Constitutional Council’s scandalous rejection of French Genocide Bill
By Harut Sassounian, Publisher, The
The National Assembly and Senate recently adopted a bill that would set a penalty of a year in jail and $60,000 fine for anyone denying the genocides recognized by the French government.
Even though the bill did not specifically mention the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government did everything short of declaring war against
Clearly, this was an unacceptable intrusion into
The Constitutional Council is a hodge-podge of 11 retired individuals of various backgrounds. It includes two French Presidents, two judges, three legislators, and four government officials. A major controversy erupted when a French newspaper revealed that several members of the Council, including its Chairman, had serious conflict of interest problems in reaching a fair decision. Some had made prejudicial statements on this issue while serving in the legislature, others have business ties with
Under such scandalous conditions, most Council members should have disqualified themselves from sitting in judgment on this issue. After these embarrassing disclosures, two Council members withdrew from deliberating on the genocide bill, and former Pres. Jacques Chirac was reportedly too ill to attend the session.
The Constitutional Council’s eight remaining members ruled on February 28, 2012 that the bill penalizing genocide denial approved by the Parliament and Senate was unconstitutional because it violated French laws on freedom of speech!
This was a shocking decision for two reasons: 1) Several members of the Constitutional Council violated the law themselves by sitting in judgment on an issue in which they had a clear bias or conflict of interest; and 2) They ruled the genocide denial bill to be unconstitutional supposedly because it restricted free speech, while leaving intact another law that penalized denial of the Holocaust. The Council members failed to explain why penalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide was a restriction on freedom of expression while penalizing denial of the Jewish Holocaust was not! All genocide victims merit equal protection under the law. There should be no double standards!
French Armenians should take up all legal and political measures to reverse the Council’s unfair and illegal decision. They could file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights against the Constitutional Council as well as introduce a new bill in the French legislature.
Since the two leading French Presidential candidates have pledged to bring up this bill again after the upcoming elections, this issue will not go away until a law is adopted penalizing Armenian Genocide denial.