ECtHR: Holocaust denial is not a human right
Denial of the holocaust is not a human right, the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously ruled.
A neo-Nazi politician, Udo Pastörs, who had been convicted in his native Germany after denying the Holocaust in a speech, made a complaint under article 10: freedom of expression.
The court found that the applicant had intentionally lied to defame Jews. Such statements could not attract the protection for freedom of speech offered by the Convention as they ran counter to the values of the Convention itself.
There was therefore no appearance of a violation of the applicant’s rights and the complaint was inadmissible. The court also examined a complaint by the applicant of judicial bias as one of the Court of Appeal judges who had dealt with his case was the husband of the first-instance judge.
It found no violation of his right to a fair trial because an independent Court of Appeal panel with no links to either judge had ultimately decided on the bias claim and had rejected it.
Mr Pastörs, is a German national who was born in 1952 and lives in Lübtheen (Germany). On 28 January 2010, the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day, Mr Pastörs, then a member of the Land Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, made a speech stating that “the so-called Holocaust is being used for political and commercial purposes”.
He also referred to a “barrage of criticism and propagandistic lies” and “Auschwitz projections”. In August 2012 he was convicted by a district court, formed of Judge Y and two lay judges, of violating the memory of the dead and of the intentional defamation of the Jewish people.
In March 2013 the regional court dismissed his appeal against the conviction as ill-founded. After reviewing the speech in full, the court found that Mr Pastörs had used terms which amounted to denying the systematic, racially motivated, mass extermination of the Jews carried out at Auschwitz during the Third Reich. The court stated he could not rely on his free speech rights in respect of Holocaust denial. Furthermore, he was no longer entitled to inviolability from prosecution as the Parliament had revoked it in February 2012.
He appealed to the ECtHR after his domestic appeals failed.
Summing up, the court held that Mr Pastörs had intentionally stated untruths in order to defame the Jews and the persecution that they had suffered. The interference with his rights also had to be examined in the context of the special moral responsibility of States which had experienced Nazi horrors to distance themselves from the mass atrocities. The response by the courts, the conviction, had therefore been proportionate to the aim pursued and had been “necessary in a democratic society”. The court found there was no appearance of a violation of Article 10 and rejected the complaint as manifestly ill-founded.