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Malta: Banning ‘Stitching’ play for “insulting Auschwitz victims and portraying dangerous sexual perversion” breached human rights law

Human rights judges have ruled against Malta’s authorities who banned the production of a play deemed blasphemous, insulting to Auschwitz victims and portraying dangerous sexual perversion.

In today’s judgement in the complaint Unifaun Theatre Productions Limited and Others v. Malta (application no. 37326/13), the European Court of Human Rights declared a violation of Article 10.

As Just Satisfaction, the court awarded 10,000 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage), jointly, and EUR 10,000 (costs and expenses), jointly, to the applicants – Unifaun Theatre Productions Limited, a limited liability company,  Christopher Gatt, Maria Pia Zammit and Mikhail Acopovich Basmadjian.

They were joined by another Maltese national Adrian Buckle, in lodging the case against Malta. It concerned a complaint against the authorities’ decision to ban the play ‘Stitching,’ written by the Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson.

It was first banned in December 2008. The reasons given by the Board for Film and Stage Classification for a rating certificate included the play being blasphemous, showing contempt for the victims of the Auschwitz death camp, portraying dangerous sexual perversions and referring to the sexual assault of children.

The domestic courts rejected constitutional appeals under Article 10 and Article 6 of the Convention in June 2010 and November 2012.

In particular, the Constitutional Court found that any genuine aim the play had in portraying relationships was submerged under the instances of blasphemy, the vilification of the dignity of women and children, and the glorification of sexual perversion.

The applicants complained about the ban under Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

 

 

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