An MP for the Social Democrats submitted a bill to Parliament last Tuesday that proposes an addition to the Icelandic Penal Code: making Holocaust denialism a punishable offense.
The bill has the support of all the Social Democrat MPs, as well as Reform Party MP Þorbjörg Sigríður Gunnlaugsdóttir and independent MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson. This legislation aims to add one sentence to Article 233 of the Penal Code:
“Whoever publicly denies, or cruelly diminishes, or tries to justify or approve the genocide committed by the German Nazi party in the Second World War will be subject to fines or jail time of up to two years.”
This possible addition would not be too far diverged from existing Icelandic law. Article 233 also includes Iceland’s hate speech laws, which expressly prohibits public speech that demeans and degrades people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.
The language of the bill directly addresses freedom of speech concerns as well. While pointing out that Article 73 of the Icelandic constitution guarantees freedom of expression, that same article also specifies that limits to speech and expression can be made if encoded in the Penal Code to protect the reputation and well-being of others, such as in cases of libel and slander.
As the bill points out, the purpose of criminalising Holocaust denialism includes those protections, as it hopes to not only protect people belonging to groups who were targeted by the Holocaust from libel and slander that they were not actually violently persecuted, but also to limit the spread of speech that incites violence against such groups. The bill cites the 2019 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which noted the increase of anti-Semitic threats and violence across the continent.
“It is necessary to stand guard against this tragedy that occurred in the Second World War and prevent it from being dismissed, diminished, distored or lied about, so that such an event never happens again,” the bill states in part.
The bill has yet, at the time of this writing, to be brought to committee but has been introduced to Parliament.
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