PARIS—The French Senate passed the bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide today, despite threats and bullying from the Turkish state. The bill passed by 127 votes against 86.
The bill, drafted by member of French General Assembly Valerie Boyer, renders denial punishable with a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000).
“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,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director, Aram Hamparian.
“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,” added Hamparian.
“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,” continued Hamparian.
“This day will be written in gold not only in the history of friendship between the Armenian and French peoples, but also in the annals of the history of the protection of human rights,” said Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Nalbandian, reported Reuters.
During the proceedings, members of the French Senate spoke powerfully and vocally in support of the bill. They noted that the bill is not directed against any specific country, and that it is merely an effort to honor the memory of genocide victims and struggle against hate speech.
On the other hand, those who opposed the bill did so on the grounds of opposing memorial laws in general, and noted that the French Senate is not a courthouse and is not a place to legislate history.
The Senate first voted to confirm the constitutionality of the bill. The Senate also voted down four proposed amendments.
French-Armenian intellectuals and artists—including Charles Aznavour, Serge Avedikian, Simon Abkarian, and Levon Sayan—had issued a call to the French Senate to pass the bill.
Thousands of French-Armenians gathered in front of the Senate building to express support for the bill. The Armenian crowd on the other hand, was singing Armenian national and revolutionary songs and celebrating (see video).
Nearby, a Turks crowd had gathered. More than an hour before the voting, however, the crowd started to disperse. The Turkish newspaper Radikal, ran an article on its website titled, “The Turks went home, the Armenians have started celebrating,” in reference to the mood of the crowds during the hour leading up to the vote.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had urged the French Senate on Jan. 20 not to pass the bill, noting that it would constitute “a black stain on France’s intellectual history.”
“We will always remind them of that,” added Davutoglu.
In turn, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he may not visit France again if the Senate passed the bill, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
On Jan. 18, a French Senate committee had rejected the bill, but the committee’s decision was not binding and today’s vote proceeded as scheduled.
The bill’s passage did not come as a surprise, as both the Left and the Right in France had expressed support for it.
On Dec. 22, the French General Assembly had approved the bill, prompting Ankara to withdraw its Ambassador from Paris, only to return a few weeks later.
France adopted a bill officially recognizing the Armenian genocide in 2001.