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The Fate of the Prohibition Against Genocide Denial, by Paolo Lobba

The Penalisation of the Denial of the Armenian ‘Genocide’ Questioned by the Recent Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Perinçek c. Suisse.

On 17 December 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter ECtHR or ‘the Court’) rendered its judgment in the case of Perınçek v. Switzerland,   in which it held that a criminal conviction for denial of the Armenian genocide violates the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR or ‘the Convention’).

Great significance should be attached to this ruling, which represents a turning point in the ECtHR approach to the broader phenomenon of ‘denialism’ – a term employed here to include a wide array of conduct consisting in the denial, justification, approval or gross minimisation of a number of serious international crimes. Departing from its previous jurisprudence, the Court examined the Perınçek case pursuant to Article 10 ECHR, that is, the ordinary test applied to evaluate State restrictions on free speech. Hence, the application was decided through a balancing exercise involving all interests at stake, in light of the circumstances of the case.

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