French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reaffirmed his pledge to draft a new bill making it a crime to deny that the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey constituted genocide.
Sarkozy was instrumental in the recent passage of such legislation by the French parliament. France’s Constitutional Council struck it down as unconstitutional late last month.
“Despite the decision of the Constitutional Council, I am not resigned. The Armenian community, like others, has the right to be protected against [genocide] denialism by the law,” Sarkozy told about 100 prominent members of France’s Armenian community during an award ceremony late on Wednesday.
“So I have asked the government to prepare a new text. I can assure you of my desire to push it through, and I renew this solemn pledge in front of you,” he said in a speech at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris.
“To all you whose families were decimated by an absolutely planned extermination, to all you who regard today as a threat the obstinate [Turkish] denialism turned into state policy, I want to tell that France is on your side to refuse, to fight and to suppress the unacceptable,” Sarkozy added.
Sarkozy first pledged to again try to criminalize Armenian genocide denial just hours after the French court ruled on February 28 that the controversial bill infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
Sarkozy’s UMP party cautioned afterwards that a new bill will not be put forward before June because of France’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. The French National Assembly has already completed its tenure for that reason.
Sarkozy will be able to make good on his pledge only in case of his victory in the two-round presidential ballot scheduled for April and May. He is facing a tough reelection battle against the opposition Socialist Party’s candidate, Francois Hollande.
Analysts say that the incumbent president engineered the genocide bill’s passage late last year in the hope of winning the French-Armenian vote. Hollande also supports the idea of criminalizing genocide denial, which has long been championed by French-Armenian leaders.