Court of Human RightsThe European Court of Human Rights has announced that [pdf] the Grand Chamber Panel has agreed to refer the important Article 10 cases of Perinçek v. Switzerland and Pentikäinen v. Finland for hearing by the Grand Chamber.

In Perinçek v. Switzerland, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on 17 December 2013, by five votes to two, that Switzerland had violated Doğu Perinçek’s right to freedom of expression by convicting him for publicly denying the existence of a genocide against the Armenian people.  The Court took the view that the Swiss authorities had failed to show how there was a social need in Switzerland to punish an individual for racial discrimination on the basis of declarations challenging only the legal characterisation as “genocide” of acts perpetrated on the territory of the former Ottoman Empire in 1915 and the following years.

We had a post about this decision in January 2014 by Dirk Voorhoof in which he concluded by saying

“In some statements or preliminary reactions on the Court’s judgment it is argued why the Swiss Government should request [a referral of the case to the Grand Chamber] in order to find Perinçek’s conviction necessary in a democratic society. I sincerely doubt if a judgment by the Grand Chamber could ever lead to such an outcome in this case. If it would, it would certainly be a sad day for freedom of expression in Europe”.

The case of In the case of Pentikäinen v. Finland the European Court of Human Rights found that a Finnish press photographer’s conviction for disobeying the police while covering a demonstration did not breach his freedom of expression.  We had a post about this decision in March 2014.  After the initial decision IPI’s Finnish National Committee said that it considered the ruling “baffling from the point of view of freedom of expression”.  The Committee criticised the police for ignoring “the fact that there were people [present] with differing status as to the freedom of speech” and went on to say that

“Photographer Pentikäinen was identifiable as a representative of the press. Legitimate demands of real time communication collided with the demands of the police. People have the right to know about the actions of authorities against citizens, and the press has the responsibility to report it. In the worst case, the ECHR’s ruling may severely restrict the freedom of the media to report on demonstrations.”

It is likely that the Grand Chamber hearing in these case will not take place for some months, with judgment unlikely to be  given before next year.  As we pointed out in relation to the referral of the Delfi AS v Estonia case to the Grand Chamber, the last Chamber Article 10 judgment considered by the Grand Chamber was in the case of Mouvement raëlien suisse v. Switzerland, – in that case the Chamber judgment was given on 13 January 2011, the Grand Chamber accepted the case on 20 June 2011, held a hearing on 16 November 2011 and gave judgment on 13 July 2012.