Deputies in France have voted in favour of a bill that would make it illegal to deny that a genocide against Armenians took place in Turkey. The vote was 106 for and 19 against. However, observers are quick to point out that only a quarter of deputies were actually present in the house to vote.
If the law comes into effect, those who deny the killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1919 amounted to genocide would risk up to a year in prison and fines of up to 45,000 euros. However, the bill would still need to be ratified by parliament’s upper house, the Senate, and President Jacques Chirac.
Ruling UMP deputy, Patrick Devedjian, who has Armenian roots, said: “France is the country of human rights that welcomed people in pain and distress. France protected our memories, identity, and this law opposes the aggression we are suffering with the organisation in France of the revisionist ideas of the Turkish authorities”.
Turkey maintains Armenians were killed in civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and it cannot be described as genocide. “I do no t think the parliament is doing itself any favours by voting on laws, and going after the electorate for essentially political reasons,” said another UMP deputy, Pierre Mehaignerie: “I think historians have explained enough about what the role of parliament should be and what it shouldn’t be.” While the French government did not support the draft legislation, the ruling Union for a Popular Movement gave its deputies a free hand in the ballot. In the end, however, most of them decided to stay away from the vote.