President Serzh Sarkisian on Saturday praised France’s lower house of parliament for passing a new bill criminalizing the denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and other crimes against humanity recognized by the French state.
According to his press office, Sarkisian hailed French President Francois Hollande’s decisive role in the bill’s unanimous passage on July 1 when they met on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Warsaw.
The measure approved by the National Assembly in the first reading stipulates that any public denial of those atrocities will be punishable by up to one year’s imprisonment and a 45,000-euro ($50,000) fine. It must be adopted by the French Senate in order to become a law.
Currently, French law only makes it a crime to deny the Holocaust.
The two houses of France’s parliament already passed a law against Armenian genocide denial in December 2011 and January 2012. The French constitutional court subsequently struck down that law, however, saying that it runs counter to freedom of speech.
Hollande pledged to ban Armenian genocide denial through a new law when he ran for president later in 2012.He is expected to run for a second term in elections slated for April-May 2017.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry last week expressed concern over the new French bill against genocide denial. “We expect that the French Senate will remove the elements that may have the potential to pose the risk of limiting the freedom of expression from the Draft,” said the ministry spokesman, Tanju Bilgic.
Bilgic clearly referred to the bill’s references to the World War One-era slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians which France officially recognized as genocide in 2001.