23 January 2017 | Projects

Memory laws in European and comparative perspectives

Uladzislau Belavusau (former ACCESS EUROPE postdoc and assistant professor of European Law at the UvA) received a grant from the prestigious HERA programme for his project on Memory Laws (MELA).

This project will examine the content, contexts, and policy implications of memory laws, which have spread throughout Europe in recent decades. Complex examples include the Spanish Ley de Memoria Histórica condemning the Franco dictatorship; the ban on Armenian genocide denial introduced in Switzerland, and recently contested before the European Court of Human Rights; Poland’s criminalisation of denying Soviet-era crimes; the genocide denial laws enacted by the Greek Parliament; and the anti-revisionist provisions of the 2008 EU Council Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia, to name but a few. 

Memory laws are tools for states to prescribe “required” or “correct” interpretations of historical events. They raise problems of free expression, freedom of academic enquiry, nationalist propaganda, and political extremism. MELA will develop criteria for critical evaluation of legal (ab-)uses of the past, culminating in a model “Framework Declaration on Memory Laws”. For purposes of comparison, MELA will also examine some selected policies beyond Europe. The project shall study social perceptions of collective memory in view of ongoing problems of nationalism, government censorship of historical research, and suppression of minorities.

Project participants

  • Queen Mary University, London, United Kingdom
  • University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Universita di Trento, Italy
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland


3 years


Humanities European Research Area (HERA) grant.

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