French Senate Caves to Pressure, Blocks Bill Criminalizing Genocide Denial

PARIS–A bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide was blocked in the French Senate this week, following strong pressure on the French Legislature from Turkey to prevent the bill from becoming law.

The bill needed approval from the Senate and President to become a law.

The bill sponsored by the opposition Socialist party passed in the French National Assembly on Oct 12, 2006 and provides for a year in jail and a 45,000-euro fine–the same punishment that is imposed for denying the Nazi Holocaust.

Since the bill was passed by the National Assembly, France has seen a wave of hate crimes directed at its Armenian community, including the desecration of memorials and monumen’s and the threatening of individuals. Earlier in May, the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Valance France was desecrated with black graffiti spray painted at its base.

According to Phillipe de Villiers, the head of the Movement for France Party, the bill may be brought to the floor next year. “We are trying to lobby for the bill but the pressure is too strong,” he said.

The move to block the bill comes despite calls from Frances Armenian community and civil and human rights activists to pass the legislation.

Hundreds of French Armenia’s converged on the French Senate on October 1, hundreds, calling on the body to pass a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenia’s suffered genocide at the hands of the Turks.

The demonstrators, joined by several French parliamentarians, lined the steps of the Senate building carrying placards that read “denial is a crime and I want a law to punish it.”

Mourad Papazian, the chairman of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Europe had said earlier in October that a second demonstration in front of the French Senate would take place on November 22 in case the bill was blocked. Saturday’s demonstration is expected to attract nearly 10,000 participants.

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