© Università degli Studi di Padova - Credits: HCE Web agency
Legal Repression of Negationism by the European Court of Human Rights
The term «negationism» derives from the French word «négationisme» and it is commonly used to describe the process which attempts to refuse the existence of the Holocaust by minimizing, denying or simply ignoring essential facts. The movement first appears shortly after World War II and then it has developed predominantly since the Sixties; currently, the movement is widely present in Europe, especially in France and in the United States and, because of this growing diffusion, many countries have started to ban it. Many Holocaust deniers complain of an infringement of their right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights, however, consistently declares their complaints inadmissible under the Article above, stating that invoking free speech to propagandize denial of crimes against humanity would be – and this is also confirmed by many Court’s case-law– contrary with respect either to democracy and human rights protection. This because it would infringe the rights of others and would fall into the category of aims prohibited by Article 17 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which declares that it is impossible to take from the Convention any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at destroying any of the rights and freedoms set forth therein.
The same conclusions have been reached by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Committee, relying on Article 5, paragraph 1, of the Covenant. In consideration of this jurisprudence and of the fundamental meaning of Holocaust in modern history, it must be stated that right to freedom of expression cannot protect Holocaust deniers.