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Strasbourg Court strikes at freedom of speech. The fine for the criticism of ideological classes is maintained

Published: 05.08.2020

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The European Court of Human Rights rejected the complaint of the Icelandic citizen sentenced to a fine for the criticism of the introduction of classes promoting the LGBT ideology in schools. The ECHR stated that the man used ‘hate speech’, even though the European Convention of Human Rights does not specify this concept as a reason for restricting the freedom of speech. This term is not used in any act of international law, either. The Icelandic man had to pay around EUR 625 for his Internet post.

In 2015, the municipal council of the town of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, adopted a resolution on the introduction of classes promoting the LGBT ideology in primary and secondary schools. One of the Internet users criticised this idea in his comment to the article on the website of a local radio station, accusing the town authorities of ‘the indoctrination of children’ and calling homosexuality a ‘sexual deviation’.

Soon afterwards, the Icelandic association of LGBT activists submitted a denunciation against the author of the comment to the prosecutor, accusing him of having committed the offence of defamation of a sexual minority. The court of first instance acquitted the Internet user, finding his opinion to be within the limits of the freedom of speech. However, the Icelandic Supreme Court overturned this decision and sentenced the man to a fine of 100,000 krona (the equivalent value of around EUR 625). In the court’s view, the comment of the person concerned was ‘severely hurtful and prejudicial’, particularly because he could have expressed his objection to the decision of the municipal council in a different way.

In 2018, the Icelandic man brought a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming the violation of his right to free speech. In June 2020, the ECHR found the complaint to be ‘obviously inadmissible,’ stating that the man’s comment constituted ‘hate speech’.

‘It is another decision in which the European Court of Human Rights uses the vague concept of “hate speech” towards opinions criticising the promotion of homosexuality in public space. This proves an alarming tendency to make breaches in the freedom of speech guaranteed in Article 10 of the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by means of questionable and imprecise interpretations. The freedom of speech may be restricted in strictly defined cases listed in Article 10(2) of the Convention, which contains no reference to hate speech – in addition to which, none of the acts of international law uses this concept. However, the Court not only approved, but even regarded as obvious the restriction of the freedom of criticising the promotion of homosexuality in public space – in this case, schools – stating that it was justified by the defence of the right of homosexual persons to privacy. It is difficult to understand such justification, since the comment did not refer to the private life of homosexuals, but to the introduction of classes promoting the demands of the LGBT movement in public primary and secondary schools,’ commented Karolina Pawłowska from the Centre of International Law of Ordo Iuris Institute.

Case of Carl Jóhann Lilliendahl v. Iceland, ECHR’s decision of 11.06.2020

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