Elfadil Ibrahim: How Genocide Denial Legislation Confuses Law and History

Roundup: Talking About History

Elfadil Ibrahim is from Sudan, a recent graduate of the University of Aberdeen with an LLM in oil and gas law.

The 20th century was a century of immense progress largely attributed to the brutality that had preceded it. The lesson of this century was to curb the power of propaganda; Europe witnessed firsthand the kind of destruction it tends to create. Many had acquiesced to Hitler’s "Final Solution", not only in Nazi Germany, but throughout the continent. With this in mind, France’s recent legislative initiative to criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide may be misguided, but not without its merits.

The Holocaust was not unprecedented, as war crimes carried out in the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian community indicate, but it was exceptional for its inhumanity. Myth and conspiracy theories played a large role in the technological dissemination of literature espousing ideas that would set the scene for what was to come. Books such as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were widely read and circulated by some of the most prominent members of society. Henry Ford, for example, not only helped print tens of thousands of copies but also wrote his own article titled "The International Jew: The World's Fundamental Problem." Through this process, myth became "real" to many and finding a "Final Solution" met with little resistance as anti-Semitism was allowed to become socially acceptable.

Laws criminalising denial, however, only appeared in the 1980s as the revisionist stage had been reached. Initially, it was accepted that the Holocaust was exceptional in its cruelty; the use of concentration camps and assembly-line killing were without precedent. Investigation into the wider history, however, revealed the use of similar techniques inArmenia prior to the Holocaust, as did later events in Rwanda, Screbrenica, and Cambodia....

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