French Senate approves law on genocide denial
Published: Monday January 23, 2012
Washington - After a full day of debate, French Senate voted 127 in favor and 86 in opposition to approve a law that criminalizes denial of genocides that are officially recognized by France, including the Armenian Genocide.
Supporters and opponents of the measure rallied outside the Senate throughout January 23, as a series of votes got underway. The outcome represents a major victory for the French Armenian community that has sought the passage for a decade since France formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. France already penalizes denial of the Holocaust.
Endorsement by President Nicolas Sarkozy's United Popular Movement (UMP) and leaders of the main opposition Socialist Party (PS) assured the favorable vote despite feverish lobbying by the Turkish government and some opposition from within the two parties' ranks. UMP and PS together control about three-fourths of all Senate seats.
The legislation, which was previously adopted by France's National Assembly, is now expected to be signed into law by President Sarkozy, who had previous brushed aside Turkish leaders' threats to sanction France over the law.
"It is null and void for us," Turkey's Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said on live TV immediately after the vote, according to Associated Press. "It is a great disgrace and injustice against Turkey. I want to tell to France that you have no value for us in the slightest degree, we don't care."
Turkey had suspended some inter-state activities when France first recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2001 under former President Jacques Chirac, but relations went back to normal soon after.
Clark University Professor Taner Akcam, who is one of the leading academic authorities on the Armenian Genocide, called the vote "a huge victory for those who fight genocide denial on the international level."
"If we want to prevent genocides and mass crimes; if we want to increase the awareness against the crimes of Genocide and crimes against humanity, we should not allow the denialist regimes to bully the democratic nations in the international arena," Prof. Akcam said in a comment for the press. "Turkey must understand that bullying and threatening others is not the behavior of an international actor."
The Armenian National Committee of America said in a statement for the press that "today's courageous vote by the French Senate shines the spotlight across the Atlantic, on American policymakers, who, for far too long, have let Ankara block U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide."
"The growing international pressure on Turkey and, closer to home, the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by 42 U.S. states, highlight that President Obama, who promised as a candidate to recognize the Armenian Genocide, has allowed a foreign country to impose a gag-rule on U.S. recognition of this crime against humanity."
"We mark this occasion by urging President Obama to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide and by calling on the U.S. House leadership to allow a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.304," said the ANCA statement.