Application Number 64016/00
European Court of Human Rights
The applicant wrote an article in a newspaper regarding the role of the doctrine of the ‘fulfillment’ of the Old Covenant in the New led to anti-Semitism and prepared the ground for Auschwitz to take place. The ECtHR found that the applicant was discussing possible reasons for the extermination of the Jews and was not attacking Christians. As such, it found a violation of Article 10.
Theme(s): Religious Hatred
Date: 31 April 2006
Description of applicant(s): Author
Brief description of facts: The newspaper ‘Le quotidien de Paris’ published an article written by the applicant, entitled “The obscurity of error” concerning the papal encyclical “The Splendour of Truth” (“Veritatis Splendor”), which had been published at the end of 1993. 14.
Some of the applicant’s passages included:
The Catholic Church sets itself up as the sole keeper of divine truth … It strongly proclaims the fulfilment of the Old Covenant in the New, and the superiority of the latter … … Many Christians have acknowledged that scriptural anti-Judaism and the doctrine of the ‘fulfilment’ [accomplissement] of the Old Covenant in the New led to anti-Semitism and prepared the ground in which the idea and implementation [accomplissement] of Auschwitz took seed. The applicant was convicted and fined for publicly defaming a group of persons on the ground of membership of a religion, in this case, the Christian community.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Christians
The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The Court found that the applicant was not making an attack against Christians but, rather, contributing to the possible reasons behind the extermination of the Jews in Europe. As such it found a violation of Article 10.
Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:
Para 51: By considering the detrimental effects of a particular doctrine, the article in question contributed to a discussion of the various possible reasons behind the extermination of the Jews in Europe, a question of indisputable public interest in a democratic society. In such matters, restrictions on freedom of expression are to be strictly construed. Although the issue raised in the present case concerns a doctrine upheld by the Catholic Church, and hence a religious matter, an analysis of the article in question shows that it does not contain attacks on religious beliefs as such, but a view which the applicant wishes to express as a journalist and historian. In that connection, the Court considers it essential in a democratic society that a debate on the causes of acts of particular gravity amounting to crimes against humanity should be able to take place freely.
ECHR Article: Article 10
Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? No