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Criminalization of Genocide Denial to be Analyzed at Academic Conference


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DATE : November 20, 2006

Tel : 416-250-9807

Criminalization of Genocide Denial to be Analyzed at Academic Conference

The recent passage by the French National Assembly of a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide has raised widespread controversy over the role of the state in addressing denial. Politicians, pundits, journalists, students and scholars have created a barrage of arguments and opinions on the subject, including many Armenians arguing against it.

When the bill first went to the French National Assembly on May 18, 2006, the Chairman of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (IIGHRS) (A Division of the Zoryan Institute), Prof. Roger W. Smith, disseminated an analysis titled “Laws against Genocide Denial : Potential Consequences for Human Rights.” In it he argues that limiting discourse on historical events is not the role of the state in a free society and that this recent amendment to the 2001 law, which recognized the Armenian Genocide, contradicts the stated objective of the original legislation to facilitate dialogue between the Armenians and Turks. Supporters of the bill, such as French doctoral candidate in international criminal law Sévane Garibian, maintain that it is constitutionally valid because in the interpretation of the 1990 Gayssot law “d enial falls under the jurisdiction of the law only insofar as it constitutes an ‘illicit disorder likely to undermine law and order’... The key element in the legal definition of denial is that the intention of the denier to cause harm must be proven. It is not the opinion as such which is punished, but the diffusion of this opinion as an ideological act, expressing, under cover of scholarship, anti-Semitic propaganda, racist or heinous, likely to produce adverse effects in a democracy.” From another point of view, distinguished French historian of Diaspora and the Armenian Genocide, Gérard Chaliand, recently expressed that France already has “a legislative arsenal against racism (and) as a French citizen (he) opposes the ethnicization of the law.”

In order to clarify what is at stake in such legislation, the IIGHRS is participating with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies, and others, in a conference on December 3-4, 2006 in New York City . Titled “Denying Genocide : Law, Identity and Historical Memory in the Face of Mass Atrocity” the conference will be comprised of four panel discussions : Escaping the Truth : The Meaning of Denial ; Comparing Denial ; Denying Denial : Free Speech and Genocide Denial ; and Defining the Past : Denial, History, and Education. There will be twenty-five participants from the fields of History, International Relations, Jewish Studies, Law, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, and Political Science.

“There will be many complex and interrelated issues discussed,” stated George Shirinian, Executive Director of the IIGHRS. “For example, in the French case, there has been extensive public debate on whether such action resolves in an effective way the problem of denial, and if so, whether this legislation is, in a liberal democracy, a legitimate restriction on citizens’ freedom of expression.” He continued that “this raises other questions regarding the motivation for, and geopolitical consequences of, this bill. The outcome can have a significant impact on Armenian-Turkish relations worldwide, how denial is addressed in other jurisdictions, how Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code, which is being used to suppress discussion of the Armenian Genocide, is viewed, and on Turkey ’s EU accession negotiations.”

“Having experts from North America and Europe engage one another through this academic forum will shed much needed light on the very critical issues surrounding denial,” said Roger W. Smith. “The reason for the release of my initial analysis six months ago was to spur individuals to confront these critical issues. I see this conference, which is open to the public, as the logical extension of the IIGHRS’s efforts to create forums that allow discourse on pressing concerns. This conference is a very timely endeavor, and I look forward to my participation.”

The Zoryan Institute, parent organization of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, and co-publisher of Diaspora : A Journal of Transnational Studies and Genocide Studies and Prevention : An International Journal , is the first non-profit, international center devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Armenian social, political and cultural life, with the concern for the human rights of all. For more information please contact the IIGHRS by email or telephone (416) 250-9807.

dimanche 26 novembre 2006,
Stéphane ©

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