Legislation against antisemitism and Holocaust denial

This chapter will present the legislation defining antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust, explicitly and in the language of the law as an offence in the law books, as differentiated from general legislation dealing with preserving the rights of various groups of human beings. Among those covered, there are at least seven countries which have entered specific legislation into the law books dealing with the subject of antisemitism. They are: Romania, Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Austria.


One other country, Latvia, began preparing a draft law on the subject in April 2004. According to the laws of these countries, antisemitism is an explicit violation of the law. However, there are countries such as Russia in which, while laws do exist that might be interpreted as prohibiting antisemitism, they are not explicit and are rarely enforced. On the other hand, there are those countries which do not have laws specifically against antisemitism, but which strongly combat it with the aid of other laws dealing with discrimination.



Article 3(5) of Law nr 51 of 1991 defines antisemitism which views antisemitism as being a part of those activities posing a threat to order and the integrity of the country and are thus a violation of the law.

Law nr 51 of June 29, 1991 [1]

Article 3:

'The following actions constitute threats to the national security of Romania…

(h) the initiation, organization, commission of or any kind of support given to totalitarian or extremist actions of a communist, fascist, iron-guardist or any other inspiration, actions of a racist, antisemitic, revisionist or separatist nature likely to endanger in any way the unity and territorial integrity of Romania, as well as incitement to acts which can imperil law and order in the country'.


Subsection 4 of Articled 22 of the New Penal Code of 1996 states that committing a crime for racist reasons will be considered as being under worsening circumstances.

Article 22 of the New Penal Code came into force on 24 May 1966 [2]

The following are worsening circumstances:

(4) To commit a crime for racist reasons, antisemitic or of another type, discriminating due to the victim's ideology, religion, beliefs, the ethnic group, race or nation to which he belongs, his gender of sexual orientation, or the illness or physical handicap of which he suffers.'

Subsection 1 of Article 510 of the New Penal Code of 1996 states that discrimination, hate or violence against an anti-Semitic background (as well as other discriminatory practices) are offenses carrying prison terms of one to three years as well as a fine.

Article 510 of the New Penal Code, came into force on 24 May 1996 [3]

'(1) Those who bring about discrimination, hatred or violence against groups of associations for racist, antisemitic or other reasons regarding ideology, religion or beliefs, family status, ethnic, race or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, illness or physical, will be punished with one to three years in prison and a fine equivalent to six to twelve months'. 



In 2003, both of Mexico's Houses of Congress unanimously passed a Federal Law prohibiting discrimination. Article 4 of the Law unequivocally states that antisemitism is a kind of discrimination:

Article 4: [4]

'…. It will also be considered as discrimination, xenophobia, and antisemitism in every one of its manifestations'.



Subsection 1 of Article 1 of the Ordinance of 2001 states that assistance must be granted to educational projects enhancing the awareness of the struggle against antisemitism and racism.

Ordinance of 27 June 2001 [5]

Ordinance concerning assistance to projects for enhancing awareness of and prevention with regard to human rights and concerning the combat against antisemitism, racism and xenophobia:

Article 1:

'(1) The present decree sets the payment by the Confederation of subsidies for the purpose of supporting projects aiming at enhancing awareness of public opinion with regard to human rights or at preventing antisemitism, racism or xenophobia'.



There is an existing law on the combat against antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust. See paragraph 2.6



Crimes of an antisemitic nature are defined in the Constitution as crimes against persons of Jewish extraction, against Jewish property and the like. In order for the crime to be categorized as one having been committed against an antisemitic background, the victim does not necessarily have to be Jewish; it is enough that the attacker thought the victim was Jewish. [6] Jews are recognized in Sweden as a national minority. [7] Therefore they are protected under the law prohibiting discrimination against minorities.
Austria Austria

The law against Nazi activity of 1947 (Verbotsgezetz) prohibits all neo-Nazi or antisemitic activities. [8]



In April 2004, the Latvian Parliament initiated steps towards drafting a proposal designed to increase punishment for racist, xenophobic and antisemitic crimes. [9]


Legislation explicitly against denying the Holocaust


The denial of the Holocaust (or the denial of genocide) his prohibited, in various ways, in at least ten European States. There is no uniformity in the legislation on the subject and there are different emphases in each of the States according to the nature of the offense (administrative or criminal), the trial process and the punishment. There are States in which the denial of genocide in general is an offence and there are those in which reference is explicitly to the denial of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis.


In Austria, the law against denying the Holocaust has been on the books since 1992. Law No. 148 is an amendment to a law from 1945 which had illegalized the Nazi Party. The 1992 law states that denying the Holocaust and denying the committing of crimes against humanity by the Nazis, their public endorsement or justification are a criminal offense if they are of a political or propaganda nature. In the event that the offense is not of this nature, or is of little influence, it is defined as an Administrative offense. [10]

Article 3h:

'A person shall also be liable to a penalty under Art. 3g if, in print or in broadcast or in some other medium, or otherwise publicly in any manner accessible to a large number of people, if he denies the National Social genocide or the National Socialist crimes against humanity, or seeks to minimize them in a coarse manner or consents thereto to justify them'.

Sentences according to the law:

A criminal offence: one to twenty years in prison (the maximum under Austrian law)