French Govt. Cannot Draft Another Denial Bill Before Elections
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday ordered the government to draft another bill on Armenian genocide denial, after the prior one was struck down on Tuesday by a decision of the Constitutional Council, which considered that the bill went against the freedom of speech and of expression.
Sarkozy’s office noted in a statement that the president of France considers that the genocide denial is intolerable and must be punished accordingly. Therefore, the statement says, the president demanded that a new bill be drafted, taking into account the decision of the Constitutional Council.
The bill that was struck down by the Constitutional Council was punishing the denial of the Armenian genocide with up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros. The council considered that “by punishing anyone who contests the existence of crimes the legislators recognize and qualify as such,” the legislators have committed an attack against the freedom of expression.
More than 130 members of the parliament from across the political divide demanded the constitutional council to examine the legality of the bill, which passed in February the Senate after being voted in December by the National Assembly, with a majority from both opposition and power in both chambers.
The French government spokeswoman and minister of budget Valerie Precresse said on Wednesday that it would be impossible for the government to have a new bill passed by the parliament before June, when the parliamentary elections are scheduled and this legislature ends.
In a press conference, Precresse said that the government would work on a new draft which would take into account the ruling of the constitutional council, but considering the procedures that are needed for a bill to be voted in the parliament it would be almost impossible to be voted before the legislature ends.
The ruling of the Constitutional Council has been praised by the Turkish foreign minister, who said that it was correcting an error made by the parliament’s vote. Ahmet Davutoglu said that now that the bill was struck down Turkey and France may resume the economic, military and diplomatic ties, after they were downgraded in December.
A positive reaction to the ruling of the highest court had Azerbaijan, whose president and the foreign minister praised it, causing the president Ilham Aliyev to say that it reflected the freedom of thought and expression.
The Azerbaijan foreign minister’s office said that the law that punishes the genocide of the Armenians was no more than an attempt of the Armenian lobby to make the parliament accept their intentions through blackmail, and that they failed.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been entrenched in a military conflict between 1988 and 1994 for the mountainous enclave Nagorno-Karabakh.
500,000 people Armenians live in France and it is believed, especially by the Turks, who made such a charge, that the president hopeful Sarkozy wants to win them over. The move is also considered a form of expressing dissatisfaction with the possible admission of Turkey to the European Union.11