Franco-Turkish protesters demonstrate against the bill
Franco-Turkish protesters demonstrate against genocide denial bill Reuters

The French law forbidding denial of the Armenian genocide nearly 100 years ago violates constitutional rights, a human rights organisation has claimed.

Reporters without Borders condemned the proposed law, which is aimed at fighting "denial of legally recognised genocides", saying it undermined the freedom of expression in France.

"Turning historical fact into an unassailable dogma imposed by the state opens the door to dangerous excesses," the organisation said on its website.

"There are four key aspects of the law that disturb us: a conflict with the principle of the right to free expression, a lack of proportionality between the offence and penalty, a violation of parliament's competence and a lack of clarity in the wording," it said.

"Just as democracy cannot be imposed at gunpoint, so an evolution in attitudes and national reconciliation cannot be imposed by a repressive and draconian law, especially one adopted in another country."

The French Senate voted for the bill which will criminalise deniers of the 20th century Armenian genocide. Those who publicly reject the claim that the mass killing of Armenians by Turkish troops early last century was genocide can be punished by up to a year in prison and a €45,000 (£38,000) fine.

The move angered Turkish government which threatened to impose "permanent" sanctions against France.

Armenians say that 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1923 in a campaign of genocide in Anatolia. Turkey maintains the deaths were part of clashes in which tens of thousands of Turks and Armenians died after Armenian groups sided with a Russian army.