‘Abduction of Europa’ (Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Amsterdam - 1632 - fragment)

Thursday, 2 April 2015

This week in Strasbourg - A roundup of the European Court of Human Rights' case law - 2015 - week 14

Torture - Nalbandyan v. Armenia - Violation of Article 3 (torture - investigation) Violation of Article 6 § 1 (access to court) - The applicants, Bagrat and Narine Nalbandyan, husband and wife, and their daughter, Arevik Nalbandyan, are Armenian nationals who were born in 1961, 1964, and 1988 respectively. Bagrat and Narine Nalbandyan were apparently serving prison sentences in Kosh and Abovyan penitentiary institutions (Armenia) at the time of the submission of their application. Arevik Nalbandyan lives in the town of Vardenis (Armenia). The case concerned the family’s allegations of their ill-treatment in police custody on suspicion of murdering one of Arevik Nalbandyan’s classmates in Vardenis and of the unfairness of the ensuing criminal proceedings against them.

Mr Nalbandyan alleged that he had first been taken into custody on 8 June 2004 and, held without his arrest being formally recorded, had been subjected to continual beatings by the police in order to make him confess to the schoolgirl’s murder. His wife alleged that she had also subsequently been questioned by the police in July 2004 and, on refusing to testify against her husband, had been beaten on the soles of her fee with a baton. On the same occasion the police threatened to rape her daughter, who had been brought to the police station and locked up in a nearby, dark room infested with rats, if she did not confess. As a result, Ms Nalbandyan confessed to the murder and her husband confessed to having assisted her. Their daughter alleges that she was taken to the police station on numerous occasions, frequently at late hours, and threatened with rape if she did not admit that her mother had committed the murder. Bagrat and Narine Nalbandyan were formally arrested on 9 July 2004 and charged with murder on 12 July 2004. On 14 July 2004 Ms Nalbandyan was transferred from the police station to a detention facility where she was medically examined and found to have bruised and swollen feet. Arevik was taken to hospital by her uncle on 16 July 2004 and found to have concussion and bruising to her head, back and left arm.
In February 2005 Bagrat and Narine Nalbandyan were found guilty of murder and sentenced to nine and 14 years’ imprisonment, respectively. Their conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in July 2005. Narine Nalbandyan lodged an appeal on points of law which was dismissed by the Court of Cassation in August 2005. Their lawyer also lodged an appeal on points of law on behalf of Bagrat Nalbandyan, which was dismissed on the ground that the lawyer was no longer authorised to represent him as the couple had allegedly dispensed with her services during a court hearing held on 1 July 2005. The criminal proceedings against Arevik Nalbandyan were dropped due to lack of evidence in August 2004.
During the criminal proceedings against them Bagrat and Narine Nalbandyan consistently denied their guilt and stated that they had only confessed to the murder under duress. They also complained about the atmosphere of constant intimidation in the courtroom, including threats, verbal and physical abuse directed at both the applicants and their lawyers by the relatives and friends of the murder victim. The Court of Cassation ultimately dismissed their allegations of ill-treatment, finding that they were unsubstantiated as there were no records of any ill-treatment, and did not examine their complaint of courtroom disorder during the proceedings. The applicants also made repeated requests with the prosecuting authorities to have their complaints of ill-treatment investigated and the accused prosecuted and punished. In August 2004 the investigating authorities issued a decision refusing to bring criminal proceedings as they considered credible the police officers’ testimonies denying any ill-treatment and found the applicants’ allegations unreliable.
Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment), the applicants alleged that they had been ill-treated in police custody in June and July 2004 and that the authorities’ ensuing investigation into their allegations had been ineffective. Further relying on Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c) (right to a fair trial / right to legal assistance of own choosing / right of access to court), the applicants also alleged in particular that the atmosphere of constant disorder in the courtroom during the hearings on their case had prevented their lawyers from performing their functions correctly. Lastly, relying on Article 6§1 (right of access to court), Mr Nalbandyan complained about the Court of Cassation’s refusal to examine on the merits his lawyer’s appeal on points of law for purely formal reasons.
