SWEDEN: ECHR rejects 'freedom of expression' plea of homophobic leaflet distributors

[9 February 2012] - The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) delivered a unanimous judgment in the case of Vejdeland and Others vs. Sweden, not overruling the judgment delivered by the Swedish Supreme Court convicting the individuals of agitation against a national or ethnic group.

The applicants, Tor Fredrik Vejdeland, Mattias Harlin, Björn Täng and Niklas Lundström, went to an upper secondary school in December of 2004 and distributed around 100 homophobic leaflets by an organisation called the National Youth, putting the leaflets in or on the students‘ lockers.

The applicants claimed that they had not intended to express any contempt for homosexuals as a group, but described their actions as an attempt to start a debate about the lack of objectivity in Swedish schools.

In 2006, the Supreme Court convicted the applicants guilty of agitation against a national or ethnic group, with the majority of the judges taking into account that the pupils receiving the leaflets did not have the possibility to reject the leaflets.

According to the leaflets, homosexuality was a “deviant sexual proclivity” with a “morally destructive effect” on society. The judges also concluded that opening room for debate could have been achieved without offensive statements to homosexuals as a group.

The applicants alleged that the Supreme Court decision was a violation of their freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention. Though the ECHR acknowledged the applicants‘ right to express their ideas, it also confirmed that these statements constituted serious prejudicial allegations based on sexual orientation, which was as serious as discrimination based on “race, origin or colour”.

The decision of the Court has been welcomed by the International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board Co-Chairman Martin K.I. Christensen called it “a truly important and landmark judgment” saying that “the Court today clearly recognised that such statements are offensive to the entire community, and stated that individuals and organisations expressing, publishing and disseminating such remarks cannot justify themselves with the right of expression guaranteed by the Convention”.


Further Information:

pdf: http://www.neurope.eu/article/echr-rejects-freedom-expression-plea-homop...


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