the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group
But back to the Beeb, here’s the whole article:
The French parliament has adopted a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered “genocide” at the hands of the Turks, infuriating Turkey.
The bill, which provides for a year in jail and a heavy fine, still needs approval from the Senate and president.
Turkey called the decision a “serious blow” to relations with France. It has already threatened economic sanctions.
Armenia says Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million people systematically in 1915 – a claim strongly denied by Turkey.
The European Commission has said that the bill, if passed into law, will “prohibit dialogue which is necessary for reconciliation” between Turkey and Armenia on the issue.
Turkey has been warning France for weeks not to pass the bill.
“Turkish-French relations, which have been meticulously developed over the centuries, took a severe blow today through the irresponsible initiatives of some short-sighted French politicians, based on unfounded allegations,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
The vote, in the lower house of the French parliament on Thursday morning, was sponsored by the opposition Socialist party.
The ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) did not back the law, but gave its deputies a free vote.
It passed by 106 votes to 19, despite the French government signalling its opposition.
Ethnic Armenians in Paris celebrated the result.
The French bill has brought strong protests in Turkey
“The memory of the victims is finally totally respected,” said Alexis Govciyan.
But the French foreign ministry described the bill as “unnecessary and untimely”.
Under the bill, anyone denying genocide could be punished with a one-year prison term and 45,000-euro (£30,000) fine – the same punishment that is imposed for denying the Nazi Holocaust.
EU membership bid
Debate on the Armenian issue has been stifled in Turkey.
The official Turkish position states that many Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks died in fighting during World War I – but that there was no genocide.
The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul says many Turks are angry at what they see as double standards in the EU, where opinions are sharply divided about whether Turkey should be allowed to join.
Turkey’s chief negotiator in EU membership talks, Ali Babacan, said: “This is violating one of the core principles of the European Union, which is freedom of expression.”
“Leave history to historians,” he added.
France’s President Chirac and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy have both said Turkey will have to recognise the Armenian deaths as genocide before it joins the EU – though this is not the official EU position.
Arguments have raged for decades about the Armenian deaths
Wednesday saw Turkish politicians consider a law that would make it a crime to deny that French killings in Algeria in 1945 were genocide.
But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan objected, saying: “You cannot clean dirt with dirt; you can only clean dirt with clean water.”
France has about 500,000 people of Armenian descent – thought to be the largest Armenian immigrant community in Western Europe.
There are accusations in Turkey that the Armenian diaspora and opponents of Turkey’s EU membership bid are using this issue to prevent Turkey joining the 25-member bloc.
The French better watch it or some of us might be mislead into thinking they’re starting to grow a pair.
Update, Friday Oct. 13: Denial and bad law
The bigger question is whether laws on Holocaust or genocide denial are a good thing in principle. Most of the countries which forbid it were Nazi-occupied, or Nazi allies, during the second world war. They generally passed the laws in the early years of post-war democracy, typically along with bans on Nazi symbols, songs and regalia. That may have been justifiable when a clean break with the past was vital; it seems less so today.
Many scholars are convinced that making it a crime to deny the Holocaust is a mistake. Fines and jail sentences create martyrs; they do not deter those who hold outlandish views. The proposed law in France, for example, sets a one-year prison term and €45,000 ($56,570) fine, the same punishment as for denying the Nazi genocide. Enforcing that against the thousands of Turks living in France for whom denying the Armenian genocide is part of national identity, would be all but impossible. Passing unenforceable laws looks like gesture politics, rather than good jurisprudence.
Update, Monday, October 16 Chirac apologizes