The Court’s assessment 
"95.  As the Court has stated on many occasions, Article 3 enshrines one of the most fundamental values of democratic societies. Even in the most difficult circumstances, such as the fight against terrorism and organised crime, the Convention prohibits in absolute terms torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the victim’s conduct (see Labita v. Italy [GC], no. 26772/95, § 119, ECHR 2000‑IV, and Chahal v. the United Kingdom, 15 November 1996, § 79, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996‑V). Article 3 makes no provision for exceptions and no derogation from it is permissible under Article 15 § 2 of the Convention even in the event of a public emergency threatening the life of the nation (see Selmouni v. France [GC], no. 25803/94, § 95, ECHR 1999‑V, and Assenov and Others v. Bulgaria, 28 October 1998, § 93, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998‑VIII).
96.  The Court reiterates that ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3. The assessment of this minimum is relative: it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment, its physical and mental effects and, in some cases, the sex, age and state of health of the victim (see Labita, cited above, § 120, and Assenov and Others, cited above, § 94). In respect of a person deprived of his liberty, any recourse to physical force which has not been made strictly necessary by his own conduct diminishes human dignity and is in principle an infringement of the right set forth in Article 3 of the Convention (see Ribitsch v. Austria, 4 December 1995, § 38, Series A no. 336; Selmouni, cited above, § 99, and Sheydayev v. Russia, no. 65859/01, § 59, 7 December 2006).
97.  In assessing the evidence on which to base the decision as to whether there has been a violation of Article 3, the Court has generally applied the standard of proof “beyond reasonable doubt”. However, such proof may follow from the coexistence of sufficiently strong, clear and concordant inferences or of similar unrebutted presumptions of fact (see Ireland v. the United Kingdom, 18 January 1978, § 161, Series A no. 25; Labita, cited above, § 121; and Jalloh v. Germany [GC], no. 54810/00, § 67, ECHR 2006‑IX).
98.  Where the events in issue lie wholly, or in large part, within the exclusive knowledge of the authorities, as in the case of persons within their control in custody, strong presumptions of fact will arise in respect of injuries occurring during such detention. Indeed, the burden of proof may be regarded as resting on the authorities to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation (see Salman v. Turkey [GC], no. 21986/93, § 100, ECHR 2000‑VII, and Varnava and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 16064/90, 16065/90, 16066/90, 16068/90, 16069/90, 16070/90, 16071/90, 16072/90 and 16073/90, § 183, ECHR 2009). Similarly, where an individual is taken into police custody in good health and is found to be injured on release, it is incumbent on the State to provide a plausible explanation of how those injuries were caused (see, among other authorities, Aksoy v. Turkey, 18 December 1996, § 61, Reports 1996-VI; Selmouni, cited above, § 87; and Gäfgen v. Germany [GC], no. 22978/05, § 92, ECHR 2010‑...). Otherwise, torture or ill-treatment may be presumed in favour of the claimant and an issue may arise under Article 3 of the Convention (see Mikheyev v. Russia, no. 77617/01, § 127, 26 January 2006)."
"I totally agree with the approach taken by the Chamber. It has adopted an approach that is important for the Court’s case-law, but the reasoning is not sufficiently developed. The Chamber has correctly classified as torture the violence inflicted on the two victims, who were in State custody. But on what legal basis did the Chamber rule that those acts were torture? Above all, how did the Chamber make the distinction between torture and inhuman or degrading treatment?
1.  There is no doubt that the State agents in this case acted with the intention of obtaining a confession (see, to similar effect, Dikme v. Turkey, no. 20869/92, § 64, ECHR 2000‑VIII, and Aksoy v. Turkey, 18 December 1996, § 9, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-VI) in the case of the second applicant and of obtaining information in the case of the third applicant. In both instances, they used force to intimidate the two victims. Both applicants were in a state of vulnerability on account of the fact that they were being held by the police. The factors indicating to us that this was a case of torture rather than of inhuman or degrading treatment are the intent behind the conduct (dolus specialis) and the victims’ vulnerability. The existence of these two factors prevailed over the physical intensity of the pain or suffering (see Nowak M. and McArthur E., The United Nations Convention Against Torture. A Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 77).
