Saturday, 10 November 2007

Madrid abolishes thought crime law.

El Mundo, Madrid, 08.11.2007, p. 3 (translated from Spanish)

Spain withdraws from Germany’s Holocaust Alliance.

"Freedom of Expression cannot be denied even to the Nazis".

The first sentence given in Spain for the crime of genocide apology will also be the last. Moreover, it will be revoked. The Constitutional Tribunal decided yesterday to decriminalise a presumption that was included in the reform of the Penal Code of 1996. Article 607.2 anticipates punishments of up to two years in jail for whoever, "by any means" diffuses "ideas or doctrines that deny or justify" the Holocaust.

With that legislation, a Barcelona court [Juzgado Penal Nº 3, Judge Santiago Vidal] sentenced a librarian [Pedro Varela] in this city in 1998 who distributed and commercialised pro Nazi books and videos. Against the prosecution’s criteria, the Catalonian Court of Apeal [Audiencia Provincial, three judges] posed the question of unconstitutionality, when considering that the referenced article limits a fundamental right, the right to freedom of expression, since it punishes the diffusion of ideas "without demanding any other element, such as affronts, or inciting to attack groups."

We are, undoubtedly, before a correct decision of the Constitutional Court that reinforces our system of guarantees. Because, no matter how odious the ideas that justify genocide may appear to us, a free society cannot deny their right of freedom of expression, unless it includes inciting to violence. The opposite would be to reinstate the crime of opinion.

We expressed ourselves in that respect on the occasion of the closing of Egin, the pro Eta newspaper. Without talking of the dangers of establishing limits to the freedom of expression: others will always be able to use the precedent. It is yet very much alive, for example, the case of the Mohammed vignettes, that the Islamic collectives have not hesitated in trying to censor. Where are the limits established? It will always be preferable to voice the most polemic opinions rather than exercise censorship. Even more so when society has lots of means within its reach to refute them by confronting them with reality.

Full article with commentary.

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