Sarah speaking about freedom of speech with regard to genocide and war crimes

April 21, 2008 12:30 PM
By Sarah Ludford (on behalf of the ALDE group) in European Parliament

Mr President, I believe that all the wrongs committed by totalitarian regimes - whether fascist, communist or Stalinist - must be thoroughly exposed. But I am not in favor of criminalizing in themselves the denial or condoning of such crimes, whether the Holocaust, the Shoah, genocide war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by any totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, any more than I am in favor of the criminalizing of the so-called public provocation or apology for - or glorification of - terrorism. In all these cases, I believe that freedom of speech should be paramount, and that criminal law should only be brought in when there is clear incitement to hatred, to violence or to terrorism. Any freedom of expression is essential to establishing the truth.

One theme of the hearing was redress for injustice, and it is not possible to have justice without truth. The greatest illustration of this was in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. And I believe that one of the proudest achievements of the European Union and its Member States in the last decade was the establishment of the International Criminal Court. But there are still many people walking the planet who are walking with impunity, and I believe that we are not doing enough in Europe to bring them to justice. I do not know what happened to the spirit that led the EU to support the International Criminal Court, when it came to being honest about collusion in torture flights and secret prisons. We have had no satisfactory response from the Member States to our report of a year ago about such collusion.

We learn in the United States that torture at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere was mandated at the highest level of the Bush Administration. This has led to a tragic loss of moral authority and reputation for the United States. Yes, we must bring truth to these crimes - but do not criminalize what needs to be thoroughly discussed.