Greece: Third Country to Criminalize Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Harut Sassounian


While Turkey was pressuring the French President not to support a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide, it had to cope with Greece, yet another country that just adopted a law making it illegal to deny genocides, including the Armenian Genocide. Greece is the third European country, after Slovakia and Switzerland, to pass such a law. The Swiss law, however, is under review by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for violating a Turkish defendant’s freedom of speech.

The French Parliament (2011) and Senate (2012) adopted a similar law to punish genocide denial which was overturned by the French Constitutional Council. To replace the failed law, French Deputy Valerie Boyer submitted a new bill to the Parliament last week. President Francois Hollande has also pledged to back the criminalization of Armenian Genocide denial.

Despite legal uncertainties regarding such laws in Europe, the Greek Parliament adopted by a vote of 54 to 42, on Sept. 9, an anti-hate crime law — Combating Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism — making it illegal to deny the Jewish Holocaust, and genocides recognized by international courts or by the Greek Parliament, i.e., the genocide of Pontus Greeks, the genocide of Asia Minor Greeks, and the Armenian Genocide. Those violating this new law would be fined up to 30,000 euros, and imprisoned for up to three years.

The Greek law stems from the European Union’s 2008 “Framework Decision against Racism and Xenophobia,” which urged all EU states to adopt laws that punish racism, xenophobia, denial of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Caught by surprise, Turkish officials and Azerbaijani propagandists made confusing statements about the Greek law. Initially, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the Greek law, claiming that “it contradicts democratic principles and freedom of speech.” Soon however, the Foreign Ministry reversed itself and expressed the hope that the new Greek law would help protect the rights of Turks living in Greece! It should be noted that Greece adopted this law, despite Pres. Erdogan’s warning at the NATO Summit in Wales on Sept. 5 to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras who flatly told the Turkish President that the Greek law would not violate international law. A similar warning was issued by Erdogan to the French President that adopting any new laws on the Armenian Genocide could complicate the relationship between their countries.

Azeri commentators also made contradictory claims even though the Greek law has nothing to do with Azerbaijan. One Azeri writer alleged that the Greek law does not mention the Armenian Genocide and that the Greek Parliament has never recognized the Armenian Genocide. Of course, both of these claims are completely false. Clearly, this Azeri writer does not know that the Greek Parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide on April 25, 1996, and on July 10, 1996 Pres. Konstantinos Stefanopoulos signed a decree, declaring April 24 to be “the memorial day of the genocide of the Armenians by Turkey.”

A second Azeri, V. Seyidov, not only acknowledged that the Greek law covers the Armenian Genocide, but went ahead and dared Greek police to arrest him after planning to state in Athens that “the Armenian Genocide is not a historical fact”! Assuming Mr. Seyidov would dare to carry out his bluff, it remains to be seen whether he will be thrown into a Greek jail or hailed as a ‘hero’ by denialists in Turkey and Azerbaijan, depending on ECHR’s final ruling.

Armenia’s Foreign Minister and Parliament praised Greece for adopting the law on criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. However, it is high time that the Armenian Parliament officially recognize the Greek Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Past efforts to do so have been quashed by the Armenian government for unknown and incomprehensible reasons!

On Sept. 22, Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia is scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister Samaras in Athens, during which His Holiness is expected to express his gratitude to the Greek government for adopting the law against genocide denial.

On the eve of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, it would be most salutary if ECHR would overturn its earlier ruling on the Swiss law and if France would adopt a new law criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide, paving the way for other European countries to follow suit.

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One Comment;

  1. Nazareth said:

    Ok harout, I have been reading your articles for about 30 years, I know you are well informed , I have met and spoke few words with you in Armenia , you are the only Armenia that I know who has high reputision, all around the world, besides genocide issues please write about everyday life, like corruption in Armenia that is taking place everyday today in Armenia , not 99 years ago, but today effecting every single citizen of Armenia , I am grateful like everybody else, about your views,that you keep us informed, but Harout we are suffering now in Armenia corruption is killing us, yet we do not have somebody with enough courage to raise the issue, somebody like me, who will listen to me, I am nobody, but you Harout sasounian even my 12 year old son knows you, i feel in order to serve the Armenian people better now days is not what happened 99 years ago, but what is happening now.
    let’s assume all the countries in the world accepted the genocide , even Turkey, let’s also assume to achive this took 10 years, buy than at the rate we going now the population of Armenia will be few thousand people, average age 70.
    wow, who will care by than, what happened 99 years ago, when people are bleeding now, today in Armenia there is white massacre I am sure you know how many people are leaving for good Armenia , in fact the same Turkey you always speak about is feeding about 50,000 illegal Armenians by closing one eye about there illegal status.
    In another word, Armenia is kicking them out , because they can not feed themselves , Turkey is giving them a chance to feed themselves .
    I am writing to you because you are the only one I know with enough infulace to bring attention to this matter . Yes 99 years ago we lost million people because of Turkish policy. In 2008, thru 2014 we lost million people(outflow) by Armenian corrupt policy, sometimes I wonder who is the lesser devil.
    please help us.