Application Numbers 4149/04 & 41029/04
European Court of Human Rights
The applicant, who is of Roma origin, argued that a book and two dictionaries that had received government funding included remarks and expressions that reflected anti-Roma sentiment. He considered that these statements constituted an attack on his Roma identity and filed a complaint claiming that the publications breached article 14 in conjunction with article 8. He requested compensation for the non-pecuniary damage he had sustained on account of the remarks contained in the book and also asked for the copies of the book to be confiscated and for its publication and distribution to be banned. The Court dismissed the complaint and ruled in favour of Turkey holding that it had not overstepped its margin of appreciation.
Theme(s): Ethnic hatred
Date: 15 March 2012
Description of applicant(s): Citizen
Brief Description of Facts: In a book approved and funded by the Ministry of Culture, a professor wrote about the Roma minority living in Turkey, describing their customs and way of life. The applicant, a Turkish citizen of Roman origin, was offended by the text, especially the passages which stated that Gypsies were engaged in illegal activities, lived as “thieves, pickpockets, swindlers, robbers, usurers, beggars, drug dealers, prostitutes and brothel keepers” and were “polygamist and aggressive” which he considers to be a generalization and offence to his ethnic group. Moreover, he filed another complaint against the definition made in “the Turkish dictionary for pupils” where he found several definitions as highly offensive to his community and asked the Ministry of Culture to remove them. He sent several requests to ban the publication and to seize the other 299 copies of the text. His request was refused on several occasions by electronic communication and he continued his case through the courts.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Roma
The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The Court balanced the applicant’s right under Article 8 with Article 10. In this framework, it found that the book was a result of academic research and had no intention of insulting the Roma community and that in several parts of the book, reference had been made to the intention to shed light on the unknown world of the Roma community in Tukey who had been targeted by prejudice. Nevertheless, it underlined the need, in relevant situations, for States to take positive measures to prevent negative stereotyping.
Important paragraph(s) from the judgement:
Para. 58: In particular, any negative stereotyping of a group, when it reaches a certain level, is capable of impacting on the group’s sense of identity and the feelings of self-worth and self-confidence of members of the group. It is in this sense that it can be seen as affecting the private life of members of the group.
Para 59: Furthermore, while the essential object of Article 8 is to protect the individual against arbitrary interference by the public authorities, it does not merely compel the State to abstain from such interference: in addition to this negative undertaking there may be positive obligations inherent in the effective respect for private life. These obligations may involve the adoption of measures designed to secure respect for private life even in the sphere of the relations of individuals between themselves.
ECHR Articles: Article 8 (In relation to Article 14, the Court found that the case did not involve differential treatment and, therefore, considered Article 8 as a standalone article)
Decision: No Violation
Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? No