In what is being hailed as a landmark ruling, an Australian court has ordered a Holocaust denier to purge his Australia-based Web site of all material alleging that the Holocaust never happened.
In its ruling Tuesday, the Federal Court also ordered Fredrick Toben not to publish any such material anywhere on the Internet.
The verdict against Toben comes less than a month after the Federal Court ruled that another well-known Holocaust denier, Olga Scully, must stop distributing anti-Semitic material.
In what is being described as the first Australian court decision on hate and the Internet, the court ruled that Toben’s Web site was illegal under Australia’s racial discrimination laws.
In her ruling, Judge Catherine Branson wrote that the court believed that material on Toben’s Web site “is reasonably likely” to “offend, insult, humiliate and intimidate Jewish Australians.”
The case against Toben was brought in 1996 by Jeremy Jones, a former JTA correspondent who currently is president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
“This is a stunning victory against Holocaust deniers,” Jones told JTA. “Anyone in Australia who now casts any doubt on the existence of the Holocaust will immediately be legally daubed a racist.
“The decision to remove the material from the Internet is important because so much racial hatred is circulated through Web sites,” Jones added. “The court’s decision now clearly indicates that any pronouncements in the public domain doubting the existence of the Holocaust are simply ant-Semitism.”
Australia now joins a growing number of countries whose courts have ruled that promoting racial hatred and Holocaust denial on the Internet is unlawful.
The court gave Toben seven days to remove the offending material from the Internet. Even should he decide to appeal, he must still abide by the court’s decision.
In 1999, Toben was found guilty in Mannheim, Germany, of charges that included incitement and insulting the memory of the dead. He served seven months of a 10-month sentence for breaking Germany’s anti-racism laws by mailing anti-Semitic materials from Australia.
Toben also has been informed that if returns to Germany, he will face charges for the contents of his Internet site.
From his home in Adelaide, Australia, Toben said he may appeal Tuesday’s verdict.
When asked if he would comply with the court’s ruling, Toben said :”I am a law-abiding citizen. If this is the law, then I have to adhere to it.”
Stephen Rothman, the lawyer representing Jones in the case against Toben, told JTA: “I am more than pleased. As a pair the Scully and Toben decisions are an extremely important step forward for racial tolerance in Australia.
“The findings against Toben equating Holocaust denial with racial vilification are deeply meaningful to a Jewish community which is home to so many survivors and their progeny.”
George Foster, president of the Australian Association of Holocaust Survivors and Descendants also hailed the decision.
“For the survivors, their families and all of Australian Jewry, it’s a wonderful decision,” he said.
There are approximately 15,000 Holocaust survivors in Australia out of a total Jewish population of 120,000.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry plans to check next week whether Toben has complied with the court’s ruling.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.