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European court throws out ‘Sharia4Belgium’ leader’s human rights challenge

Human rights laws allowing freedom of expression did not protect the hate speech of a Belgian radical Salafist leader, Strasbourg judges have ruled.

In its decision in the case of Belkacem v. Belgium (application no. 34367/14), the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible.

The decision is final.

The case concerned the conviction of Fouad Belkacem, the leader and spokesperson of the organisation ‘Sharia4Belgium,’ which was dissolved in 2012, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence on account of remarks he made in YouTube videos concerning non-Muslim groups and Sharia.

The court noted that in his remarks Belkacem had called on viewers to overpower non-Muslims, teach them a lesson and fight them.

The court considered that the remarks in question had a markedly hateful content and that Belkacem, through 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 European Convention on Human Rights.

With reference to Belkacem’s remarks concerning Sharia, the court observed that it had previously ruled that defending Sharia while calling for violence to establish it could be regarded as “hate speech”, and that each Contracting State was entitled to oppose political movements based on religious fundamentalism.

The court therefore rejected the application, finding that it was incompatible with the provisions of the convention and that Belkacem had attempted to deflect Article 10 of the convention from its real purpose by using his right to freedom of expression for ends which were manifestly contrary to the spirit of the convention.

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