June 6, 2016
Dear Friends,

This week we are featuring the recent Austrian judgment which ruled that Facebook must delete from its worldwide platform all identified hate-speech and verbatim re-postings against Austria's Green party leader, Eva Glawischnig. 

The other decisions consider a range of issues. A ruling from the UK found that the removal of protesters camping on city land by St. Paul's Cathedral met a pressing social need and was proportionate. From the U.S. we continue our exploration of the Establishment Clause with a ruling that a granite display of the Ten Commandments in a public area of an Alabama courthouse violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  An Israeli court, ruling on a right to information case, found that public authorities must follow a two-step process, first evaluating the sensitivity of the requested documents and then assessing the reasonableness and proportionality of any limitations to disclosure.   

Enjoy reading the case analyses and we welcome your feedback!
The Danish Parliament revokes centuries old blasphemy law and declares they "do not believe that there should be special rules protecting religions against expressions".
Why the so called "Facebook law" is the wrong tool against hate speech

This summer, the German parliament is deciding on nothing less but freedom of expression on the web.

Prof Dirk Voorhoof (Human Rights Centre Ghent University and ECPMF) and Ides Debruyne (journalismfund) will present a manifesto on fake news at the upcoming ECPMF conference in Leipzig



Die Grünen v. Facebook Ireland Limited
Decision Date: May 5, 2017
The Austrian Court of Appeal ruled that Facebook must delete all hate postings and verbatim re-postings against Austria's Green party leader, Eva Glawischnig, not just in Austria but worldwide. The case was brought by Austria's Green party after Glawischnig was insulted on Facebook by posts from someone who didn't use his/her real name. The Court said that an individual's right to protection of dignity and reputation had to be balanced against the Article 10 right to freedom of expression, including political expression. However, it reasoned that the postings went beyond political comment and were clearly aimed at insulting and vilifying Glawischnig personally; they were not legitimate criticism; and they therefore could not be protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

United Kingdom

City of London Corp v. Samede
Decision Date: February 22, 2012
The Court of Appeal of England and Wales upheld a ruling requiring "Occupy Movement" protesters camping on land next to St. Paul's Cathedral in London to vacate. Members of the “Occupy Movement” established a campsite consisting of between 150 to 200 tents on land that was predominantly owned by the City of London. After over two months of occupation, the High Court of England and Wales ruled that the relief sought by the City of London pursued a "pressing social need" and was proportionate to the aims of protecting the rights and freedom of others, protecting public health and public safety, and preventing disorder and crime. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision, finding that the judge of the High Court was entitled to rely on the evidence that he did, and that his judgment was a justified interference on the rights of the "Occupy Movement".

North America

United States

Glassroth v. Moore
Decision Date: July 1, 2003
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld an Alabama Federal District Court's ruling that a large granite display of the Ten Commandments in a public Alabama courthouse violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Federal District Court subsequently issued an injunction for mandatory removal of the Ten Commandments display. The Court reasoned that the display (1) was not justified by the historical practice standard set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Marsh v. Chambers, and (2) failed to pass the Establishment Clause violation test developed by the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, namely that the challenged practice has a valid secular purpose, does not have the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and does not foster excessive government entanglement with religion. In these circumstances the court ruled that the display violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Middle East


Isr., Ministry of Defense v. Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Decision Date: December 19, 2011
The Supreme Court of Israel upheld the Tel Aviv District Court's decision that the Ministry of Defense improperly relied on a national security exemption when they refused to disclose a document relating to the provision of food to the Gaza strip. The Court found that the present case required a two-step approach, first assessing the sensitivity of the documents and whether the public authority had an obligation to consider partial disclosure of information, especially for issues of public importance. Second, they applied the test of reasonableness and proportionality.Taking these factors into account the Court reasoned that the Ministry had failed to examine all relevant considerations because it had neither detailed the underlying reasons for sensitivity nor considered partial disclosure.

Russia: The SOVA-Center, a pre-eminent Russian organization studying racism, xenophobia and extremism in Russia, reported on May 31, 2017, that the Moscow City Court rejected its appeal to not be added to the registry of “foreign agents.” The organization was fined RUB 300,000 (roughly $5,500), which it must pay off by mid-July. The organization welcomes any donations.
Tajikistan: On May 31, 2017, the Tajik Ministry of Interior initiated a criminal case against the siblings and the lawyer of Buzurgmekhr Yerov, another prominent lawyer who was sentenced to 21 years in prison in 2016. Mr. Yerov was convicted as a reprisal for representing the leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which was declared extremist and banned in Tajikistan in 2015. The siblings and the lawyer are being investigated for inciting the violent overthrow of the constitutional regime. The actions of the Ministry of Interior against Mr. Yerov’s lawyer and his family are also likely to be acts of reprisal.

Turkmenistan: On May 29, 2017, it was reported that more than 50 persons were arrested on April 23, 2017, for being members of the Gülen movement. This is a continuing trend. In February 2017, 30 persons were sentenced to lengthy terms, between 12 and 25 years, for allegedly belonging to the Gülen movement.
Uzbekistan: On May 29, 2017, the Tashkent City Court convicted 11 men on charges of religious extremism and sentenced them to varying terms between 5 and 6 years. The men’s lawyers argue that the case was completely fabricated. The Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders reported that the convicted the men were also tortured during the investigation.

Other Noteworthy

An East Timor court on Thursday dismissed a criminal defamation case brought by the country’s prime minister against two journalists due to lack of evidence. The trial was observed by the International Federation of Journalists, USAID and other groups.

Guatamala: The fight against impunity for violence against journalists has finally registered a success when a Court in Guatemala sentenced Felipe Morales to 40 Years in Jail for Killing Guatemala Journalist.

Countering online hate speech – European Commission initiative with social media platforms and civil society shows progress.
The Human Rights Committee (HRC) will investigate Swaziland for the numerous arrests made under its anti-terror and sedition laws and for failing to report for over 13 years on its obligations under the ICCPR.
Less Tweeting, Lawyers Beg. ‘Covfefe,’ the President Says. “There is a reason for the old lawyer’s proverb — the fish got hooked because it opened its mouth,” said Robert F. Bauer, a White House counsel under President Barack Obama. “Tweeting spontaneous thoughts and feelings may be emotionally satisfying in the middle of the night, but Mr. Trump’s lawyers will surely remind him that there are always fishermen around, casting their lines.”
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