2.  The case of these two victims, a mother and daughter, is singular, in that the acute suffering resulting from the acts committed by the State agents was not only physical, but also psychological. It is not necessary in this case to find the interrogation techniques with which the Court is familiar – Palestinian hanging (see Aksoy v. Turkey, cited above), beatings (see Dikme v. Turkey, cited above), falaka (Salman v. Turkey [GC], no. 21986/93, ECHR 2000‑VII), electric shocks (see Akkoç v. Turkey, nos. 22947/93 and 22948/93, ECHR 2000‑X, and Mikheyev v. Russia, no. 77617/01, 26 January 2006) or rape (see Aydin v. Turkey [GC], no. 23178/94, 25 September 1997) – but the intense psychological suffering arising from the very close family ties between the two victims was considered sufficient to find that the physical violence which occurred during the period in custody had amounted to an act of torture.
3.  It is clear that the Court has already referred to the importance of psychological suffering in Ireland v. the United Kingdom (18 January 1978, Series A no. 25), in which the Court indicated that psychological suffering is sufficient in itself to classify an act as torture. The Commission had already used the term “non-physical torture” in the Greek case (Yearbook 12), and described it as a state of anguish and stress caused by means other than bodily assault.
4.  Given that the present case concerned not only physical but also psychological violence, the Chamber ought to refer to the Court’s principles as set out in Campbell and Cosans v. the United Kingdom (25 February 1982, Series A no. 48) and developed in Gäfgen v. Germany ([GC], no. 22978/05, ECHR 2010). Thus, to threaten an individual with torture may constitute at least inhuman treatment (see Campbell and Cosans v. the United Kingdom, § 26) and “[I]n particular, the fear of physical torture may itself constitute mental torture. However, there appears to be broad agreement, and the Court likewise considers, that the classification of whether a given threat of physical torture amounted to psychological torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment depends upon all the circumstances of a given case, including, notably, the severity of the pressure exerted and the intensity of the mental suffering caused” (see Gäfgen, cited above, § 108)."
Inspections and seizures targeting commercial companies require the judge to carry out a specific review - Vinci Construction and ‘GTM Génie Civil et Services’ v. France - In the case of Vinci Construction and GMT genie civil and services v. France the Court held, that there had been violations of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life, for the home and for correspondence). The case concerned inspections and seizures carried out by investigators from the Department for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention on the premises of two companies. The central question was the weighing up of interests relating, on the one hand, to the legitimate search for evidence of offences under competition law, and, on the other, respect for home, private life and correspondence, and particularly for the confidentiality of lawyer-client exchanges. The Court considered that the safeguards provided by domestic law, regulating inspections and seizures conducted in the area of competition law, had not been applied in a practical and effective manner in this case, particularly since it was known that the documents seized contained correspondence between a lawyer and his client, which was subject to increased protection. The Court held that where a judge was called upon to examine reasoned allegations that specifically identified documents had been seized, although they were unrelated to the investigation or were covered by legal professional privilege, he or she was required to examine in detail the documents in question and to order their return where appropriate. 

Nous sommes tout à fait d’accord avec le dispositif du présent arrêt. Notre opinion concordante, toutefois, vise à clarifier certains points de droit comparé, surtout dans le domaine du droit constitutionnel. La question qui se pose en l’espèce porte sur l’encadrement des perquisitions et saisies dans les locaux d’un suspect – ce qui en droit américain touche aux restrictions posées par le quatrième amendement à la Constitution[1] –, d’où l’approche comparatiste de l’ensemble du problème.
Le premier point est la spécificité et le motif plausible (soupçon raisonnable) comme conditions préalables à la perquisition et à la saisie d’éléments à charge, en l’espèce un ordinateur et des documents.
Aux paragraphes 6 et 7 de l’arrêt, nous avons une description de l’acte délivré par le juge des libertés et de la détention (« le JLD »), qui autorisait la visite des locaux de la société requérante et la saisie des documents, messages électroniques, etc., en question : « [l]e JLD circonscrit ensuite l’autorisation de procéder à des visites et saisies aux locaux des sociétés expressément visées, ainsi qu’à leur activité dans le secteur de la construction et de la rénovation des établissements de santé » (§ 8). L’arrêt ne nous dit pas dans quelle mesure cette autorisation du JLD était circonscrite ni en particulier sur quels motifs plausibles elle reposait. Pour les besoins de l’argumentation, cependant, nous supposerons qu’il existait des soupçons suffisamment solides et raisonnables de croire que l’infraction en question avait bel et bien été commise.
