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Fourth Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe
On 16 and 17 May 2023 President Síofra O’Leary represented the Court at the 4th Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavik (Iceland). She delivered a statement on that occasion and held bilateral meetings with: Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic; Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova; Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium; Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia; Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland; Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of Ireland; Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg; Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
Grand Chamber judgment concerning France
In the case of Sanchez v. France the Court held that there had been no violation of the freedom of expression.
The case concerned the criminal conviction of the applicant, at the time a local councillor who was standing for election to Parliament, for incitement to hatred or violence against a group of people or an individual on the grounds of their membership of a specific religion, following his failure to take prompt action in deleting comments posted by others on the wall of his Facebook account.
In the case of Mesić v. Croatia (no. 2) the Court held that there had been no violation of the right to respect for private life.
The case concerned an article published in February 2015 by an Internet news portal Dnevno.hr suggesting that the applicant, a former President of Croatia, had, during his term of office, been offered or taken bribes in relation to the procurement of armoured vehicles for the Croatian army from a Finnish company.
The Court found that the article had not targeted the applicant’s private life but had referred to his conduct in the exercise of his official duties and, in reporting what had been stated in official documents, had not unambiguously stated that he had participated in criminal activities. It also found that the Croatian courts had struck a fair balance between the applicant’s right to respect for his private life and the right of the news portal to freedom of expression.
In the case of Chkhartishvili v. Georgia the Court held that there had been a violation of the freedom of assembly read in the light of the freedom of expression.
The case concerned the applicant’s arrest at a demonstration in Tbilisi for disobeying police orders to move off the road and throwing beans at the police. The applicant was brought before a judge and found guilty of insulting and disobeying lawful police orders. He was sentenced to eight days’ administrative detention.
The Court found that the applicant had been given a custodial sentence mainly because of the way he had expressed his views, rather than for disobeying police orders to move off the road and that, in the absence of appropriate reasoning, a custodial sanction for the applicant’s non-violent conduct had not been justified.
The ECHR has declared the application in the inter-State case Georgia v. Russia (IV) admissible. The decision is final and will be followed by a judgment on the merits at a later stage.
The case concerns the alleged deterioration of the human-rights situation along the administrative boundary lines between Georgian-controlled territory and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is the fourth Georgia v. Russia inter-State application.
In the case of Mestan v. Bulgaria the Court held that there had been a violation of the freedom of expression.
The case concerned an administrative sanction imposed on the leader of a political party – traditionally supported by voters belonging to the Turkish minority in Bulgaria – who was a candidate in the 2013 Bulgarian parliamentary elections, for speaking in Turkish while campaigning for election. The Bulgarian authorities took the view that he had breached the Bulgarian Electoral Code.
The Court noted that the Bulgarian Electoral Code imposed an absolute prohibition on the use of any language other than the official language (Bulgarian) in election campaigning, and that breaches of the relevant provisions resulted in administrative sanctions in the form of fines.
The Court found that the prohibition in question did not correspond to a pressing special need and was not proportionate to the legitimate aims mentioned in the Convention. The interference with the exercise of the applicant’s right to freedom of expression had therefore not been necessary in a democratic society.
Delivered Judgment and Decisions
Grand Chamber News
On 22 May 2023, the Grand Chamber panel of five judges decided to reject all 8 requests for referral to the Grand Chamber.
The ECHR has accepted a request for an advisory opinion submitted by the Conseil d’État of Belgium. The request was submitted in the context of an application lodged by a security guard before the administrative judicial division of the Belgian Conseil d’État, seeking the annulment of a decision by the Ministry of the Interior to withdraw an identity card entitling him to work as a security or surveillance guard, on the grounds that he was in contact with individuals associated with the “scientific” strand of Salafism.
The Court held a Grand Chamber hearing in the case of Yalçınkaya v. Türkiye.
The case concerns the trial and conviction of the applicant for membership of the FETÖ/PDY. The trial took place in the aftermath of the attempted coup d’état of 15 July 2016.
The Court has declared inadmissible eight applications in the case of Žegarac and Others v. Serbia and decided to strike the other three applications out of its list of cases.
The applicants’ complaints concern the reduction of the payment of their old-age pensions from November 2014 to September 2018. The reduction followed legislative amendments introduced by the Government as part of a wider set of austerity measures. The Court ruled that the authorities had struck a fair balance between ensuring the financial stability of the pension system – which was in the general interest of the public – and protecting the applicants’ property rights in order to prevent them from bearing an individual and excessive burden.
The Court has declared inadmissible the applications in the case of Taleski and Others v. North Macedonia.
The case concerned the applicants’ trial for alleged crimes related to and arising from the content of unlawful, widespread wiretapping. They received presidential pardons which were later annulled. Following the annulments they were tried.
The Court held that the applicants had failed to exhaust domestic remedies.
The Court has declared inadmissible the application in the case of Cömert and Others v. Türkiye.
The case concerned the death of the applicants’ relative during a demonstration held to protest against the demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul.
The Court held that the application was inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies because several domestic cases concerning the applicants’ complaints remained pending before the national authorities. Nonetheless the Court noted that, should the national proceedings prove so unavailing, on account of their duration or the manner in which they were conducted, as to be rendered ineffective within the meaning of its case-law, and should the decision of the Constitutional Court on the individual application pending before it fall short of meeting the applicants’ concerns, it would be open to them to make a fresh application to the Court.
On 23 May 2023 Levan Ioseliani, Public Defender of Georgia, visited the Court and was received by Vice-President Marko Bošnjak. Victor Soloveytchik, Section Registrar, also attended the meeting.
On 22 May 2023 a delegation from the Supreme Court of Norway, headed by Chief Justice Toril Marie Øie, paid a working visit to the Court and was received by President Síofra O’Leary. During the visit the delegation took part in roundtable discussions with judges of the Court and members of the Registry.
The SCN welcomes a new member: the Supreme Court of Denmark, which brings the membership of the Network to 104 courts from 45 States.