Pussy Riot, the right to protest and to criticise the President, and the Patriarch: Mariya Alekhina and Others v. Russia

By Dirk Voorhoof, Human Rights Centre, Ghent University and Legal Human Academy

In its judgment of 17 July 2018 the ECtHR has found various violations of the rights of the members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. The ECtHR found violations under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security) and 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c) ECHR (right to fair trial), in relation to the conditions of their transportation and detention in the courthouse, their pre-trial detention, the treatment during the court hearings (being exposed to public view in a glass dock surrounded by armed police), and restrictions to legal assistance. Most importantly the ECtHR found the criminal prosecution and prison sentence of the Pussy Riot members a breach of their freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR. It also found that their right to freedom of expression has been violated on account of declaring the Pussy Riot video material available on the Internet as extremist and banning it. This blog focusses on the applicants’ rights under Article 10 ECHR. Continue reading

No overbroad suppression of extremist opinions and ‘hate speech’

By Dirk Voorhoof, Human Rights Centre, Ghent University and Legal Human Academy

In its recent judgment in Stomakhin v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) launched the message to all domestic authorities to adopt a “cautious approach” in determining the scope of “hate speech” crimes and to avoid “excessive interference” with the right to freedom of expression, especially when action is taken against ‘hate speech’ or extremist opinions that are mere criticism of the government, state institutions and their policies and practices. The judgment of 9 May 2018, in which the ECtHR unanimously found a violation of Article 10 ECHR, sets an important standard: as judge Keller observed in her concurring opinion, “it is the first time that this Court has had to decide on a case which stems from the application of the Suppression of Extremist Activities Act (..), and will thus be the starting point of a body of case-law which will serve as a reference not only in future cases concerning Russia, but for all other Member States as well.” Continue reading

Resuscitating the Turkish Constitutional Court: The ECtHR’s Alpay and Altan Judgments

Written by Senem Gurol, PhD candidate at Ghent University

Introduction

After the failed coup d’etat in Turkey, critics have raised concerns about the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR or the Court) ability and willingness to provide an effective remedy for the human rights violations occurred. These concerns arose from the Strasbourg Court’s recent inadmissibility decisions in the cases of Zihni, Çatal, and Köksal, which resulted in the Court sending the applicants back to exhaust the disputedly available and effective domestic remedies. Conversely, in the judgments of Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, delivered on 20 March 2018, the ECtHR demonstrated a vigilant scrutiny over the protection of freedom of expression in Turkey which has deteriorated even further in recent years. These cases are also the first in which the Strasbourg Court has examined the validity of the derogation made on 21 July 2017 by Turkey under Article 15 of the Convention in relation to restrictions of other Convention rights, namely Articles 5 and 10. In this blogpost, I will focus on the ECtHR’s exercise of its subsidiarity role in the given cases and its impact on the functioning of the domestic remedies in Turkey. Continue reading

Conviction for performance-art protest at war memorial did not violate Article 10

By Ronan Ó Fathaigh and Dirk Voorhoof

The European Court’s Fourth Section has held, by four votes to three, that a protestor’s conviction, including a suspended three-year prison sentence, for frying eggs over the flame of a war memorial, did not violate the protestor’s freedom of expression. The judgment in Sinkova v. Ukraine prompted a notable dissent, which highlighted “inconsistency” with the Court’s prior case law, and a disregard for the principle that criminal penalties are likely to have a “chilling effect on satirical forms of expression relating to topical issues.” Continue reading

The right of journalistic newsgathering during demonstrations

By Dirk Voorhoof and Daniel Simons

In a case about a Ukrainian journalist being arrested during an anti-globalisation protest in Russia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Butkevich v. Russia (13 February 2018) has clarified that the gathering of information is an essential preparatory step in journalism and an inherent, protected part of press freedom. The ECtHR found that the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the journalist had violated his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR also found violations of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty) and of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial). This blog focuses on the aspects of journalism and freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR, and in relation to the right of peaceful demonstration under Article 11 ECHR. The judgment offers important support to journalists covering public events, demonstrations and police actions, especially after the disappointing outcome in the case of Pentikäinen v. Finland. Continue reading

Egill Einarsson v Iceland: the Court deals with an offensive Instagram post

This guest post was written by Ingrida Milkaite, Ghent University*

On 7 November 2017 the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR, the Court) found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The main issue at hand was the Court’s assessment of whether the right balance between the applicant’s right to privacy (Article 8) and Mr X’s right to freedom of expression (Article 10) was struck by national courts.
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The European Court & Defamation of the Dead: searching for clarity

By Jonathan McCully (Media Legal Defence Initiative / Columbia Global Freedom of Expression)

On 28 November 2017, in MAC TV v. Slovakia, the European Court of Human Rights (European Court) found a violation of the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention where the Broadcasting Council of Slovakia had fined a television programme for showing a lack of respect to the dignity of the President of Poland following his death in a tragic plane accident. The case is one of the few where the European Court has considered the human rights implications of controversial stories following the death of an individual. However, it leaves much to be desired in terms of clarifying the status of “defamation of the dead” laws under the Convention. Continue reading