By Martin Banks - 17th April 2007
Controversial plans to make denying or trivialising the Holocaust a criminal offence are expected to be endorsed by EU member states on Thursday.
Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in several European countries, including Germany and Austria, but the draft law would extend this to the rest of the EU.
The proposed legislation makes a contentious distinction between inciting violence against racial or ethnic groups and against religious groups.
It will make it mandatory for all EU member states to punish public incitement to “violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour or religion.
Diplomats stress the provision had been carefully worded to tackle only the denial of the Holocaust – the Nazi extermination of Jews during WW2 – and the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
They say the wording was designed to avoid criminalising plays or films about the Holocaust, such as the musical The Producers.
In an attempt to assuage Turkish fears, diplomats say the provisions would not penalise the denial of mass killing of Armenians in the aftermath of the 1915 collapse of the Ottoman empire.
EPP-ED leader Joseph Daul said he welcomes the initiative .
"At the same time I understand the reserves of some member states who want similar treatment for people who deny the evils of communist dictatorships."
UK Socialist MEP Claude Moraes, a former head of the influential Commission for Racial Equality in the UK, said hopes the proposal will be adopted when EU justice ministers discuss it on Thursday.
“I fully back this plan. It is extremely welcome and the centrepiece of a framework decision on race. It should be widely supported by anyone who wants to crackdown on anti-Semitism.”