European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Court judgements on Slovakia and the United Kingdom

Two European Court judgements published today have placed the spotlight on human rights protection in Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Soltész v. Slovakia (no. 11867/09)

The applicant, Arpád Soltész, is a Slovak national who was born in 1969 and lives in Košice (Slovakia). He is a journalist. The case concerned an article published by Soltész in the newspaper Národná obroda in June 2003.

The article was about the disappearance of A. (a head of a municipal office and an entrepreneur), which occurred in May 1997. In May 2001, Soltész obtained a declaration written by a former police officer, who had been in charge of the search for A. at the time of his disappearance. The declaration contained a number of statements which implied that D., a practicing lawyer and an entrepreneur, had been involved in A’s disappearance.

In his article, Soltész stated that the newspaper was in possession of the statement and outlined what it said about D.’s involvement. According to the complaint, D. then successfully sued Soltész for libel.Soltész appealed the decision, but this was dismissed by the Slovak Constitutional Court in June 2008.

Relying in particular on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mr Soltész complained of the proceedings against him and the finding of liability that had been made.

Violation of Article 10

Just satisfaction: EUR 14,463 (pecuniary damage), EUR 5,850 (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 3,935.10 (costs and expenses)

M.H. v. the United Kingdom (no. 11577/06)

The applicant, M.H., is a British national who was born in 1970 and lives in Shropshire (England, UK). She is severely disabled as a result of Down’s syndrome.

The case concerned her detention on mental health grounds. In January 2003 M.H. was detained in a hospital for 28 days for assessment. Although she was entitled to challenge her detention during the first fourteen days, she lacked legal capacity to do so. M.H.’s mother made an order for her discharge but a barring order was issued preventing her mother from making any further order for the next six months.

During the twentyeight day assessment period, the local authority applied to the court to discharge M.H.’s mother as her nearest relative, an action which had the effect of extending her detention indefinitely.

Once these proceedings had been issued, M.H. had no means to challenge her continued detention. She was eventually discharged in July 2003.

Relying on Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court), M.H. complained that her right to challenge the lawfulness of her detention had been violated, firstly because there had been no provision under UK law for the automatic review of the detention of persons without legal capacity, and secondly because there had been no provision for a patient, whether incapacitated or not, to take proceedings before a court or tribunal when the detention had been extended indefinitely following the issue of proceedings to displace the nearest relative.

Violation of Article 5 § 4 – in respect of the first 27 days of the applicant’s detention but not in respect of the remainder of the detention

Just satisfaction: EUR 4,400 (costs and expenses)

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