Wednesday 3 August 2011

New General Comment on Freedom of Expression Deals with Denial Laws

The long-awaited General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee on freedom of expression was adopted at its recent session. It replaces the very laconic General Comment 10, which was adopted back in 1983, and consisted of four paragraphs.
There is much of interest in the new Comment, reported drafted by the Irish member, Michael O'Flaherty. there is a short explanation of it by Michael on YouTube.
It deals rather briefly with legislation that has been adopted in many countries dealing with denial of historical events like the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. Paragraph 49 of the General Comments says: 'Laws that penalise the expression of opinions about historical facts (fn 166) are incompatible with the obligations that the Covenant imposes on States parties in relation to the respect for freedom of opinion and expression.' Footnote 116 says 'So called “memory-laws”, see Faurisson v. France, No. 550/93.'.
Faurisson v. France is the case examined by the Committee in 1996 in which it upheld the conviction of a French pseudo-historian who was convicted of an offence of denying the Holocaust.
Does this mean the views of the Committee have shifted, and that the opinion it earlier expressed that seemed to accept the validity of such legislation has been reversed?
The General Comment also considers blasphemy legislation. At paragraph 48, it says: 'Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.' Article 20(2) of the Covenant states: 'Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.' This means that one can show disrespect for a religion or other belief system' as long as it does not constitute incitement to discrimination or hostility. It looks like a hard line to draw in practice.


N N said...

Hello, I see you use the expression "pseudo-historian" to describe Prof. Faurisson, against whom the French anti-revisionist law (1990) was drafted (odd that a parliament should take the trouble to make a law against a quack, don't you think?).

To familiarise yourself with the themes on which the Professor has written rather than remaining content with what you may have heard about him, I suggest you consult the text at

, banned in France.


N N said...

Allow me to add that the late Raoul Hilberg, premier orthodox historian of "the Holocaust", can hardly have considered Prof. Faurisson a pseudo-historian since he went on record stating:

“In a certain way, Faurisson and others, without wanting to, did us a favour. They raised questions which had the effect of engaging historians in new research. They have obliged us to once again collect information, to re-examine documents and to go deeper into the understanding of what took place” (interview in the French weekly "Nouvel Observateur", July 3-9 1982, p. 71 A).

Also, if today such vital information as the building plans of the Auschwitz and Birkenau crematoria are known to the public, it is thanks to Faurisson's on-site research and investigation, the work of neither a pseudo-historian nor a paper historian (i.e. one who works only at a desk). On this subject please see