ECHR, 9 May 2018, appl. No. 52273/07, Stomakhin v Russia
Publication. The European Court of Human Rights held that Russia violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case brought before the Court by Russian journalist Boris Vladimirovisch Stomakhin.
Stomakhin was the editor, publisher and distributor of a monthly newsletter between 2000 en 2004 which dealt mainly with the Chechnya was which going on at that time. The authorities began an investigation into him in December 2003 on suspicion of expressing views which amounted to appeals to carry out extremist activities and to incitement to racial, national and social hatred. He was convicted for these offence in November 2006, a decision that was upheld on appeal in May 2007.
Stomakhin complained about his conviction under Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of assembly). He also complained about his trial under Article 6(right to a fair trial).
The Court considers the case under Article 10 alone. The aim for which the freedom of speech was limited are legitimate according to the Court: the protection of rights of others, national security, public safety etc. However, these had to be interpreted restrictively as they had been of a very sensitive nature at the time. Besides, the limitation has to be necessary in a democratic society. The Russian authority failed, in this context, to demonstrate a pressing social need for some of the statements. For the statements that had justified terrorism, vilified Russian servicemen and praised Chechen leaders in their approval of violence, the statements had gone beyond the limits of acceptable criticism. The same goes for some of Stomakhin’s criticism of Orthodox believers and ethnic Russians. However, the severity of the penalty was not proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued as the newspaper had a very low number of copies, Stomakhin had not been convicted of any similar offence before and the newspapers were only handed to those individuals who expressed their interest. Therefore the ECHR held that Russia violated the right to freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR) and decided that Russia was to pay Stomakhin €12.500 in respect of non-pecuniary damages.
Read the decision here.