ECHR ruling of March 20, 2018 in the case of Uzan v. Turkey (application no. 30569/09).
In 2009, the complainant was assisted in preparing a application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Turkey.
The case was successfully considered the complaint of the applicant to bring him to criminal responsibility for publicly insulting the Prime Minister during his speech. The case has violated the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as the requirements of paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in connection with the length of the proceedings in the Turkish courts.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
In September 2008, the applicant was sentenced by a criminal court to eight months of imprisonment and a fine of about 400 euros for publicly insulting the prime minister, infringing on the honor and reputation of the latter, as the court considered that the applicant exceeded the limits of acceptable criticism from - for his statements during a public speech in 2003 and repeatedly uttered the words "deceiver", "robber", "insolent", "godless".
However, the criminal court decided to postpone the execution of this sentence, provided that the applicant will be under judicial control for five years, of which for one year - under the supervision of a consultant responsible, on the one hand, for ensuring that the applicant has months participated in the program for self-control, and, on the other hand, that the applicant read five books on individual development.
However, despite the fulfillment of these obligations, the above delay was canceled, and in February 2010 the applicant was sentenced to imprisonment and to a fine, reduced by half when executed. In December 2010, the Supreme Court of Cassation of Turkey upheld the sentence.
In Turkey, the Supreme Court of Cassation (Yargytai) heads the system of courts of general jurisdiction and, in fact, is the country's supreme court.
QUESTIONS OF RIGHT
The criminal law measures taken against the applicant constituted an interference with the exercise of the rights guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention, which was provided for by law and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation or the rights of others.
Although the applicant attempted to mitigate the severity of his statements, explaining the words used during the speech to the domestic courts, some of them, such as “deceiver”, “robber”, “insolent”, “godless”, still cause criticism. Since the applicant was the leader of an opposition party and a shareholder with a controlling stake in two companies that were subject to government measures, his allegations, considered in aggregate, could qualify as spoken in a political discussion on issues relating to government actions. Despite its negative and hostile tinge, such an exchange of views between politicians cannot be regarded as having no measure in this context.
The domestic courts did not make any distinction between “facts” and “value judgments”, but simply considered whether the statements made by the applicant were offensive or not, and whether the words used could cause harm to the personality and reputation of the Prime Minister. The courts did not have to express their opinion about the context in which the controversial statements were made, nor about the basis of the criticism expressed by the applicant.
The Prime Minister was inevitably subjected to careful control of his behavior, steps and actions, as well as criticism. In this regard, he had to show particular tolerance, including with regard to the form of this criticism, especially given the fact that in this case controversial statements were made in the framework of political debate.
Finally, the Court attaches significant importance to the fact that, even at the first stage of the proceedings, the criminal court decided to postpone the execution of the conviction on the condition that the applicant was under judicial control for five years, observing the obligations imposed on him, however, on the punishment of a criminal nature. In any case, the delay, which was accompanied by the sentence, would have played its role only if within five years from the time the deferment was granted the applicant did not commit any other intentional crime, otherwise the applicant would risk at least face trial and be punished imprisonment and fines.
In the circumstances of the present case, and in particular without discussing the proportionality of the punishment, which was criminal in nature, the Court considers that it was not proven that the controversial measure was proportionate to the aim pursued and necessary in a democratic society to protect the reputation or rights of others.
In the case of a violation of the requirements of Article 10 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
The European Court also unanimously found a violation of the requirements of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention due to the length of the proceedings in the Turkish courts.
In application of Article 41 of the Convention. The claimant did not submit any claims for compensation.