FRENCH PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy has called on his cabinet to draft new legislation to punish those who deny that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman troops during the First World War is genocide.
The killings remain hugely contentious in Turkey today, and the government continues to deny that the deaths and forced displacement of around 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 was an act of genocide.
France’s stance on the WWI killings has seriously strained relations between it and Turkey.
A previous bill on the issue had been passed by France’s upper and lower houses but was struck down yesterday by the French Constitutional Court which ruled the legislation unconstitutional. The court ruled that the law violated freedom of speech and expression – which are protected in the French constitution.
The president of the Council of Coordination of Armenian Organisations in France Frank Mourad Papazian accused the court of acting on political grounds when making its ruling.
Meanwhile, Turkey welcomed the court’s decision. Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement that it was “pleasing that a grave mistake has been corrected by France’s highest legal body”.
In a statement posted on his official site, President Sarkozy said the court ruling brought immense disappointment and deep sadness to those who had backed the law. He instructed the government to prepare a new bill on the issue, while taking the court judgment into account.
Sarkozy said that the legislation was designed to protect against a denial which was an insult to the victims and their descendants.
- Additional reporting by the AP