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Hungary: Penal Code Amendment on Holocaust Denial Adopted

(Mar. 15, 2010) The Hungarian National Assembly (the 386-member unicameral parliament) passed an amendment to the Penal Code on February 22, 2010, criminalizing denial of the Holocaust. Those convicted of the offense of public Holocaust denial face up to three years of imprisonment. There were reportedly 197 votes in favor of the amendment, one opposed, and 142 abstentions. The amendment is to enter into effect 30 days after being signed into law by the President of Hungary. (Hungarian Parliament Votes to Criminalise Holocaust Denial, DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, Feb. 22, 2010, NewsRoom with Reuters tab, Westlaw online subscription database; Hungarian MPs Criminalize Holocaust Denial, POLITICS.HU, Feb. 23, 2010, available at The Penal Code already criminalizes hate speech and incitement to violence against minorities; the new bill adds to it the offense of “denying, questioning or making light of the Holocaust.” (Hungary Criminalises Holocaust Denial, THE INDEPENDENT, Feb. 23, 2010, available at

The new provision may be unconstitutional, however. Hungary's courts have rejected previous attempts to prohibit Holocaust denial, on the grounds of infringement of freedom of speech. Furthermore, efforts to amend the Constitution to ensure such a bill's legality did not succeed. (THE INDEPENDENT, id.)

The proposal to revise the Code was put forward by Attila Mesterhazy, the Socialist Party's candidate for Prime Minister in the upcoming April elections. The abstainers – most members of the main center-right opposition party, Fidesz, and their allies, the Christian Democrats – objected to the rejection of Fidesz's proposal to also include in the bill the denial of Nazi and Communist crimes. The timing of the bill, right before the elections, was questioned by one legislator, whose Free Democratic Party had put forward a similar proposal a few months ago, which was turned down. Fidesz is reportedly leading the Socialist Party in polls “by a substantial margin.” (Id.)

According to a recent article in BUSINESS WEEK, citing the Jewish Virtual Library, “[a]bout 50,000 Jews live in Hungary, the most among the European Union's eastern members.”(Zoltan Simon, Hungary Approves Law Making Holocaust Denial a Criminal Offense, BUSINESS WEEK, Feb. 23, 2010, available at