PARIS—French President Nicolas Sarkozy will immediately submit a new draft of a law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide if France’s top judicial body rejects it, two ministers told AFP Wednesday.
“The president told us in cabinet that he would immediately submit a new draft if there is a rejection by the Constitutional Council” of a bill approved recently by the French parliament, said one of the ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported AFP.
Another minister said Sarkozy had also criticized those in cabinet who had opposed the bill, saying they “did not see past the ends of their noses.”
He said a rejection of the bill by the Constitutional Council could open the door to questioning a law that penalizes denial of the Holocaust.
After being approved by the National Assembly and Senate, the law was put on hold Tuesday after politicians opposed to the legislation demanded that its constitutionality be examined.
Two separate groups of French politicians who oppose the legislation – from both the Senate and the lower house – said they had formally requested the Constitutional Council examine the law.
The groups said they each had gathered more than the minimum 60 signatures required to ask the council to test the law’s constitutionality.
The council is obliged to deliver its judgment within a month, but this can be reduced to eight days if the government deems the matter urgent.
Despite government backing of the law, at least two ministers, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, had spoken out against the bill.
“French President Sarkozy could have signed, and turned into a law, the bill that criminalizes the denial of genocides [including the Armenian Genocide], but he preferred to wait until the statutory deadline, and this enabled for the bill’s opponents to get active and appeal to the Constitutional Council,” said a statement political affairs office of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau.
There are three options that the Constitutional Council could consider in addressing the Genocide bill.
The Council could rule that the resolution as approved is consistent with the constitution and thus pave the way for a presidential signature. The Council could determine that portions of the bill are not consistent with the French Constitution. In case, the bill will be returned to the National Assembly, to amend it and make it consistent with the Constitution. This option could cause problems, since the National Assembly will go on vacation, in one month, to prepare for the presidential elections.
A third option would be to find the resolution entirely unconstitutional, in which case Sarkozy would have to re-introduce the matter in the National Assembly and the process would begin anew.
The president cannot sign the bill until the Constitutional Council reaches a decision.