Manifestement, les soupçons raisonnables doivent être exposés a priori, c’est-à-dire que les agents de la DGCCRF ne peuvent justifier a posteriori leur intrusion dans la sphère privée de la requérante par ce qu’ils auraient trouvé une fois dans les locaux et en conduisant la perquisition et la saisie des pièces à charge. Autrement, nous parlerions d’une « pêche aux informations » (fishing expedition).
En d’autres termes, justifier au préalable la perquisition est nécessaire parce que, en principe, chacun doit être protégé de toute intrusion de l’État dans sa sphère privée. L’intrusion n’est donc justifiée qu’une fois le soupçon déjà « raisonnable », c’est-à-dire lorsqu’il est très probable que le suspect a déjà enfreint la loi.
Dès lors, c’est ce soupçon et seulement lui qui justifie l’intrusion consécutive des pouvoirs publics. Le second paragraphe de l’article L.450-4 du code de commerce dispose : « [l]e juge doit vérifier que la demande d’autorisation qui lui est soumise est fondée ; cette demande doit comporter tous les éléments d’information en possession du demandeur de nature à justifier la visite » (les italiques sont de nous).
L’article 56 du code de procédure pénale, quant à lui, ne semble prévoir aucune condition de soupçon raisonnable, lequel devrait être 1) a priori[2], 2) concret[3], 3) spécifique et 4) articulable[4], de manière à permettre au juge de disposer au préalable d’informations réelles et pas seulement de l’intuition de l’autorité auteur de l’intrusion. Si le juge ne dispose pas de ces informations, c’est alors la police qui prend cette décision et la protection judiciaire fait défaut. Pour les besoins de l’argumentation, cependant, nous supposerons que ces conditions préalables avaient néanmoins été satisfaites antérieurement à la visite problématique de la DGCCRF.
Cependant, au cours de la perquisition, une fois sur les lieux, se pose la question des modalités d’encadrement de la recherche des éléments de preuve spécifiquement autorisée en l’espèce par l’ordonnance de saisie et perquisition délivrée par le JLD.
Lorsqu’est recherché un élément de preuve spécifique dans un lieu concret, la règle a toujours été bien sûr que la police ne peut fouiller que là où cet élément est susceptible d’être trouvé. Par exemple, si elle devait rechercher un fusil, elle ne serait pas autorisée à fouiller les petits tiroirs où l’arme ne pourrait être cachée. Si cette règle était enfreinte, les éléments recueillis, par exemple des stupéfiants retrouvés sur les lieux, ne pourraient être versés au dossier par l’effet de la règle de l’exclusion.
Cette règle connaît toutefois une exception. Si, lorsqu’elle recherche légitimement un élément de preuve particulier, la police tombe par inadvertance sur une pièce prouvant qu’une autre infraction a été commise, le principe dit des « objets bien en vue » (plain view doctrine) entre en jeu : tout objet trouvé parce qu’il était bien en vue est une preuve admissible de l’infraction en question ou d’une autre. Le complément subjectif au principe des objets bien en vue est ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler la « découverte par inadvertance » (inadvertent discovery), c’est-à-dire que la police doit démontrer que la découverte de l’élément en question n’était pas prévue et qu’elle s’est donc faite « par inadvertance ».
Comme dans le cas d’espèce, ces critères deviennent très difficiles à appliquer. De nombreux articles de doctrine[5] ont été écrits sur les perquisitions et saisies d’ordinateurs et de documents y relatifs et, dans certains pays, des unités spéciales d’agents ont été formées à l’application des critères sélectifs définissant ce qui peut ou ne peut pas devenir une preuve légitime.
