CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, February 20, 2006

Holocaust Denier Imprisoned for 3 Years in Austria

Historian David Irving got 3 years for denying the holocaust in Austria.  Is there a difference, I wonder, in punishing him for his opinions, and the negative reactions of Muslims to depictions of their Prophet?  Both acts are deeply offensive to some, clearly would be protected speech in the U.S.  Irving was punished by due process of law, not a riot, but perhaps that's a technicality.  I think the best distinction is the when-in-Rome argument.  You'd better be prepared to obey the laws in force where you are, even if they are not good.  But people in Land B can't expect compliance with their laws or customs in Land A.  So if Irving had peddled his nonsense in the U.S., he would have had the benefit of U.S. law, and Austria should not be able to punish him.  If Irving had burned a U.S. flag here, he could have expected a punch in the nose.  But if he did so in Austria, it would be different--I don't think any group can expect other groups to be as sensitive to their cultural traditions as they themselves are. [Jack Chin]

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Your comparison of is quite lucid: truly, the freedom of speech is an universal right, not depending on the circumstances!
I am a law student from the Republic of Macedonia, reading you on regular bases.

Posted by: Ana from Macedonia | Feb 23, 2006 9:25:15 AM

Freedom of speech should be considered a basic human not merely a unique custom of some nations. This case in fact illustrates that freedom of speech does not exist in many european nations. It also justifies some of the anger generated by cartoons that the Islamic community found offensive. If nations punish some speech but not other speech it leads to the belief that the unpunished speech must in fact be in accord with the belief of those who decide the law. Under this view, the failure to punish those who published offensive cartoons of their Prophet proves to the Islamic nations that european nations will not protect those who follow the Islamic faith in the same manner in which they protect the beliefs of other more favored groups/

Posted by: Henry Karlson | Mar 1, 2006 10:39:43 AM

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