November 24, 2022
Holocaust denial has long been illegal in Germany. A new amendment aims to criminalize denial of other war crimes and genocides wherever they happen and would apply to denying atrocities committed in Ukraine.
Alleged war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine. Genocide of the Yazidi. Human rights violations against Uyghurs in China. The list of atrocities in conflicts around the world is long. Yet time and again, some people downplay or deny these crimes ever happened. Lawmakers in Germany no longer want to tolerate this state of affairs and want to make such statements punishable by law if they are used to stir up hatred or disturb the public peace.
The lower chamber of German parliament, the Bundestag, voted for an amendment at the end of October, and on Friday, it is set to pass in the Bundesrat, the upper chamber which represents the state governments. The approval, denial, and “gross trivialization” of war crimes and instances of genocide will now fall under the criminal offense of “incitement of the people” in a newly created Paragraph 5 of Section 130.
…An EU directive to combat racism was made in 2008, and the German government was forced to react now because of the threat of EU infringement proceedings.
For Josephine Ballon, chief lawyer for the organization HateAid, which supports victims of online hate, the change comes at the right moment.
“I’m excited to see how the amendment will play out,” Ballon tells DW. “And I definitely see a practical scope for it. Right now, in the context of the Ukraine war, we see some things that could fall under it. I would say the amendment comes at a time when it can be quite relevant.”
“[I]f you have a meeting, for example, where there’s agitation against Ukrainians, or talk of the ‘fascist regime’ in Kyiv and such things…or there’s a trivialization of what happened in Bucha, then we could well end up in situations where the new paragraph could apply,” Epik adds.
…the amendment was passed in the Bundestag without notice, late in the evening, and without prior debate….
…The reference to ongoing conflicts. The German amendment explicitly allows the denial of war crimes in current conflicts to be punishable – even though the EU left open the option of limiting the offense only to past war crimes that have been investigated and proven in court.
This could have made sense because the truth is rarely clear during a war, and allegations made during a war have often turned out to be untrue. [Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Syria….]
…the Justice Ministry said that it had “good reasons” not to limit itself to past war crimes….