And coming from Germany again. Not content with merely banning holocaust denial, now they are proposing an EU law that would prosecute anyone who denies any claimed genocide, war crime or crime against humanity:.
Berlin’s draft EU directive extends the idea of Holocaust denial to the “gross minimisation of genocide out of racist and xenophobic motives”, to include crimes dealt with by the International Criminal Court…
The draft text states: “Each member state shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable: ‘publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in’… the Statute of the ICC.”
This is absolutely absurd. It essentially rules out any defense for anyone accused of crimes in the ICC. If someone is accused of war crimes and they or someone else denies that they committed the crime, they’ve broken this proposed law. And here’s a recent example of where such a law might be applied:
General Lewis MacKenzie, the former commander of UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, courted controversy two years ago by questioning the numbers killed at Srebrenica in 1995.
He took issue with the official definition of the massacre as genocide and highlighted “serious doubt” over the estimate of 8,000 Bosnian fatalities. “The math just doesn’t support the scale of 8,000 killed,” he wrote.
Balkans human rights activists have branded Gen MacKenzie an “outspoken Srebrenica genocide denier” and, if approved, the EU legislation could see similar comments investigated by the police or prosecuted in the courts after complaints from war crimes investigators or campaigners.
A German government spokesman said: “Whether a specific historic crime falls within these definitions would be decided by a court in each case.”
But this is not the sort of thing a court ought to decide. The government has no business deciding what is the official belief that can be expressed, that should be left to scholars, historians and others to debate. And ironically, one of the world’s strongest opponents of the validity of holocaust denial, Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University, says that such laws actually undermine the position of scholars and historians combatting such myths:
But the legislation faces stiff opposition from academics who fear it would stifle debate over some of the biggest issues in contemporary international relations.
Prof Lipstadt has an international reputation for challenging Holocaust denial.
She was sued unsuccessfully for libel in 2000 by David Irving, the British historian, after exposing his misrepresentation of historical evidence and association with Right-wing extremists. But she does not believe denying the Holocaust or genocide should be a crime.
“The Holocaust has the dubious distinction of being the best documented genocide in history,” she said.
“When you pass these kinds of laws it suggests to the uninformed bystander that you don’t have the evidence to prove your case.”
The professor is also worried by broad-brush definitions of genocide denial, particularly applied to recent conflicts that are still being researched and investigated.
Even without the threat of prosecution, there is concern that academics will try to avoid controversy by ignoring or even suppressing research that challenges genocide claims or numbers of those killed.
David Chandler, the professor of international relations at the University of Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy, fears that the draft law could inhibit his work.
“My work teaching and training researchers, and academic work more broadly, is focused upon encouraging critical thinking. Measures like this make academic debate and discussion more difficult,” he said.
Prof Chandler also worries that the legislators will close down democratic debate on foreign policy. “Genocide claims and war crimes tribunals are highly political and are often linked to controversial Western military interventions. Should this be unquestioned? Is it right for judges to settle such arguments?” he asked.
Norman Stone, the professor of history at Turkey’s Koç University, argues that any attempt to legislate against genocide denial is “quite absurd”.
“I am dead against this kind of thing,” he said. “We can not have EU or international legal bodies blundering in and telling us what we can and can not say.”
An absolutely ridiculous and reprehensible proposal and the German government should be told in which orifice to insert it.