Au paragraphe 11 de l’arrêt, on peut lire que les requérantes ont fait valoir « que les saisies pratiquées avaient été massives et indifférenciées et avaient porté sur plusieurs milliers de documents informatiques, ainsi que sur la messagerie électronique de plusieurs personnes, et que de nombreux documents saisis étaient sans lien avec l’enquête ou étaient couverts par la confidentialité qui s’attache aux relations entre un avocat et son client, et ce sans que ne soit dressé un inventaire suffisamment précis des documents saisis. Elles soutinrent également ne pas avoir pu prendre connaissance du contenu des documents avant leur saisie et n’avoir pu ainsi s’opposer à ces dernières. Elles demandèrent l’annulation des visites et saisies et à défaut la restitution des documents indument saisis. »
Voilà précisément, à nos yeux, le problème dans les affaires de ce type et, bien sûr, le respect, constaté par la Cour de cassation, des dispositions précitées du code de procédure pénale et du code de commerce, ne le règle malheureusement pas. Nous ignorons donc si les éléments obtenus étaient précisément et concrètement ceux que le JLD avait autorisé la DGCCRF à rechercher et recueillir.
La question préliminaire n’est donc pas de savoir s’il y a eu ou non violation de l’article 8 de la Convention. Le problème qui demeure est de savoir si une recherche et une saisie de preuves dûment sélectionnées, comme en l’espèce, sont un tant soit peu possibles. La doctrine assimile la recherche et la saisie de données informatiques à celles d’éléments dans un lieu ou dans tout autre « contenant » (container). Il y a des discussions autour du « parfait outil [de programmation] », d’une technologie avancée, qui permettrait grâce à un algorithme de déterminer précisément et à l’avance ce qui peut être extrait ou non d’un ordinateur. Malheureusement, un tel outil ne semble pas encore exister, si bien qu’une équipe hautement spécialisée d’experts en informatique peut passer des semaines voire des mois à examiner les données électroniques de tout ordinateur saisi.
Manifestement, au cours d’un tel examen, d’autres éléments à charge pourront apparaître « bien en vue », ce qui veut alors dire qu’ils deviendront eux aussi admissibles à titre de preuves.
Le droit français et la jurisprudence de la Cour n’adhèrent pas encore au principe des « objets bien en vue », dont est à l’origine l’attachement des Américains à la protection constitutionnelle offerte par le quatrième amendement à leur Constitution. C’est pourquoi un grand nombre de décisions de justice et d’articles de doctrine se débattent avec précisément le même problème que celui soulevé en l’espèce et dans l’affaire française Société Canal Plus et autres c. France, citée comme source du droit interne français au paragraphe 15 du présent arrêt. De même, le paragraphe 16 de l’arrêt renvoie à l’affaire André et autre c. France, où se posait le problème, similaire dans une certaine mesure et inhérent aussi en l’espèce, de la protection de la confidentialité des relations entre un avocat et son client.
Le sujet est extrêmement complexe et vaste : il ne peut pas même être résumé, et encore moins résolu, dans une opinion séparée. Toutefois, la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme devrait à nos yeux prendre clairement position sur ces situations où la frontière entre une perquisition légitime fondée sur une autorisation légitime et une « pêche aux informations » reste incertaine et imprécise.
[1] « Il ne sera pas porté atteinte au droit des citoyens d’être exempts de toute perquisition ou saisie déraisonnable concernant leur personne, leur domicile, les documents et biens leur appartenant ; aucun mandat de perquisition ne pourra être délivré s’il ne se fonde sur des motifs plausibles, s’il ne s’appuie sur des déclarations ou des affirmations sous serment et s’il ne mentionne de façon détaillée les lieux qui doivent faire l’objet de la perquisition et les personnes ou objets dont il faut s’assurer. » (Quatrième amendement à la Constitution des Etats-Unis d’Amérique ; traduction de J.-P. Lassalle, http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/dossiers/election-presidentielle-americaine-2008/constitution-americaine.shtml).
[2] Voir Henry v. United States [13 mars 2015], 361 U.S. 98 (1959).
[3] Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307 (1959) et voir Sherry F. Colb, Probabilities in Probable Cause and Beyond: Statistical Versus Concrete Harms [13 mars 2015], 73 Law and Contemporary Problems 69 (2010).
[4] Voir Terry v. Ohio [13 mars 2015], 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
[5] Voir, par exemple, Orin S. Kerr, Searches and Seizures in a Digital World, 119 Harvard Law Review 531 (2005) et Allison Bonelli, Computer Searches in Plain View: An Analysis of the Ninth Circuit Decision in United States Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc. [13 March 2015], 13:3 Journal of Constitutional Law 759 (2011). Voir aussi Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations, publié par l’Office of Legal Education, Executive Office for United States Attorneys, consultable à l’adresse http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/docs/ssmanual2009.pdf.
