Criminalization of Holocaust denial and of other international crimes: a review of European and Russian praxis

Available in Russian

Authors: Elena Khabarova, Galina Nelaeva, Natalia Sidorova

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2020-1-33-49

Keywords: denial of international crimes; European Court of Human Rights; Holocaust denial; international case-law; rehabilitation of Nazism; Russian case-law


Russia introduced a new article banning “rehabilitation of Nazism” in 2014 into its Criminal Code, and since then, this article has been the subject of much controversy. Despite the fact that this addition to the Criminal Code is rather novel, there has already been a number of court decisions that culminated in the imposition of fines and other penalties. In this article, we would like to contextualize Russia’s prohibition of “rehabilitation of Nazism” against the broader European framework by examining several similar laws that exist on the European continent, as well as the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights on the question of denialism. We start with the discussion of the EU Framework Decision of 2008 where the European Union makes recommendations to the Member States on how to harmonize the legislation on this issue, and proceed with the analysis of the CoE Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime. ECtHR case-law will be examined as the next step, enabling us to conclude that currently the Court’s position on the question of “broader” denialism (that includes not only the Holocaust but also other international crimes) is uncertain. Currently only a handful of exceptions (like the much-criticized decision in Perinçek v. Switzerland) was examined by the ECtHR, all other cases of denial are routinely rejected at the admissibility stage through the application of Article 17 of the Convention. Even if the European experience in the field of combatting Holocaust denial, as well as the denial of other international crimes has been rather varied and context-specific, discussions are currently under way on whether we can consider denial an international crime and whether it is possible to come up with a certain list of events that the memory of which states would be obliged to protect through denial laws. The authors also examine Russian case-law on the application of the article 354.1 of Russian Criminal Code and to highlight the existing problems of interpretation of the main notions mentioned in this article. By examining Russian case-law, the opinion of the courts and of some experts on the matter of “rehabilitation of Nazism”, the authors would like to point out the major problems that the courts face in addressing denial in the Russian context.

About the authors: Galina Nelaeva – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Political Science, Professor, Department of Modern History and World Politics, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Tyumen State University, Tyumen, Russia (corresponding author); Natalia Sidorova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Institute of State and Law, Tyumen State University, Tyumen, Russia; Elena Khabarova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Institute of State and Law, Tyumen State University, Russia.

Citation: Nelaeva G., Sidorova N., Khabarova E. (2020) Kriminalizatsiya otritsaniya Kholokosta i drugikh mezhdunarodnykh prestupleniy: obzor evropeyskoy i rossiyskoy praktiki [Criminalization of Holocaust denial and of other international crimes: a review of European and Russian praxis]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.10, no.1, pp.33–49. (In Russian).


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