Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Germany: Bishop Williamson’s conviction quashed
On February 22, 2012, on the grounds of a procedural error, the German courts revoked the conviction of Bishop Richard Williamson for denial of the Holocaust.
The High Court of Regensburg on July 11, 2011fined Bishop Williamson a reduced on-appeal amount of 6,500 euros for having denied the existence of gas chambers. His comments made in an interview given in Germany in late 2008 were broadcast by Swedish television on January 21, 2009. Yet according to the appellate court in Nuremberg, the incriminating remarks are only punishable in Germany, not in Sweden. The court based its decision on the fact that early in the proceedings, the grounds for indictment specified only that “the contents of the interview were broadcast in Germany, not where or how,” despite the fact that the description of the mode of its broadcast in this country was one of “crucial importance.”
On his personal blog, Williamson gives the following details:
The Appeals Court has decreed in addition that the Bavarian State must pay my trial costs so far. All honour to my defence lawyer, Prof. Dr. Edgar Weiler, whose arguments the judges made their own, to Fr. Franz Schmidberger who introduced me to him and to Bishop Bernard Fellay who approved of him. However, I am not yet free and clear insofar as the Appeal judges made their decision on procedural grounds. Here is their conclusion : “If an indictment describes behaviour of the accused not punishable (as yet), and leaves open what concrete circumstances supposedly render him liable to punishment, then by not listing the inner and outer facts of the case the indictment is failing in its function, laid out above, of defining the action for which the accused is being put on trial. Case dismissed.”
According to AFP, the German prosecutors should soon file a new complaint against Bishop Williamson for the same offense. But the British prelate adds:
So in theory, the Regensburg Prosecutor’s office could correct its procedure and start the prosecution all over again. However, in practice they may well hesitate, because the Appeal judges called on them to specify who exactly came to know of the remarks, by what means they came to know of them, how exactly those remarks were apt to disturb the peace in Germany and finally how I was supposed to have approved of the remarks being made known there. (…) the prosecutors would have real difficulty in proving that I wanted my remarks to be made public in Germany, given that in the last minute of the interview (accessible on YouTube) I expressly wished the contrary. So it is in God’s hands whether the prosecution will continue, or not.
(Sources: AFP / KE – DICI No. 251 of 09/03/12)
Comment by NWN:
In spite of Germany's excuse we at NWN think the quashing of his conviction may have something to do with this new article in the UN Charter...
United Nations CCPR/C/GC/34
Human Rights Committee
Geneva, 11-29 July 2011
General comment No. 34
Article 19: Freedoms of opinion and expression
49. Laws that penalize the expression of opinions about historical facts are incompatible with the obligations that the Covenant imposes on States parties in relation to the respect for freedom of opinion and expression. The Covenant does not permit general prohibition of expressions of an erroneous opinion or an incorrect interpretation of past events.