Last week, the Italian Senate approved a bill harshening penalties for Holocaust denial with 234 votes in favor, three against and eight abstaining.
Under the new law, people who are found guilty will face a three-year sentence for promoting, inciting or committing acts of racial discrimination related in part or entirely to the denial of the Holocaust. The denial of crimes against humanity and war crimes is also covered in the bill, which now has to be approved by Italy’s lower house before it becomes law.
The bill is the result of years of political and public discussion and in its last version was approved by almost all the members of the Senate.
Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities has expressed his satisfaction. The institution that represents Italian Jewish Communities worked side by side with members of Parliament. The Jewish Community of Rome also supported the bill which punishes Holocaust denial. What happened on Wednesday represents “an important page in the history of our country,” said president Gattegna.
“This is an initiative to fight one of the most subtle forms of racial defamation, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and hate speech,” the senator of the Democratic Party, Silvana Amati, first signatory of the bill, defined it by adding that, “Holocaust denial is an unacceptable abuse of rights, which cannot be protected by the right to freedom of expression or research as determined by the same European Court of Human Rights,” she added.
The senator, in her speech before her colleagues, quoted the words pronounced by president Gattegna during Memorial Day and commemorations of 16 October (the day in which the Jewish Community of Rome commemorates the deportation of more than 1000 Jews to the Nazi concentration camps), remembering his warning about the danger of the spread of “new Nazism and fascism” in Europe and in the world, movements which falsify history and are “murderers of Memory”.
Senator Lucio Malan, second signatory of the bill (while the rapporteur was Senator Rosaria Capacchione), and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Nitto Palma explained to their colleagues that the law will not limit in any way freedom of research and does not introduce into our law system a crime of opinion. “The bill just harshens sanctions that already exist; it is not the introduction of a new offense,” said Malan. “All freedoms are fully safeguarded.” Malan then stressed how important it is that the same Parliament that in 1938 voted anti-Jewish laws, marking the fate of the Italian Jewish community, is now approving a law to combat denial of the Holocaust. This is a vote that represents “a positive act and a duty that makes this country more civilized,” according to the Senator Malan