Application Number 16853/05

European Court of Human Rights  

[Judgment delivered in French]

The applicant was the president of a political party who, during a meeting, made statements about the Kurdish problem and the need for a democratic solution. The Court held that the applicant’s statements did not incite violence and did not constitute hate speech, therefore finding a violation of Article 10.


Theme(s): Violence, terrorism

Date: 01 May 2011

Description of applicant(s):  President of the political party ‘Party of People’s Democracy’

Brief description of facts: In 2003, during a meeting, the applicant read a statement entitled (“To the press and to public opinion”). Excerpts include:

If our country is not to be the victim of another period of confrontation, it is necessary to put an end to isolation practices in prisons as soon as possible. (…) Turkey’s main problem, namely the Kurdish question, must form the basis of the peaceful democratic solution. (…) To remain silent today and to remain without acting amounts to having to bear tomorrow, morally, all responsibilities. (…) ”

The crowd, making the sign of peace, chanted the slogans “No to war” and “Let the dungeons be emptied, freedom for men”. (…) The crowd dispersed, chanting the slogan “No to war.”

The applicant was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment and a fine on the grounds that he had glorified violence and other terrorist activities.

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

The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The Court found that national courts did not read the applicant’s statements as a whole but instead interpreted a few parts of these statements to reach the conclusion that he was promoting violence and terrorism. The Court held that the applicant’s statements did not incite violence and did not constitute hate speech.

Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:

Para. 61 The Court then noted that it appeared from the grounds of the judgment of the State Security Court, confirmed by the Court of Cassation, that in order to convict the applicant, the national courts had not examined all of his statement. They limited their interpretation to only one part of the text. In particular, they paid no attention to the terms used in this statement taken as a whole nor did they take into account the quality or personality of the applicant, the place and the context in which the contested statement had been read and the addressees of the message. Also, in the light of its findings as to the content of the declaration in question, the Court did not agree with the assessment of the national courts which had led to the applicant’s conviction for propaganda for the benefit of a terrorist organization on account of the reading by the person concerned with the declaration at issue.

Note! statement focused on by national court:

In this statement, the accused spoke of Abddullah Öcalan, leader of the terrorist group PKK-KADEK who is behind countless massacres…referred to “segregation” and said that Abddullah Öcalan should receive amnesty, thereby uttering openly propaganda for the leader of the terrorist organization.

Para. 62: The Court also noted that the declaration read as a whole did not encourage the use of violence, armed resistance or uprising and – a fundamental element to be taken into account – it did not constitute hate speech either. The content of the declaration was also not likely to promote violence by instilling a deep and irrational hatred towards identified persons. It follows that the applicant’s criminal conviction did not meet a “pressing social need”.

ECHR Article: Article 10

Decision:  Violation

Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? Yes:

Para.62 above

Note! Translation from French to English is our own