Legally Undeniable: Criminalising Genocide Denial
The International Nuremberg Principles Academy organised the Nuremberg Forum 2023 on the topic "Legally Undeniable: Criminalising Genocide Denial". The conference took place from 19 October, 3 pm CET to 21 October 2023, 3 pm CET, at the historic Courtroom 600 of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, with the possibility of online and on-site participation. Prior registration was required.
Genocide denial is more prevalent than ever and continues to pose severe challenges to accountability efforts and post-conflict societies. Through the refusal and negation of historical facts and the circumstances surrounding the perpetration of genocide, denial can contribute to the cultivation of hatred, societal instability, threats against vulnerable groups or even the repetition of atrocities.
The Nuremberg Forum 2023 addressed the timely topic of genocide denial, by exploring it as a concept and in context, what it is, how it manifests itself and how to regulate it. With regard to genocide denial, the main focus was on the Holocaust, the Rwandan and the Srebrenica genocide. Experts assessed what multilateral and national efforts have been undertaken to address genocide denial, including prevention and punishment. Special attention was also given to legal responses to denial, including relevant jurisprudence of international criminal tribunals related to speech crimes.
The conference consisted of five panels:
Panel I: Denial: De Facto, de Jure and in Doctrina
This panel discussed the conceptual nature of denial. The following questions were addressed:
- Is denial inextricably linked to racism, xenophobia and antisemitism?
- Is denial driven by ideology? If so, which?
- Do anti-denial laws infringe unjustifiably upon freedom of speech?
- Are incitement to genocide and genocide denial two sides of the same coin?
Panel II: The Effects of Denial in Post-Conflict Societies
This panel assessed and reflected on the challenges that denial poses in post-conflict societies. The following questions were addressed:
- What is the on-the-ground reality in these societies?
- Why is denial occurring?
- Is criminalisation effective? What is the effect on victims?
- Can an utterance constitute "denial" within the context of ongoing conflicts?
Panel III: Denial, its Regulation and Legal Peculiarities
This panel discussed how denial is regulated in different societies and discussed the differences in the approaches used. The panel addressed the following questions:
- How do we diligently and meaningfully balance the suppression of denial with the protection of free speech?
- What is the legal interest that denial laws seek to protect?
- Should denial laws be framed around the motivation or the effect of the speech? If so, what motivations or effects should matter?
Panel IV: Redress, Recognition and Reconciliation
This panel examined the different avenues for providing redress for victims, the effect of such measures on victims and the challenges that continue to hinder reparative processes. The key questions for the panel were:
- Which factors should be considered in determining the priorities and approaches to reparations for victims of genocide?
- Which options are available to address the multitude of claims from large numbers of victims in different situations?
- How can anti-denial measures contribute to guarantees of non-repetition?
- How can societies dealing with genocide denial ensure that the processes for providing reparations avoid the re-traumatisation of survivors?
Panel V: Undeniable and not Unsolvable. Other Ways Forward
This panel explored plausible solutions and the steps needed to tackle the various challenges presented by denial. The following questions were addressed:
- How can education be a driving force in combatting denial discourses?
- What is the role of transitional justice measures in the fight against genocide denial?
- What can online platform companies do to tackle genocide denial?
- Which type of multilateral actions can be enacted to counteract genocide denial?
Speakers were inter alia:
Serge Brammertz, Chief Prosecutor, United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals
Dr Navi Pillay, President, Advisory Council of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy; former High Commissioner, United Nations High Commission for Human Rights; former Judge, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and International Criminal Court
Christian Schmidt, High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dr Ludwig Spaenle, Commissioner for Jewish Life and Against Anti-Semitism, For Remembrance Work and Historical Heritage, Bavaria
Prof. Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School, former ACLU President
Munira Subašic, President, Mothers of Srebrenica
Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to the United Nations Secretary General, United Nations
The Nuremberg Forum is the main annual international conference organised by the Nuremberg Academy every year in October. It brings together leading experts, practitioners and scholars, policymakers and civil society by providing a forum for dialogue and a spotlight on contemporary topics in international criminal law.
The conference is particularly relevant to practitioners, academics and students in international criminal law, transitional justice, human rights law, public international law, political science, history and philosophy. We especially welcome young scholars, experts and practitioners to take part in the discussions.
The Nuremberg Forum is held in English. It is open to the public and free of charge. Prior registration is required.
The Nuremberg Academy published the recorded videos on its YouTube channel and will prepare a written conference report in due course. The programme remains available for download.