The New Turkish Penal Code to Criminalize Recognition of Armenian Genocide

European Armenian Federation calls on European Commission to end silence

BRUSSELS–Following recent attempts to criminalize adultery in the country–the Turkish government bowed to European Union deman’s last Sunday and passed the country’s penal code–without the law on adultery; it did–however–manage to place several articles in its provisional penal code that threaten freedom of speech. For example–Article 306 of the new Code would punish up to 15 years individual Turkish citizens or groups "Acting against the fundamental national interests for directly or indirectly receiving benefits from foreign persons or institutions." According to the Explanatory Note of this article–written by the Parliamentary Committee of Justice–a citizen who deman’s the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from Cyprus or declares that the Armenian genocide actually took place during the First World War–can be pursued by virtue of this article.

In its condemnation of the article–the European Armenian Federation writes–"This provision threatens authors with jail sentences over statemen’s that are construed by government officials to undermine Turkish "national interests."

Examples of so-called offensive statemen’s listed in the provisional law include–"The Turkish Army must withdraw from Cyprus," and "Armenia’s endured a genocide during the Ottoman era." Some parliamentarians introduced an amendment–which would mandate sanctions against authors and individuals–if determined that their statemen’s are motivated by "material interests."

The provision gives no legal justification for the law–the Federation explained–which remains fundamentally incompatible with the European values of free expression.

The European Commission scarcely reacted when the Turkish Ministry of Education brought genocide denial into the classroom–by institutionalizing it in the curriculum. A coalition of European NGOs expressed its concern about the denialist curriculum and called for the suspension of EC gran’s to the Turkish educational system. The European Parliament also expressed its concern in the Oostlander report on the Turkish application for EU membership.

"Today–far from repenting for the Genocide–Turkey now wants to include denial of this crime in its penal code. Clearly–the indifference of the European Commission is partially responsible for the hardening of the Turkish position on this issue," said the Chairperson of the European Armenian Federation Hilda Tchoboian. "Prime Minister Erdogan’s about-face on the adultery issue will simply be a media ploy if Europe does not demand that Ankara grant full freedom of speech to its citizens. We call on political parties–governmen’s–and human rights organizations to urge the European Commission to call for justice for the Armenian Genocide. It is unthinkable that the Commission would not consider Turkey’s denialist position a key obstacle to the initiation of preliminary talks," added Tchoboian. "Whether they are in favor of a European Turkey–or whether they are against its accession–the Union’s democrats cannot tolerate these attacks on the freedom of press and thought that have free reign in Turkey. It is time for the European Union to call on Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide," concluded Federation’s chairperson.

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