EU agrees it should be a crime to deny the Holocaust
But draft rapped as watered down

By Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune | April 20, 2007

BRUSSELS — The European Union approved legislation yesterday that would make denying the Holocaust punishable by jail sentences, but would give countries across the 27-member bloc the option of not enforcing the law if such a prohibition did not exist in their own laws.

The draft law, which EU diplomats called a minimalist compromise, gained approval after six years of emotional negotiations, during which countries with vastly different legal cultures struggled to reconcile the protection of freedom of speech with protection of their citizens from racism and hate crimes.

The legislation calls for jail terms of as much as three years for “intentional conduct” that incites violence or hatred against a person’s “race, color, religion, descent, or national or ethnic origin.” The same punishment would apply to those who incite violence by “denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”

EU officials said that the law was notable for what it omitted.

Fearing that the legislation could be hijacked by groups trying to right historical wrongs, a majority of EU countries rejected a demand by the formerly communist Baltic countries that the law criminalize the denial of atrocities committed by Stalin during Soviet times. As a political gesture, however, Franco Frattini, the EU’s justice commissioner, said the EU would organize public hearings on the “horrible crimes” of the Stalin era in the coming months.