Case of European Court of Human Rights, April 23, 1992 (case Castells v. Spain)

Resolution DateApril 23, 1992

Information Note on the Court’s case-law No.

April 1992

Castells v. Spain - 11798/85

Judgment 23.4.1992

Article 10

Conviction of a member of parliament for insulting the Government: violation

[This summary is extracted from the Court’s official reports (Series A or Reports of Judgments and Decisions). Its formatting and structure may therefore differ from the Case-Law Information Note summaries.]


A.              Government's preliminary objection (failure to exhaust domestic remedies)

Reaffirmation by the Court that it has jurisdiction to examine the objection.

Government's argument that applicant had not specifically raised the complaint concerning his freedom of expression before the Constitutional Court, as he was required to do under Spanish law.  It was sufficient to raise it at least in substance and in compliance with the formal requirements and time-limits laid down in domestic law.

Points raised in his application to the Commission were examined by the Supreme Court and were invoked in substance in the amparo appeal: right, in his capacity as a senator, to criticise the Government's action and right to adduce evidence capable of establishing the accuracy of his statements - in addition Article 20 of the Constitution was mentioned in his notice of the amparo appeal and in the summary of the complaints for that appeal, and reference to the right to receive and communicate true information in several subsequent written communications.

Conclusion: dismissed (unanimously).

B.              Merits of the complaint

Not contested that applicant's freedom of expression was interfered with.

  1.               "Prescribed by law"

    Legal basis for prosecution and conviction: Articles 161 and 162 of the Criminal Code - refusal to admit defense of truth,  relevant courts' interpretation of the legislation reasonable despite lack of precedent, accordingly sufficient foreseeability of the rules governing the interference.

  2.               Was the aim pursued legitimate

    Aim pursued was the "prevention of disorder" and not only "the protection of the reputation ... of others", in view of the circumstances obtaining in Spain in 1979.

  3.               Necessity of the interference

    Freedom of expression: one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress - applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or are regarded as a matter of...

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