Application Number 72596/01
European Court of Human Rights
The applicant was owner of a publishing company which published the Lithuanian Calendar. A complaint had been made regarding the content of the calendar which allegedly incited hatred against persons of Polish, Russian and Jewish origin. The calendar included statements which allegedly incited ethnic and national hatred. The applicant received an administrative fine. The ECtHR relied and agreed on the findings of the national courts, giving them a wide margin of appreciation. No violation of Article 10.
Theme(s): Ethnic Hatred
Date: 4 February 2009
Description of applicant(s): Founder/owner of publishing company
Brief description of facts: Since 1995, the applicant’s company has published “Lithuanian calendar,” a yearly calendar with notes by the applicant and other contributors describing various historic dates from the perspective of its authors. The calendar could be purchased in bookstores. It was distributed in Lithuania and among Lithuanian immigrants living abroad. On 4 January 2000, a Member of the Lithuanian Parliament made a public announcement, stating that the texts published in “Lithuanian calendar 2000” insulted persons of Polish, Russian and Jewish origin, and that the applicant expressed nationalism and ethnocentrism. The calendar made references such as “The Lithuanian nation will only survive by being a nationalist nation – no other way exists!”, repeatedly referred to the Jews as perpetrators of war crimes and genocide against the Lithuanians (“The soviet occupying power, with the help of … many Jews… carried out the genocide and colonisation of the Lithuanian nation,” “Through the blood of our ancestors to the worldwide community of the Jews,” “… executions against the Lithuanians and the Lithuanian nation, carrying out pro-Jewish politics”). She also used the same language with reference to the Poles (“In 1944 … the Polish Krajova Army killed 12 Lithuanians for the sole reason that they were Lithuanians,” “In 1944 … the Polish Krajova Army brutally killed more than a hundred Lithuanians … the Poles, in war conditions, carried out ethnic cleansing. In the whole territory of Lithuania [the members of the Krajova Army] killed about 1 000, and in the ethnic Lithuanian lands about 3, 000 more innocent people for the sole reason that they were Lithuanians. The … events should be regarded as the genocide of the Lithuanian nation…”).
The national court imposed an administrative warning under Article 30 of the Code on Administrative Law Offence. An administrative warning is a penalty that can be used to replace a harsher penalty; the administrative warning is also intended to serve as a preventive measure, in the same way as a suspended sentence in criminal law. Authorities had also confiscated the calendar and banned its further distribution.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Russians, Jews, Poles
The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The calendar included statements which incited ethnic and national hatred. The Court relied and agreed on the findings of the national courts, giving them a wide margin of appreciation.
Important paragraph(s) from judgment:
Para.80: The impugned passages contained statements inciting hatred against the Poles and the Jews. The Court considers that these statements were capable of giving the Lithuanian authorities cause for serious concern. In considering the approach of the domestic courts when deciding whether a ‘pressing social need’ indeed existed and the reasons the authorities adduced to justify the interference, the Court observes that the Vilnius City Second District Court appointed experts, who provided conclusions as to the gravity of the applicant’s statements and the danger they posed to society. The courts agreed with the conclusion of the experts that a biased and one-sided portrayal of relations among nations hindered the consolidation of civil society and promoted national hatred. The national courts noted the negative reaction which the publication received from a certain part of Lithuanian society and some foreign embassies. They also took into consideration the experts’ conclusions that the applicant’s statements could be attributed to the ‘ideology of extreme nationalism,’ which promoted national hatred, xenophobia and territorial claims. Having regard to the margin of appreciation left to the Contracting States in such circumstances, the Court considers that the domestic authorities, in the circumstances of the case, did not overstep their margin of appreciation when they considered that there was a pressing social need to take measures against the applicant.
ECHR Article: Article 10
Decision: No violation of Article 10
Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? No