Italy's government makes racial hatred a crimewww.ejpress.org/article/13393
EJP Updated: 26/Jan/2007 17:17
ROME (EJP)--- After lengthy negotiations, Italy’s centre-left coalition government has approved Thursday a bill making racial hatred a crime and stiffening prison sentences for those found guilty of inciting racial hatred. But it makes no reference to Holocaust denial
The decree, submitted by Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, received unanimous approval by the Romano Prodi’s government.
The decree, which was originally meant to bring Italy in line with European countries such as Austria, Germany, Spain, Belgium or France, makes no reference in its final draft to denial of the extermination of six million Jews during World War II.
Justice minister Clemente Mastella had initially proposed a law specifically targeting Holocaust denial but top coalition partners including education minister Fabio Mussi and culture minister Francesco Rutelli rejected the plan, saying education in schools was the solution rather than turning denial of the Shoah into a crime.
It instead reinstates a 1993 decree - scrapped in 2006 by the previous conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi - which punishes with up to three years in jail "anyone publicising theories of racial superiority" and with up to four years in prison "anyone committing or inciting to commit discriminatory acts for racial, ethnic, national, religious, sexual or gender motives."
Officials at the justice ministry said Thursday that magistrates will be key in interpreting the new law and establish whether denying the Holocaust can be considered a form of propaganda of racial hatred and thus be punished with a jail sentence.
Italy will celebrate Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday.
The decree must now be approved by the Italian parliament before it becomes law.
Italian Jewish leaders welcomed the decision and expressed hope that other European countries would do the same.
Germany, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, is pushing to make denying the Holocaust a EU-wide crime in all member states.
Holocaust Memorial Day will be celebrated in Italy on Saturday.