Saturday 20 October, 5.15pm until 6.30pm, Frobisher 4-6
In January 2012, the French Senate voted for a bill with cross-party support to make it a criminal offence to deny the mass murder of Armenians in 1915 was genocide. Anyone who ‘outrageously’ questions the official version of events would face a one-year prison sentence. The French Constitutional Court quashed the bill, saying it represented an ‘unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression’. Nonetheless, the European Framework decision on Racism and Xenophobia says genocide denial or gross trivialisation should be a crime in all EU member states. As well as France, a number of member states have rejected this, including the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Spain. Their rejection reflects an ongoing dispute about whether historical truths should be treated as legal truths. It also reflects a degree of commitment to freedom of expression, which must include the right to shock, offend and outrage
Concern over the problem of genocide denial can seem out of proportion to its reality. When deniers do pop up, they are easily exposed and seem to have little to no influence on society. David Irving is more of a laughing stock than a new leader of anti-Semitism in Europe. But some warn against what they see as a naively overconfident assessment of our liberal democracies. They insist we need to back up our commitment to liberal values with legal sanctions for those who seek to undermine them.
Is genocide denial a limit beyond which free speech must not go? What does it really mean to say that certain facts are so true that they cannot be denied? After all, flat-Earthers don’t face jail sentences. Or is it not so much a matter of the truth of the facts themselves but of a greater moral truth represented by genocide, by the Holocaust? It has been argued that it is only through unqualified free speech that we have any hope of reaching the truth. Does this not apply to genocide denial; has humanity already established the truth about that? Are we so sure of that as to allow lawyers to prosecute in the name of that truth?
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|Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus|
reader in history and Holocaust studies, University of Manchester
|Timothy Garton Ash|
professor of European studies, University of Oxford; commentator; director, Free Speech Debate
convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
Lincoln Professor, University of Lincoln; author, A Right to Offend: free expression in the twenty-first century
Professor Dennis Hayes
professor of education, University of Derby
To make this country's free speech laws clear, liberal and consistent, we should not only remove the wordTimothy Garton Ash, Guardian, 6 June 2012
How did genocide denial become a doctrine of the internationalist left?George Monbiot, monbiot.com, 22 May 2012
The Turkish government applauded France's highest court reversing a law making it illegal to deny Armenian deaths in the former Ottoman Empire over 100 years ago was genocide.Christian Science Monitor, 28 February 2012
Agnès Uwimana and Saïdati Mukakibibi are being supported by an international team of lawyers and human rights groupsOwen Bowcott, Guardian, 29 January 2012
Holocaust studies is at a paradox: while historians of the Holocaust defend it as a legitimate and well-defined area of research, they write against a complex political and ideological background that undermines any claim for it as a normative field of historical study. Writing the Holocaust offers a lucid enquiry into this complex field by demonstrating the impact of current theories from the humanities and social sciences upon the treatment of Holocaust studies.
Jean-Marc Dreyfuss & Daniel Langton, Bloomsbury Academic, 28 May 2010
If Terry Eagleton is right that evil is literally, supremely pointless, and also reassuringly rare in a world full of human purpose, then why are we discovering it everywhere we look?Angus Kennedy, spiked, 26 March 2010
This is the moment for Europe to dismantle taboos, not erect themTimothy Garton Ash, Guardian, 21 October 2006