the Council’s decision” stating, “‘we consider the annulment of the legislation by the Constitutional Council as a step that complies with the principles of freedom and expression and research, the rule of law, and international law in France.’” As a result of the ruling, Turkish leaders will meet to consider the lifting of economic sanctions imposed because of the bill, as well as reinstating political and military cooperation with France.

However, French President Nicholas Sarkozy does not seem to be withdrawing his support of the legislation. He has “vowed to submit a new bill with revised language.” According to the New York Times, in the past, President Sarkozy indicated that he would continue to push to ensure that denial of an Armenian genocide is made a crime in France even if the Council ruled against it. However, as of yet, President Sarkozy has yet to indicate or explain how a new bill would overcome the Council’s objections. Do you think President Sarkozy will continue to push a bill criminalizing the denial of an Armenian genocide?


  1. I am actually a bit surprised that the French Constitutional Council struck down this law. The French usually take a very hard stance on any sort of denial of a serious crime, such as genocide. Under French law, if you deny a crime against humanity, you will be subject to up to one year in jail. Arguments for free speech are usually countered with the proposition that it is a necessary infringement. After the Holocaust, Europe has tried to make sure that nothing like it could ever happen again. Allowing people to deny what happened opens the door for history to repeat itself.

    However, this is a difficult situation. While almost every country in the world accepts that the Holocaust happened, here, Turkey flat out denies that a genocide took place. I can understand their displeasure at France trying to legislate history. While it is admirable for France to do what they can to stop atrocities from being trivialized, I’m not sure this was the best way for them to do that.

  2. I commend Sarkozy for continuing to support the legislation criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide. In the face of great political and economic pressure he continues to stand by an important and just cause that for too long did not get the attention and support it deserved. More significantly, I believe Sarkozy’s gesture has a noteworthy symbolic impact.
    At this point, I think an argument can be made that the passing of the legislation itself has lost some importance. That is, if the point of the legislation was to bring attention to and address the continued denial of the Armenian genocide, then one can argue that the legislation has been partially successful, and consequently, the passing of the legislation itself is no longer as vital.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *