Friday, October 16, 2015

European Court Says Armenian Genocide Denial Protected By Freedom of Expression

In Case of Perincek v. Switzerland, (ECHR, Oct. 15, 2015), the European Court of Human Rights in a Grand Chamber judgment, by a vote of 10-7, held that Switzerland violated Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression) when it criminally convicted the head of the Turkish Workers Party of violating Swiss law when he, at three public events in Switzerland, denied the 1915 Armenian genocide.  Swiss courts found Doğu Perinçek guilty of violating Art. 261 of the Swiss Criminal Code which, among other things, criminalizes denying, trivializing or seeking justification for genocide or other crimes against humanity. The European Court, finding his conviction in violation of the Convention, said in part in its majority opinion:
Taking into account ... that the applicant’s statements bore on a matter of public interest and did not amount to a call for hatred or intolerance, that the context in which they were made was not marked by heightened tensions or special historical overtones in Switzerland, that the statements cannot be regarded as affecting the dignity of the members of the Armenian community to the point of requiring a criminal law response in Switzerland, that there is no international law obligation for Switzerland to criminalise such statements, that the Swiss courts appear to have censured the applicant for voicing an opinion that diverged from the established ones in Switzerland, and that the interference took the serious form of a criminal conviction – the Court concludes that it was not necessary, in a democratic society, to subject the applicant to a criminal penalty in order to protect the rights of the Armenian community at stake in the present case.