ECHR rules Holocaust denial not protected by freedom of expression

Denying that the Holocaust ever happened is not a form of freedom of expression protected under the European Human Rights Convention, a top court has ruled in a case that stretches back nearly a decade.

Udo Pastoers, a German who suggested in a 2010 speech that the Holocaust never occurred, was fairly convicted under the country’s laws against the intentional defamation of Jewish people, the European Court of Human Rights ruled while rejecting his complaints.

Pastoers’ argument that his statements were protected by Article 10, which protects freedom of expression, was “manifestly ill-founded,” given that he “had intentionally stated untruths in order to defame the Jews and the persecution that they had suffered,” the Strasbourg, France-based court ruled. His complaint that he was denied a fair trial in Germany was also rejected by the ECHR.

Pastoers had given a speech a day after Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010, saying that the “the so-called Holocaust is being used for political and commercial purposes” and also referring to a “barrage of criticism and propagandistic lies” and “Auschwitz projections.” He was first convicted in 2012 by a German district court, and then a regional court rejected his appeal of the verdict less than a year later.

The ECHR noted in its ruling that the German court had been thorough in its examination of Pastoer’s comments and had not taken his remarks out of context. The tribunal said the German had deliberately obscured some of his remarks to try to get his message across more subtly.

“The impugned part had been inserted into the speech like ‘poison into a glass of water, hoping that it would not be detected immediately,’” the court said.

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