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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 13:36 GMT
Push for EU Holocaust denial ban
British historian David Irving
Irving's imprisonment for Holocaust denial sparked heated debate
Germany hopes to make Holocaust denial a crime across the EU as part of a package of laws it wants to introduce during its presidency of the bloc.

Berlin is also set to outline plans to ban Nazi symbols like the swastika, which, like denying the massacre of the Jews, is already outlawed in Germany.

Such moves may be seen as curtailing freedom of speech and could prove controversial in several member states.

But the German justice minister says she is confident of winning support.

If it goes ahead, it will be the second time in two years that an attempt has been made to ban the display of Nazi symbols within the EU.

The last bid failed in 2005 after objections from several governments, including the British.

An attempt to criminalise denying the massacre of Jews during WWII meanwhile was blocked by Italy, citing freedom of speech.

But the Italian Government has since changed, and is now seen as more sympathetic to Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries' proposals.

Caveats

However last year's trial of the British historian David Irving, who was imprisoned for Holocaust denial in Austria, sparked a heated debate in Europe and illustrated just how controversial such a move might be.

EU STATES WITH LAWS AGAINST HOLOCAUST DENIAL
Austria
Belgium
Czech Republic
France
Germany
Lithuania
Poland
Romania
Slovakia

Even his opponents said they were deeply uncomfortable with the idea of imprisoning someone for their opinions, however objectionable they were.

The details of the proposal have yet to emerge, but it is thought likely that member states would have the right to set their own rules determining if and how a Holocaust denier should be punished.

Under any new law, prosecutors might also have to prove that a Nazi symbol was being used with the intention of whipping up racism.

Old symbol

The swastika, while used by the Nazis as an insignia, was not created by them, and a number of groups still use it.

It has featured in traditional Latvian knitwear for centuries, variously known as the Thunder Cross or Fire Cross, and remains a time-honoured good luck symbol for Hindus.

Similarly some MPs from former communist states object to a ban on the swastika without a commensurate ban on the symbols of the Soviet era, such as the hammer and sickle.

While Germany is only country in Europe which has banned the use of Nazi insignia, France, for example, bars the sale of Nazi-related memorabilia.




SEE ALSO
EU rejects Communist symbol ban
08 Feb 05 |  Europe
Origins of the swastika
18 Jan 05 |  Magazine

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