French Law on Disputing ‘recognized’ Genocides Held Unconstitutional

The French constitutional court has held unconstitutional the law passed in January of this year (that’s a fast decision by our standards) that made it illegal to dispute any genocide recognized by law. This kind of rule did not fall into the proper scope of a legal rule. While it was possible for the law to govern the exercise of speech to protect its freedom, this statute went in the opposite direction.

One may note the legislative and judicial materials that appear with the press release to which the above link leads – the law, the supporting material in both houses of the legislature, the dispute, the decision, etc.

Note as well that the constitutional court offers its site in five languages, though the non-French sites are neither complete nor completely up to date. One expects that this new decision will be translated in due course. It’s an impressive service to French legal thinking to make it available so broadly.

The decision does not affect the French statute from 2001 that recognized the genocide in Armenia in the early 20th century, since that statute was not before the court. But that’s the kind of statutory recognition that the new Act was intended to promote – until this court got to it.

Would the reasoning in this decision be of use to a Canadian court deciding what might be a reasonable limit on freedom of expression in a free and democratic society?

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