EU to debate penalty for Holocaust denial
Germany wants to use its European Union presidency to push through legislation that would make denying the Holocaust punishable by stiff...
The New York Times
BERLIN — Germany wants to use its European Union presidency to push through legislation that would make denying the Holocaust punishable by stiff prison sentences in all 27 of the union's member states.
Germany's justice minister, Brigitte Zypries, said Thursday night that Germany's commitment to combating racism and xenophobia — and keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive — was both an enduring historical obligation and a present-day political necessity.
"We have always said that it can't be the case that it should still be acceptable in Europe to say the Holocaust never existed and that 6 million Jews were never killed," she said. Under the German proposal, she said, those who deny the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War II could face up to three years in prison if convicted.
Zypries said the proposal, which will be debated by the bloc's justice ministers in the next six months, would also seek to criminalize racist declarations that are an incitement to violence against a person or group. The aim, she said, was to harmonize national legal systems in their approach to combating racism and xenophobia.
Unifying the handling of hate crimes in countries with vastly different legal cultures could prove difficult, legal analysts said. European leaders have been unanimous in condemning those who deny the Holocaust, and they sharply criticized the Iranian government for sponsoring a conference that sought to cast doubt on it.
But the question of whether to criminalize such acts has divided Europe. Germany sees a European Union law on denial as a moral imperative, but other countries, like Britain, Italy and Denmark, have resisted common rules as infringing on free speech and civil liberties.
Two years ago, Luxembourg tried to use its presidency of the European Union to push through similar legislation but was blocked by Italy.
Zypries said she was confident that Germany could succeed in overcoming such resistance since Italy, now led by a left-of-center prime minister, Romano Prodi, had dropped its opposition. But she said the legislation would have to be narrow in scope to gain support.
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