Application Number 3619/03

European Court of Human Rights

Just after the attack on the twin towers, a cartoonist drew a drawing of the towers with the capture “We have all dreamt of it… Hamas did it” for publication. He was charged with EUR 1500. The ECtHR found no violation of Article 10 since there was a disregard of the close proximity with the event itself and given the sensitivity of the Basque region where it was published, was capable of stirring up violence and impacting public order.


Theme(s): Violence, terrorism

Date: 6 April 2009

Description of Applicant:  Cartoonist

Brief description of facts: The applicant was convicted for condoning terrorism following the publication of his drawing of the twin towers. He submitted a drawing showing the twin towers attack with a caption: “We have all dreamt of it… Hamas did it” to Ekaitza’s editorial team. Following publication of the drawing, the public prosecutor brought proceedings against the applicant and the newspaper’s publishing director on charges of complicity in condoning terrorism. In January 2002, the court convicted them of these charges and ordered them to pay a fine of EUR 1,500 each, to publish the judgment at their own expense in Ekaitza and two other newspapers and to pay costs. Appeals were rejected.

 (Alleged) target(s) of speech:

The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech:

The Court took into account that the applicant submitted his drawing on the day of the attacks and it was published on 13 September, with no precautions on his part as to the language used. In the Court’s opinion, this factor – the date of publication – was such as to increase the applicant’s responsibility in his account of, and even support for, a tragic event, whether considered from an artistic or a journalistic perspective. In addition, the impact of such a message in a politically sensitive region, namely the Basque Country, was not to be overlooked. The weekly newspaper’s limited circulation notwithstanding, the Court noted that the drawing’s publication had provoked a certain public reaction, capable of stirring up violence and demonstrating a plausible impact on public order in the region.

Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:

Para. 42: The Court noted that the drawing showing the destruction of the towers accompanied by the legend “we had all dreamed of it, Hamas did it. According to the authorities, even without follow-up, the publication in question claims the effectiveness of the terrorist act by idealizing the attacks perpetrated on September 11. Thus, the Court of Appeal held that “by making a direct allusion to the massive attacks in which Manhattan was the theater, by attributing these events to a notorious terrorist organization, and by idealizing this disastrous project by the use of the verb dream, giving an unequivocal valuation to an act of death, the applicant justifies the use of terrorism, adhering by the use of the first person in the plural (“we” to this means) of destruction, presented as the outcome of a dream and indirectly encouraging ultimately the potential reader to positively appreciate the success of a crime. ”

ECHR Article: Article 10

Decision: No violation

Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? No