Freedom of speechViolation of Article 10 - Öner and Türk v. TurkeyThe applicants, Senanik Öner and Ferhan Türk, are Turkish nationals who were born in 1952 and 1951 respectively and live in Diyarbakır (Turkey). The case concerned criminal proceedings brought against the applicants following speeches they had made in public during the Newroz celebrations about the problems of Kurdish people. After making these speeches, the applicants were convicted of disseminating terrorist propaganda on behalf of an illegal organisation, the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party), in April 2008 and sentenced to one year and eight months’ imprisonment. This judgment was upheld by the Court of Cassation in December 2011. The execution of the applicants’ sentences was, however, suspended in October 2012 following an amendment to the law and revision of the first-instance judgment against the applicants. Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), the applicants complained about their conviction for making a speech, which had called for a peaceful resolution of the problems of the Kurdish people and had in no way advocated violence or any illegal activities.
"19.  The applicants contended that in their speech they had declared that the reality of the Kurdish situation must be recognised and that peaceful methods must be pursued in resolving the Kurdish problem. They further asserted that they had not associated themselves with the use of violence in any context and had not called upon people to resort to any illegal action.
20.  The Government submitted that the national court’s decision had been based on the former Article 7 § 2 of Act No. 3713.
21.  The Court considers that the conviction complained of in the present case constituted an interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression protected by Article 10 § 1. The Court further notes that it is not disputed that the applicant’s conviction had its legal basis in the former section 7 § 2 of Act No. 3713 (see paragraph 12 above). While questions could arise with respect to the foreseeability of that provision in its application, the Court does not consider it necessary to deal with this issue, having regard to its conclusion below, regarding the necessity of the interference (see Faruk Temel v. Turkey, no. 16853/05, § 49, 1 February 2011; and Association Ekin v. France, no. 39288/98, § 46, ECHR 2001‑VIII).
22.  As to the issue of whether the impugned measure had a legitimate aim, the Government submitted that the interference pursued the legitimate aim of the protection of public security, national security and territorial integrity. The applicants did not comment on this issue. The Court accepts that the measures in issue could be said to have pursued at least one of the legitimate aims under paragraph 2 of Article 10, namely “national security”.
23.  Turning to the issue of whether the interference was “necessary in a democratic society”, the Court observes that it has already examined a similar complaint – and found a violation of Article 10 of the Convention – in the case of Faruk Temel, cited above, where it noted in particular that the applicants’ conviction pursuant to the former section 7 § 2 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, as a result of their speeches, went beyond any notion of “necessary” restraint in a democratic society.
24.  The Court further observes that the speech in question consisted of a critical assessment of Turkey’s policies concerning the Kurdish problem. The applicants expressed discontent with respect to certain policies of the government, the practices of the security forces, and the detention conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, whereas the domestic courts considered that the impugned speech contained terrorist propaganda. The Court considers that, taken as a whole, the applicant’s speech does not encourage violence, armed resistance or an uprising (see, Gerger v. Turkey [GC], no. 24919/94, § 50, 8 July 1999, and contrast Halis Doğan v. Turkey, no. 75946/01, §§ 35‑38, 7 February 2006). Moreover, the speeches in question delivered by the applicants were not capable of inciting violence by instilling a deep‑seated and irrational hatred against identifiable persons (Sürek v. Turkey (no. 1) [GC], no. 26682/95, § 62, ECHR 1999‑IV) and therefore did not constitute hate speech.
25.  Furthermore, it is true that the applicants were found guilty of disseminating terrorist propaganda on behalf of an illegal organisation. The Court, however, notes that it was not indicated in the reasoning of the domestic courts’ judgments whether they had examined the proportionality of the interference and the balancing of rights taking into account freedom of expression. In the light of the foregoing, the Court considers that the reasons given by the Diyarbakır Assize Court for convicting and sentencing the applicants cannot be considered relevant and sufficient to justify the interference with their right to freedom of expression. The Court concludes that the applicants’ conviction was disproportionate to the aims pursued within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 10 of the Convention and therefore not “necessary in a democratic society”.
26.  The Court has examined the present case in the light of Faruk Temel (cited above, §§ 43-64) and finds no particular circumstances in the instant case which would require it to depart from its conclusion in that case.
