Issue 10, Spring 2012
GPN has promised it will track further development on the French government effort to pass a law against denials of recognized genocides such as the Armenian Genocide.
In early May, then still President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy issued letters to A. Govciyan, President of the Coordination Council of Armenian organizations in France and Ara Toranian, co-chairman of the Coordination Council, in which he reiterated his intention to submit a new text of the bill criminalizing the Armenian Genocide denial.
Sarkozy noted that the Armenians fell victim to the first carefully planned action aiming to annihilate an entire nation. “Armenian refugees became devoted children of France, and our country was honored to give shelter to them,” he wrote, adding that France is honored to struggle for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “Though I respect the constitutional court’s ruling, I want the new text of the bill to be submitted to parliament already in June,” the French President’s letters read.
On January 23, the French Senate had passed a bill criminalizing denials of genocide. The bill imposed a 45,000 euro fine and a year in prison for denials in France. However, the French Constitutional Council then ruled that the bill was anti-constitutional because it violated freedom of speech. The Council said the bill represented an “unconstitutional breach of the practice of freedom of expression and communication.”
Turkey reacted furiously when the Senate approved the law. Ankara halted political and military cooperation with France and was threatening to cut off economic and cultural ties if the law took effect.
Immediately after French Constitutional Council ruling, President Sarkozy instructed the government to submit a new draft law punishing the denial of recognized genocides.
Now it remains to be seen what the new French President Hollande will do. Hollande has also pledged to adopt the bill. The California Courier reported that on April 24, then both presidential candidates of France, Hollande and President Nicolas Sarkozy, participated in the Armenian Genocide commemorative ceremony at the Paris Memorial to Komitas and victims of Armenian Genocide. Hollande reiterated his pledge to adopt a bill criminalizing the Armenian genocide denial in case he comes to power. "Despite any pressure, I will take all necessary steps for passage of the bill. The Armenian history will never be forgotten as it will never be disrupted," he said. Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey reported that Hollande will not act in a rush on legislation regarding genocide.
However, more recently Hurriyet reported that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview with Le Monde, "On the Armenian question, we must consider the decision of the Constitutional Council." Fabius was also quoted by Hurriyet as linking the issue to French Turkish relations. "There are legal constraints," Fabius said without giving details. "[Repairing ties with Turkey] is not easy. Anyway, it's important to renew relations with Turkey which plays a major role, both economically and diplomatically, for example on the Syrian and Iranian issues." Hurriyet then concluded, "According to diplomatic sources, the Armenian genocide issue is still a potential threat to bilateral relations."
California Courier (May 3, 2012). French President and Leading Candidate Attend Paris Genocide Commemoration.
Hurriyet Daily News (May 31, 2012). Hollande not to act in rush on 'genocide.' http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/hollande-not-to-act-in-rush-on-genocide.aspx?pageID=238&nID=22006&NewsCatID=351
PanArmenian.net (May 3, 2012). Sarkozy reiterates pledge over Genocide bill new text. http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/105842/Sarkozy_reiterates_pledge_over_Genocide_bill_new_text