European Court rejects claim against conviction for insulting posts online
Smajić v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Application No. 48657/16
On 8 February 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected an application brought by Mr Abedin Smajić against his conviction for insulting posts on the internet, finding that there had not been a violation of his right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the European Convention).
Mr Smajić, the applicant, is a lawyer living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 12 March 2010, he was arrested on suspicion of inciting national, racial and religious hatred, discord or intolerance, and subsequently found guilty. The domestic court found that the applicant, using a pseudonym, had made a number of posts on a publicly accessible internet forum that had disturbed inter-ethnic relations. The posts in question had described military action to be taken against Serb villages and neighbourhoods in the region in the event of war caused by the Republika Srpska’s secession. The decision was upheld on appeal before the Appellate Division and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Before the Fourth Section of the ECtHR, the applicant argued, amongst other things, that his conviction violated his right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention. According to the applicant, his intention had not been to incite, but rather to express his opinion on a matter of public concern.
Having regard to the decisions of the domestic courts, the ECtHR noted that domestic authorities are better placed to examine and interpret facts, and to apply national legislation. In the present matter, the ECtHR was of the view that even if the posts were written in a hypothetical form, they had nevertheless touched upon the very sensitive matter of the ethnic relations in post-conflict Bosnian society. The ECtHR was satisfied that the domestic courts had examined the case with care and in conformity with the principles in article 10 of the European Convention, and had given relevant and sufficient reasons for the conviction.
Accordingly, the ECtHR held that the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression did not violate article 10 of the European Convention, and that the complaint was manifestly ill-founded and stood to be rejected.
The full judgment is accessible here.
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