Application Number 34367/14
European Court of Human Rights[Judgment delivered in French]
The applicant was the leader and spokesperson of the organization “Sharia4Belgium,” which was dissolved in 2012, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence for remarks he made in YouTube videos concerning non-Muslim groups and Sharia. The ECtHR found that his statements promoted hatred and violence against Non-Muslims and, therefore, fell outside the protection of the Convention.
Theme(s): Religious Hatred
Date: 27 June 2017
Description of Applicants: The leader and spokesperson of the organization “Sharia4Belgium”
Brief Description of Facts: The applicant was the leader and spokesperson of the organization “Sharia4Belgium”, which was dissolved in 2012, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence for remarks he made in YouTube videos concerning non-Muslim groups and Sharia. He received a suspended one year and six months’ prison term and a fine of EUR 550.
Target(s) of speech: Non-Muslims
Court’s assessment of impugned speech: The Court noted that the applicant had published a series of videos on YouTube in which he called on viewers to overpower non-Muslims, teach them a lesson and fight them. The Court held that his recordings had sought to stir up hatred, discrimination and violence towards all non-Muslims. In the Court’s view, such a general and vehement attack was incompatible with the values of tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination underlying the Convention. The Court used Article 17 of the ECHR, finding the application manifestly ill-founded.
Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:
Para. 31: The decisive question under Article 17 is whether the applicant’s words were intended to stir up hatred or violence and whether, in holding them, he sought to invoke the Convention in such a way as to engage in an activity or to commit acts aimed at the destruction of the rights and freedoms devoted to it.
Para 32: The Court thus applied Article 17 of the Convention by excluding certain comments from the protection offered by Article 10 in cases relating to statements which denied the Holocaust or its organization by Hitler…to a poster which associated all Muslims with a serious act of terrorism …or in cases relating to publications deemed anti-Semitic and negationist.
Para 33: In the present case, the applicant published a series of videos on YouTube in which he called on listeners to dominate, to teach and to fight non-Muslim persons. The Court has no doubt as to the strongly hateful content of the applicant’s opinions and endorses the conclusion of the domestic courts that the applicant sought, through his recordings, to hate, discriminate against and be violent against non-Muslims. In the Court’s opinion, such a general and vehement attack is in contradiction with the values of tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination which underlie the Convention.
ECHR Article: Article 17
Decision: Manifestly ill-founded
Use of ‘hate speech’ ‘extreme speech’ by the Court in its assessment? Yes:
Para.34: With regard in particular to the applicant’s comments on Sharia law, the Court reiterated that it held that defending Sharia law by calling for violence to establish it could be regarded as “hate speech”
Note! Translation from French to English is our own.