French MP Valerie Boyer: We will not yield to threats by the turks
French MP Valerie Boyer: We will not yield to threats by the turks –
An exclusive interview of the member of the National Assembly of France Valerie Boyer to Armenian News-NEWS.am
Madame Boyer, will you visit Armenia on April 24 to attend the events on the occasion of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide?
I have visited Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh several times on the occasion of April 24 events. This year, despite the requests to attend events in Yerevan, I decided to stay in Marseille. Senator of Marseille Jean Claude Gaudin devoted 2015 to Armenia. In this context the city will host numerous cultural events referring to Armenia and Armenians. On April 24 the municipality of Marseille and the municipalities of all districts will turn into the colors of Armenia. So, I chose to stay with the French of Armenian descent to show them my support and commitment.
Besides, together with Blue Cross of the Armenia’s of France (ARS France), I organized tree planting. 100 trees will be planted near the April 24 monument, not to mention conferences and exhibitions . We will honor the Armenian culture and our duty.
France has recognized the Armenian Genocide. What should be the next step?
I think that acknowledgment is the first step, but today I expect France to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide after adoption of my bill by the National Assembly and the Senate in 2012 which was a step forward in terms of a law on criminalization. The genocide of 1915 is the second genocide that was recognized by France after Holocaust. The text was adopted in 2001 and was confirmed without raising the question of constitutionality, but did not envisage punishment for denial.
The 2001 law must be supplemented by acknowledgment of the punishment mechanisms. I worked on a new bill that is no longer referring to free expression. This will be an important move forward and will ban tarnishing the memories of thousands of men, women and children who died just because their only crime was being Armenian Christians.
Last year you introduced a bill banning denial of the genocides and crimes against humanity that were committed in the twentieth century. The law has not been adopted yet. Do you think the French parliament will pass the bill this year – on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide?
Back in 2011 I introduced a bill, based on the right of the community to fight against racism and denial of genocides that were recognized by the French law, including the Armenian Genocide. The bill was passed by all groups of the National Assembly and the Senate on January 23, 2012. Unfortunately, the Constitutional Council overturned it on the grounds that the denial is part of freedom of expression, thus putting an end to this attempt to criminalize denial.
Nevertheless, the possibility of criminalizing denial of all genocides and crimes against humanity echoes the topical problem in the context of persecutions similar to genocides, those targeted at Christians of the Middle East, Yezidis, in particular in Iraq. They were described by Ban Ki-moon as a crime against humanity.
There is obvious need to pass the law in order to offer new characteristics to denial. Therefore, I am working hard to work out an alternative and new version that was a fruit of my work with the leading lawyers, experts on criminal law – Bernard Jouanneau and Sevag Torossian. This is why I suggest that the denial was no longer considered a simple abuse of the freedom of expression, but a crime against humanity.
This offers two advantages: to get out of the legal impasse created by the Constitutional Council in connection with the freedom of expression, and to protect the memory of the victims of all genocides recognized by our legislation.
So, I offer my fellow MPs to sign the legislative mechanism, an apolitical bill that is pursuing the public interest, which is free from party considerations. This text aims to be universal, because it protects all the genocides recognized by French law, and expresses its respect for human rights. This project relates to human dignity. Since October 2014, the law has been available on the website of the National Assembly, and I hope that it will be reviewed in the near future, as this is not only close to my heart, but is especially important for our commitment and our rights.
Hearing into Perincek vs. Switzerland case has been recently held in the European Court of Human Rights. Perincek accused Switzerland of violating his right for freedom of expression. Where do you think is the limit when the priority is not to allow repetition of awful crimes of the past at the same time not violating freedom of speech?
This is not about permitting or banning everything. Freedom of expression, as well as its limitations, must be protected. The law also establishes a framework. Freedom cannot exist without the rule of law, and the government should take responsibility, if necessary, allowing the popular representation to establish the scope and limits of freedom of expression. This freedom is relative, not absolute, and should respect the beliefs and memory of the victims.
The problem is that now the choice of a suitable expression is based on the impact of the media. Alas, in this demagogic approach, the judge is not completely innocent. Thus, the judges in Strasbourg concluded that the denial of the Armenian Genocide had no consequences, and this means that you can allow hurting the victims and their descendants. Again, neither the government, nor even Francois Hollande, who committed himself to introducing punishment for challenging this genocide, did nothing. Not a word!
The question is: who makes the decision regarding the public expression of opinion or what is acceptable to say and what is not? Does a politician have a direct interest? The current government is a consumer of communications not having any problems with showing its inconsistency, until tweets reach an alarm threshold or the reaction of the population will not limit them.
This is an expectant management, which sorely lacks personality and beliefs, but reflects the state of confusion, where modern France has plunged.
What do you think about Turkish authorities’ initiative to mark the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli events on April 24?
I think I should not express my opinion on Turkish government’s decision to mark or not to mark anything. I do not approve interference. Nevertheless, one must be blind not to see that the state lie hundred years after the events impels the government to continue denial of the crimes up to coming up with a memorial event to disguise the centennial ceremonies. As far as I know, the date of the battle is April 25.
This is a pathetic initiative. However, instead of commenting on what is happening in Turkey, let’s find a voice in France to fulfill our duty to ensure continuation of the 2001 law in order to criminalize denial. Help me so that the bill presented in April 2014 could be considered and adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate in 2015.
We will not yield to threats by the Turks or to any delays because of political and legal reasons in France.