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EU set to criminalize racial hatred

European governments are on the brink of agreeing a deal on EU-wide laws to criminalize racial hatred.

Proposals on the table after six years of fraught negotiations call for jail terms of up to three years for 'intentional conduct' inciting violence or hatred against a person's 'race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.' The same would apply to 'publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes... when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group.' The proposals do not single out Holocaust denial, despite pressure from Germany, where it is already a crime. And UK government officials insist the EU provisions would mean no changes because domestic law, including the 2006 Religious and Racial Hatred Act, is already tougher.

Key to the latest EU plans is the test of incitement - avoiding criminalizing 'academic' debate about the Holocaust or genocide unless the intentional result is to stir up hatred. Subject to appeasing the Poles and Baltic states, pressing for a specific inclusion of 'Stalinist' crimes in the document, a deal should be agreed at talks between EU justice ministers in Luxembourg. If approved, the new rules will introduce mandatory jail terms in 27 countries for intentional public incitement including for 'public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material' deemed to incite racial hatred. But officials insist the wording has been painstakingly designed to avoid criminalizing films or plays about the Holocaust - and Turkey would not find itself in the dock because of the government's official position denying that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman troops nearly 100 years ago was 'genocide'. A senior EU source said: „These plans leave flexibility for national authorities to be tougher, and they avoid a blanket offence of "denial": the test will be an intention to incite hatred by abusive or insulting behavior.” (