Belgian Holocaust denial law

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The Belgian Holocaust denial law, passed on March 23, 1995, bans public Holocaust denial. Specifically, the law makes it illegal to publicly "deny, play down, justify or approve of the genocide committed by the German National Socialist regime during the Second World War". Prosecution is led by the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities. The offense is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and fines of up to 2,500 EUR.[1][2]

Legislative history

The Holocaust denial bill, drafted by Claude Eerdekens and Yvan Mayeur of the Parti Socialiste, was introduced in the Chamber of Representatives by Eerdekens (PS), Marcel Cheron (Ecolo), Marcel Colla (SP), Yvan Mayeur (PS), Luc Dhoore (CVP), Raymond Langendries (CDH), Louis Michel (MR) and Mieke Vogels (Agalev) on June 30, 1992.[3]

The bill passed the Chamber of Representatives on February 2, 1995, with 194 votes in favour, 0 against and 0 abstentions.[4]

The bill passed the Senate on March 14, 1995.

The Vlaams Blok, the predecessor of the Vlaams Belang, voted for the law, "out of a desire for respectability and to break out of its political isolation", even though its leadership "contained Holocaust deniers".[5]

King Albert II signed and promulgated the bill on March 23, 1995. The Act was published in the Belgian Official Journal on March 30, 1995 and entered into force on the same day.

Freedom of expression

In the past, adversaries of the law have argued that this law restricts the freedom of expression, which is a basic human right. In a decision of 24 June 2003, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) stated that "denying or minimising the Holocaust must be seen as one of the acutest forms of racial slandering and incentives to hatred towards the Jews. The negation or the revision of historical facts of this type call into question the values which found the fight against racism and anti-semitism and is likely to seriously disturb law and order. Attacks against the rights of others of this kind are incompatible with democracy and human rights and their authors incontestably have aims that are prohibited by article 17 of the Convention." The court concludes that in application of article 17 of the ECHR, the plaintiff can't appeal to the protection of article 10 ECHR, insofar that he wants to use the freedom of expression to dispute crimes against humanity.[6]


On 14 April 2005, the Antwerp Court of Appeal convicted Siegfried Verbeke to 1 year imprisonment and a fine of 2,500 EUR, based on this law. The court also suspended his civic rights for a period of 10 years. The Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Belgian Auschwitz Foundation each received symbolic damages of 1 EUR.[7]

Possible expansions

In June 2005, a reform of the law was debated in the Belgian Senate in order to extend its scope to the negation of other genocides, e.g. the Armenian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide. Due to political and public controversy about the legal qualification of the Armenian genocide, the reform was postponed.[8] Negation of the Armenian genocide has been systematically used as an electoral campaigning tool by Turkish candidates (from all parties) and organisations during Belgian elections since 1999, making it electorally difficult for some parties to take a clear stance on making it illegal.[9]

See also

Further reading


  1. Act of 23 March, 1995 on punishing the denial, minimisation justification or approval of the genocide perpetrated by the German National Socialist Regime during the Second World War (informal translation)
    (French) Loi tendant à réprimer la négation, la minimisation, la justification ou l'approbation du génocide commis par le régime national-socialiste allemand pendant la seconde guerre mondiale (official French text)
    (Dutch) Wet tot bestraffing van het ontkennen, minimaliseren, rechtvaardigen of goedkeuren van de genocide die tijdens de tweede wereldoorlog door het Duitse nationaal-socialistische regime is gepleegd (official Dutch text)
  2. The text of the law sets the maximum fine at 5,000 francs. This is 125 euros. This amount is by law multiplied by 200. The real fine therefore is 2,500 EUR.
  3. Legislative record of the Holocaust denial bill in Dutch and in French, by the Belgian Chamber of Representatives. Retrieved on July 4, 2007.
  4. "Minutes of the Plenary Session of Thursday February 2, 1995 of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives" (PDF). The Belgian Chamber of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-07-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. World Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League, Anti-semitism worldwide 1999-2000, Tel Aviv University Press: p66.
  6. ECtHR, no. 65831/01, 24 June 2003, R. Garaudy vs. France, unpublished, cited in (Dutch)Dirk Voorhoof, Antwerpse negationisten van “Vrij Historisch Onderzoek” veroordeeld ("Antwerp negationists of "Free Historical Research" convicted"), Ghent University, October 2003.
  7. (Dutch) Veroordeling voor ontkenning van holocaust ("Conviction for holocaust denial"), L.B.R., 4 May 2005, accessed on 4 September 2006.
  8. (French) Débats sur le négationnisme du génocide arménien - Belgique 2003-2005
  9. (French) 29 mai 2004: des candidats et des élus du PS, du MR, du CDH et d'Ecolo dans une manifestation négationniste à Bruxelles