French senate approves bill criminalizing 'genocide' rejection
The bill was accepted by 127 votes.The French Senate has approved yesterday a bill that criminalizes the denial of Armenian genocide claims despite a furious Turkey vowing to punish Paris with “permanent” sanctions.
France’s lower house voted to make such denials a crime last month, prompting Turkey to suspended military, economic and political ties.
The bill is now on the fast track to becoming law after 127 senators voted in favor it. The bill needs formal approval by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s signature. After Sarkozy approves the bill, it will be released in the official gazette and will then enter into force.
French Minister of Relations with Parliament Patrick Ollier said the bill complied with French and EU laws. Ollier said two “genocides” are recognized by France. “Denial of Jewish genocide is penalized, [what we are doing here is to] make this possible for the Armenian genocide as well,” said Ollier.
Constitution Commission head Jean Pierre Sueur said the bill is against the constitution speaking after Ollier at the Senate before the voting.
“I am not speaking here on behalf of a party, I am addressing you on behalf of the commission,” said Sueur, adding that the Constitutional Commission agreed that this bill was unconstitutional with 23 votes against nine votes. Sueur recalled a former decision of the Senate which rejected a similar bill last year. He also said a research report released by Parliament in 2008 saying that the parliaments should not write history. He referred to prominent French historian Pierre Nora’s statements stating that “the parliamentarians cannot write history,” Anatolia news agency reported.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915 and 1916 by the forces of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.
France has already recognized the killings as a genocide, but the new bill would go further, by punishing anyone who denies this with a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).
Modern Turkey is extremely sensitive about the issue, and has accused France of attacking freedom of expression and free historical enquiry.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused France of hypocrisy and Sarkozy of pandering to the vote of France's estimated 400,000 voters of Armenian origin three months ahead of a tough reelection battle.
"I hope the Senate will not make France a country contradicting its own values," Erdogan said. "This is a debate which is entirely against the freedom of thought. This is merely a step taken for the upcoming elections."
Around 15,000 Turks from France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg rallied peacefully on the streets of Paris on Saturday to protest the law.
Turks and Armenians had gathered to stage demonstrations outside the Senate ahead of the debate, set for Monday afternoon, with police keeping them some distance apart.