The decision of French National Assembly related the so-called "Armenian genocide" and freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is one of the main columns of democracy. Along with freedom of assembly and association and, the right to vote, freedom of expression is one of the most important elements for the formation of a democratic society (of course, after the right to life and liberty).
In this context, it can be determined if there is authoritarian or a democratic regime in the state with the intervention of state to freedom of expression.



Freedom of expression enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 and in the European Convention on Human Rights Article 10.

The States adopting the international documents take the commitments related to freedom of expression.

France which is considered the cradle of democracy and human rights and is often mentioned as an example in the field of democracy and human rights has obligations related to freedom of expression and should follow these obligations unconditionally.

On December 22, 2011 the French National Assembly adopted a draft law providing for criminal liability for the denial of the so-called "Armenian genocide". The new draft law provides the punishment of imprisonment for one year and an additional fine of 45 thousand euros against those who deny the so-called "Armenian genocide ".

I think that the draft law of French National Assembly providing criminal liability for the rejection of "Armenian genocide" is the interference to freedom of expression.

Of course, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, it is relative law. In other words, freedom of expression may be subjected to certain restrictions. These limitations were noted in paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
a) national security;
b) the territorial integrity;
c) public order;
d) the prevention of disorder or crime;
e) the protection of health or morals;
g) the protection of the authority and the rights of other persons;
f) In order to prevent disclosure of confidential information or to provide the authority and impartiality of the justice administration;

At the same time these restrictions should be based on the criterion "to be necessary in a democratic society".

Apparently, there should be serious grounds for restricting freedom of expression and these grounds should be necessary for a democratic society.
The draft law of French National Assembly providing criminal liability for the rejection of "Armenian genocide" is the interference to freedom of expression. Imagine that if Azerbaijan or Turkey citizen says in the event held in France that "Armenians’ genocide claims are groundless," one will be sentenced to one year imprisonment or a fine of 45000 euros, in case the draft law will come into force. Briefly, if the draft law comes into force, it will interfere with the freedom of expression. If we look at the paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights again we can see that to adopt the law on criminal liability for refusal of "Armenian genocide" do not include neither national security or territorial integrity or public order, nor the other category of restrictions. Of course, France will try to ground this project with the argument of "Protection of the rights of other persons". I want to touch one issue here. The number of Armenians and Turks living in France is approximately equal. Both are around 400,000 people. If France adopts this law, for protecting the human rights of 400.000 persons, it will violate the rights of 400.000 persons.

The officials supporting the Armenians and this draft law try to equal so-called "Armenian genocide" with Holocaust. As we know, the imposition of criminal responsibility for the rejection of Holocaust is not the violation of freedom of expression. Holocaust issue includes the scope of Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights and according to that Article, nothing in Convention can be interpreted as the right to commit any activity directed toward the abolition of rights and freedoms of any state, group or person or to restrict them more than it is enshrined in the Convention.

Here, I want immediately to refer to the court case of "Fatullayev against Azerbaijan".

In this case, the government referred to Article 17 of the Convention and D.I. against Germany court case. However, the ECHR did not accept the government's argument and said that the situation is not the same. The Court came to the conclusion the applicant's freedom of expression cannot be removed from the protection of Article 10 that according to Article 17 of the Convention. Because Fatullayev did not try to justify the culprits of the Khojaly Genocide, to alleviate their responsibility, or to encourage their movement in any form.

We saw from the court case "Fatullayev against Azerbaijan" that the court does not consider the Khojaly genocide clearly defined historical fact as the Holocaust. However, the Khojaly tragedy took place 20 years ago and the names of persons accused of committing this, even the details of the tragedy is known and Azerbaijan has sufficient evidence to prove it. Let's take a look at the so-called "Armenian Genocide". The so-called "Armenian genocide" is a historical issue at the moment. At present, neither the arguments of Armenians, nor the arguments of Turk were confirmed as a fact. Several times Turkey said to Armenia, as well as other states who want to deal with this issue, as well as to France, that Turkey is ready to open the Archive of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and agrees to carry out research with the participation of all interested parties. It can be valued from legal point, after proving the historical facts on this issue.

Of course, the so-called "Armenian genocide" is not considered clearly defined as Holocaust historical fact. Therefore, France cannot justify the violation of Article 10 referring to Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The limitation of any person's rights and the freedom, being exposed to severe punishment of imprisonment for to the assumptions which were not proved cannot meet the criteria of necessity in a democratic society.

I am against the bill of French National Assembly providing for criminal liability for the rejection of the so-called "Armenian genocide" and I call upon the French government to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Anar M. N.





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