Application Numbers 2668/07, 6102/08, 30079/08, 7072/09 et 7124/09

European Court of Human Rights

[Judgment delivered in French]

The applicant was a journalist (deceased) (of Armenian origin) who wrote of the obsession of Armenians to have the Armenian genocide recognized by Turkey. He was found guilty of denigrating ‘Turkishness.’ The ECtHR found that his articles did not constitute hate speech and thus found a violation of Article 10.


Theme(s): Ethnic hatred

Date: 14 December 2010

Description of applicant(s): Publication director and editor-in-chief of a Turkish-Armenian newspaper (and his family)

Brief description of facts: The applicants are a journalist (deceased) and five close relatives. The first applicant is Turkish (Armenian) who was publication director and editor-in-chief of a Turkish-Armenian newspaper. He wrote a series of articles in which he expressed his views on the identity of Turkish citizens of Armenian origin. In his view, the Turkish part of the Armenian identity was both poison and antidote. He wrote that the “purified blood that will replace the blood poisoned by the ‘Turk’ can be found in the noble vein linking Armenians to Armenia.” He wrote a further article in which he referred to the Armenian origins of Atatürk’s adopted daughter. Extreme nationalists reacted to the articles by staging demonstrations, writing threatening letters and lodging a criminal complaint. In 2005, a criminal court found the journalist guilty of denigrating “Turkishness” (Turkish identity) and imposed a suspended prison sentence on him. In 2006, the Court of Cassation upheld the finding of guilt. In early 2007, the criminal court to which the case had been remitted discontinued the proceedings on account of the death of the journalist, who had been assassinated a few weeks earlier. The public prosecutor’s office instituted criminal proceedings against eighteen persons on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities and assassinations; the proceedings were pending at the time of the ECtHR hearing.

(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Turkish identity

The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The ECtHR found that the national court did not conduct a suitable analysis of the articles. The ECtHR considered that what the journalist had described as “poison” had not been “Turkish blood,” as held by the Court of Cassation, but the “perception of Turkish people” by Armenians and the obsessive nature of the Armenian diaspora’s campaign to have Turkish people recognize the events of 1915 as genocide. Article 10 did not permit restrictions on freedom of expression in the sphere of political debate and issues of public interest. Furthermore, the articles taken overall did not incite others to violence, resistance or revolt.

Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:

Para. 128:  The Court notes that the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation noted that the examination of the whole series of articles in which the applicant had used the disputed expression clearly shows that what he described as “poison” was the “perception of the Turk” among the Armenians, as well as the “obsessive” nature of the approach of the Armenian diaspora aimed at obtaining recognition by the Turks that the events of 1915 constituted genocide. The Court finds that Dink argued that this obsession, which made Armenians still feel “victimized”, poisoned the lives of members of the Armenian diaspora and prevented them from developing their identity on healthy grounds. The Court inferred from this, contrary to the Government’s position, that these statements, were in no way aimed at “the Turks” and could not amount to hate speech.

Para 134: The Court observes, however, that the series of articles in question, read as a whole, does not incite violence, armed resistance or uprising, which, in its view, is an essential element to take into consideration.

ECHR Article: Article 10

Decision: Violation

Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? Yes, para.128 above.

Note! Translations from French to English is our own.