Application Number 64496/17

European Court of Human Rights

[Judgment delivered in French]

The applicant was found guilty of disputing the existence of the Holocaust in his book ‘The Founding Myths of Modern Israel.’ He received suspended sentences of imprisonment, the longest being for six months and fines in excess of 25,900 Euros and compensation of more than 33,500 Euro for the civil parties. The ECtHR relied on Article 17 to exclude this application from consideration.


Theme(s): Genocide Denial (Holocaust)

Date: 7 July 2003

Description of applicant(s): Author, former politician, philosopher

Brief description of facts: The applicant is the author of a book entitled The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, which was distributed through non-commercial outlets in 1995 and subsequently republished at the applicant’s own expense in 1996. Several criminal complaints were lodged which concerned various passages from both editions of the book.  As a result, five judicial investigations were started into the applicant’s conduct. The applicant was found guilty of disputing the existence of crimes against humanity, public defamation of a group of people – namely the Jewish community – and incitement to discrimination and racial hatred. He received suspended sentences of imprisonment, the longest being for six months, and fines. The prison sentences were to be served concurrently. The fines came up to 25,900 Euro and compensation of more than EUR 33,500 was awarded to the civil parties.

(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Jews

The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The Court held that the book adopted revisionist theories and disputed the existence of the crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews. The Court held that disputing the existence of clearly established historical events such as the Holocaust did not constitute historical research but was rather an effort to rehabilitate the Nazi regime and accuse Holocaust victims of falsifying history. Denying their existence was one of the most severe forms of racial defamation and of incitement to hatred of Jews. The denial or rewriting of this type of historical fact undermined the values on which the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. It was incompatible with democracy and human rights and fell into the framework of Article 17.

Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:

Para.1: The negation or revision of historical facts of this type calls into question the values ​​which underlie the fight against racism and anti-Semitism and are likely to seriously disturb public order. Such acts affect the rights of others and are incompatible with democracy and human rights, and their perpetrators undoubtedly pursue objectives which are prohibited by Article 17. The Court considers that the greater part of the content and the general tone of the applicant’s work, and therefore its purpose, have a marked denialist character and therefore goes against the fundamental values ​​of the Convention, as expressed in its preamble, namely justice and peace.

ECHR Article: Article 17

Decision: Incompatible ratione materiae with the Convention

Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? No

Note! The translation from French to English is our own.