Lawmakers in Greece have begun debating draft legislation to outlaw Holocaust denial and expand prosecution powers against the incitement of racial violence, following scores of violent attacks against immigrants and a surge in popular support for the extreme right Golden Dawn party.

The draft legislation to be voted on later this week would allow the prosecution of racial abuse without requiring victims to take any legal action, with convictions for incitement to violence carrying a penalty of up to three years in prison.

U.S.-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said the legislation failed to encourage the reporting of crimes by immigrants living in the country illegally, and risked "interference with freedom of expression and association."

The bill is likely to pass after receiving backing from two left-wing opposition parties.