Application Number 23131/03
European Court of Human Rights
A regional organizer for the British National Party displayed a poster in his window with the words “Islam out of Britain- Protect the British People” and a symbol of a crescent and star in a prohibition sign. He was charged in the UK. The ECtHR applied Article 17, the non-destruction clause, since it considered this speech to constitute a ‘general, vehement attack on a religious group.’
Theme(s): Religious Hatred
Date: 16 November 2004
Description of applicant(s): Regional organizer for the British National Party
Brief description of facts: The applicant was a Regional Organizer for the British National Party (BNP). Between November 2001 and 9 January 2002, he displayed in the window of his first-floor flat a large poster (60 cm x 38 cm), supplied by the BNP, with a photograph of the Twin Towers in flame, the words “Islam out of Britain – Protect the British People” and a symbol of a crescent and star in a prohibition sign. The poster was removed by the police following a complaint from a member of the public. The applicant was charged for hostility towards a racial or religious group. His appeals on a national level were dismissed.
(Alleged) target(s) of speech: Muslims
The Court’s assessment of impugned speech: The applicant argued that his rights under Article 10 had been violated. However, the court did not conduct an assessment of this article but, rather, invoked Article 17 as it considered the poster to be a ‘general, vehement attack against a religious group.’
Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:
The poster in question in the present case contained a photograph of the Twin Towers in flame, the words “Islam out of Britain – Protect the British People” and a symbol of a crescent and star in a prohibition sign. The Court notes and agrees with the assessment made by the domestic courts, namely that the words and images on the poster amounted to a public expression of attack on all Muslims in the United Kingdom. Such a general, vehement attack against a religious group, linking the group as a whole with a grave act of terrorism, is incompatible with the values proclaimed and guaranteed by the Convention, notably tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination.
ECHR Article: Article 17
Decision: Manifestly ill-founded
Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? No