Judges have ruled that Russia’s criminal conviction of an editor for the publication of statements by Chechen leaders was unjustified, under human rights law.
In the 3 October Chamber judgment in the case of Dmitriyevskiy v. Russia (application no. 42168/06) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the criminal conviction of the editor-in-chief of a regional newspaper following the publication of statements by two Chechen separatist leaders.
The case was brought by Stanislav Dmitriyevskiy. In early 2004, he was the director of a non-governmental organisation monitoring human rights violations in the Chechen Republic.
As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Russia was to pay Dmitriyevskiy 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,615 in respect of costs and expenses.
The court considered in particular that the views expressed in the two statements could not be read as an incitement to violence or hatred liable to result in violence.
It was therefore not convinced that the publication of the articles in question could have any harmful effect on preventing disorder and crime or had the potential to undermine territorial integrity or public safety.
Moreover, the Russian courts’ decisions had been deficient: While they had based their guilty verdict on two expert reports by a linguist, they had failed to assess those reports and had merely endorsed the expert’s conclusions.
Furthermore, they had not made any meaningful attempt to analyse the statements concerned themselves.