Italy rejects express criminalization of Holocaust denial
After lengthy negotiations, Italy’s center-left coalition government has approved Thursday a bill making racial hatred a crime and stiffening prison sentences for those found guilty of inciting racial hatred. But it makes no reference to Holocaust denial.
The decree, submitted by Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, received unanimous approval by the Romano Prodi’s government.
The decree, which was originally meant to bring Italy in line with European countries such as Austria, Germany, Spain, Belgium or France, makes no reference in its final draft to denial of the extermination of six million Jews during World War II.
It could have been much worse. The article continues,
Justice minister Clemente Mastella had initially proposed a law specifically targeting Holocaust denial but top coalition partners including education minister Fabio Mussi and culture minister Francesco Rutelli rejected the plan, saying education in schools was the solution rather than turning denial of the Shoah into a crime.
It instead reinstates a 1993 decree -- scrapped in 2006 by the previous conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi -- which punishes with up to three years in jail "anyone publicising theories of racial superiority" and with up to four years in prison "anyone committing or inciting to commit discriminatory acts for racial, ethnic, national, religious, sexual or gender motives."
The article then says,
Officials at the justice ministry said Thursday that magistrates will be key in interpreting the new law and establish whether denying the Holocaust can be considered a form of propaganda of racial hatred and thus be punished with a jail sentence.
Hopefully this new law -- if approved by the Italian Parliament -- will not be so broadly interpreted as to include Holocaust denial. The charge that Holocaust denial is inherently anti-Semitic is of course absurd but is nonetheless very commonly made.
The article adds,
The decree must now be approved by the Italian parliament before it becomes law.
The attempt to specifically criminalize Holocaust denial in Italy is also discussed here.
With Germany pushing for a Europe-wide ban of Holocaust denial and with Holocaust denial already criminalized in 10 of the 27 countries of the European Union, it is nice to see big European countries like Italy and Britain resisting jumping on the bandwagon of criminalization of Holocaust denial.
Ironically, criminalizing Holocaust denial, by implying that there is something to hide, backfires by giving credibility to Holocaust denial. An opinion piece says of bans on Holocaust denial,
Nor will today's anti-semitism be countered most effectively by such bans; they may, at the margins, even stoke it up, feeding conspiracy theories about Jewish power and accusations of double-standards. Citizens of the Baltic states, who suffered so terribly under Stalin, will ask why only denial of the Holocaust should be criminalised and not denial of the gulag. Armenians will add: and why not the genocide that our ancestors experienced at the hands of the Turks? And Muslims: why not cartoons of Muhammad?
Also, the proposed Italian law's ban on "publicising theories of racial superiority" is problematic. For example, under this ban, scientist William Shockley could have been jailed and the book "The Bell Curve" could be banned.
The USA has hate-crime laws too, but they mainly apply to acts of violence and incitement to violence.
Labels: Holocaust revisionism (1 of 2)