27.  There has accordingly been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention."
Freedom of assembly and association - Helsinki Committee of Armenia v. Armenia - Violation of Article 11 Violation of Article 13 - The applicant organisation, the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, is a non-governmental human rights organisation based in Yerevan. The case concerned a ban on the organisation holding a march in mourning of the death of a man, who was a witness in a murder investigation, in police custody. The incident, involving the witness jumping out of a police station window on 12 May 2007, had provoked an outcry among Armenian human rights groups and civil society. Relying on Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the Convention, the applicant NGO complained about the ban on them holding their mourning march. Further relying on Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), the NGO also complained that any appeal against the decision banning their march, received after the date of the planned event, had not only been ineffective but meaningless.
Whether the interference was justified 
"43.  An interference will constitute a breach of Article 11 unless it is “prescribed by law”, pursues one or more legitimate aims under paragraph 2 and is “necessary in a democratic society” for the achievement of those aims.
44.  The Court notes that nothing suggests that the interference was not prescribed by law. Furthermore, it can accept that the interference pursued the legitimate aim of preventing disorder or crime.
45.  As regards the third requirement, the Court reiterates that the right of peaceful assembly enshrined in Article 11 is a fundamental right in a democratic society and, like the right to freedom of expression, one of the foundations of such a society (see Christian Democratic People’s Party v. Moldova, no. 28793/02, § 62, ECHR 2006‑II).
46.  States must not only safeguard the right to assemble peacefully but also refrain from applying unreasonable indirect restrictions upon that right. In view of the essential nature of freedom of assembly and its close relationship with democracy there must be convincing and compelling reasons to justify an interference with this right (see Ouranio Toxo and Others v. Greece, no. 74989/01, § 36, ECHR 2005‑X (extracts)).
47.  In carrying out its scrutiny of the impugned interference, the Court has to ascertain whether the respondent State exercised its discretion reasonably, carefully and in good faith. It must also look at the interference complained of in the light of the case as a whole and determine whether it was “proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued” and whether the reasons adduced by the national authorities to justify it are “relevant and sufficient”. In so doing, the Court has to satisfy itself that the national authorities applied standards which were in conformity with the principles embodied in Article 11 and, moreover, that they based their decisions on an acceptable assessment of the relevant facts (see Stankov and the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden v. Bulgaria, nos. 29221/95 and 29225/95, § 87, ECHR 2001‑IX, and Makhmudov v. Russia, no. 35082/04, § 65, 26 July 2007).
48.  In the present case, the Court notes that the reason for banning the march in question was that the post-election rallies had resulted in clashes and human casualties, there was still an on-going investigation and not all the offenders had been identified or weapons found. The Court, however, doubts whether these could be considered as relevant or sufficient reasons for banning the march in question.
49.  First, the march was supposed to take place more than two months after the post-election clashes and more than a month after the expiry of the state of emergency declared by the President of Armenia (see paragraphs 7 and 8 above).
50.  Second, there is no evidence to suggest that the organisers or the participants of the planned march were in any way involved or implicated in the post-election disorder or violence.
51.  Third, nothing suggests that the organisers or the participants of the planned march had violent intentions or that the march might for any other reason degenerate into mass disorder. The Court notes in this respect that the purpose of the planned march had nothing to do with politics, elections or the confrontation between the opposition and the government and was instead to raise awareness on a matter of public concern, namely the death of a person while in a police station. According to the applicant organisation, this was supposed to be a quiet march marking the anniversary of a tragic event and not posing any threats to security. The Court has no reason to doubt this allegation. It notes that the Mayor’s reference to the official opinion of the National Security Service alleging that the march posed a danger is couched in general terms (see paragraph 10 above). It is not even clear whether the “credible and verified data” referred to were ever presented to the Mayor or what such data were or whether such data even existed. The Mayor’s finding in this respect therefore appears not to be supported by any concrete, clear and convincing evidence.
52.  The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the interference with the applicant organisation’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly was not “necessary in a democratic society”.
53.  There has accordingly been a violation of Article 11 of the Convention."

Texts are based on the press releases of the European Court of Human Rights. 
This selection covers categories 1 and 2 judgments.

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