Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 14, 2020 (case CHITIC v. ROMANIA)

Defense:ROMANIA
Resolution Date:January 14, 2020
SUMMARY

Violation of Article 10 - Freedom of expression-{general} (Article 10-1 - Freedom of expression)

 
FREE EXCERPT

FOURTH SECTION

CASE OF CHITIC v. ROMANIA

(Application no. 6512/13)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

14 January 2020

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Chitic v. Romania,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Faris Vehabović, President,Iulia Antoanella Motoc,Carlo Ranzoni, judges,and Andrea Tamietti, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 17 December 2019,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in an application (no. 6512/13) against Romania lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Romanian national, Mr Mircea Victor Daniel Chitic (“the applicant”), on 16 January 2013.

  2. The applicant was granted leave to present his own case in the written proceedings before the Court (Rule 36 § 2 in fine of the Rules of Court). The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Ms C. Brumar, of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  3. Relying on Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention, the applicant alleged that the penalty imposed on him for “chanting slogans against the current political regime” had breached his right to manifest his beliefs and right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

  4. On 10 November 2015 the Government were given notice of part of the above-mentioned complaint and the remainder of the application was declared inadmissible pursuant to Rule 54 § 3 of the Rules of Court.

  5. The Government objected to the examination of the application by a Committee. Having considered the Government’s objection, the Court rejects it.

    THE FACTS

  6. The applicant was born in 1977 and lives in Bucharest. He works as a lawyer in Bucharest.

  7. According to the applicant, shortly after midnight on 15 January 2012 he was walking by the National Theatre in University Square in Bucharest on the way to meet his wife. Large-scale anti-government demonstrations were taking place in the area. Feeling safe because of the presence of gendarmes in the area, he started filming the events unfolding on the square with his mobile telephone because he considered it appropriate and of public interest.

  8. According to the applicant, when he moved closer to a group of gendarmes they started pushing him and ordered him to “clear the area”. When he asked them to stop pushing him, they became verbally and physically aggressive. They then arrested him without giving any reason and took him to a police station.

  9. Later that night at the police station, the applicant was taken before a gendarme who drafted a report and fined him 200 Romanian Lei (RON – 46 euros (EUR)) for “disturbing the public peace and order at [University Square] by chanting slogans against the current political regime”, a minor offence under Article 3 § 25 and Article 4 (b) of Law no. 61/1991 (see paragraph 20 below).

  10. The police report noted that the applicant had stated that he had not taken part in the demonstration or chanted slogans.

  11. Footage of the large-scale demonstrations which took place in Bucharest and other Romanian cities in January 2012 was broadcast on national television. Articles were also published in national newspapers and on national news agency websites describing the scope and nature of the demonstrations.

  12. On 24 January 2012 the applicant lodged a challenge against the police report and the fine imposed on him with the Bucharest District Court (“the District Court”). The factual circumstances he presented were the same as those outlined in his application to the Court (see paragraphs 7 and 8 above). He argued that he had not committed the acts proscribed by Article 3 § 25 of Law no. 61/1991. Moreover, any chanting of “slogans against the current political regime”, as long as it did not breach the legitimate rights and interests of others, was the fundamental right of every citizen, provided for and guaranteed by the constitutional provisions protecting individual freedom and freedom of conscience and expression. It was clear that he had had the right to publicly express such an opinion, given that the chants had not damaged anyone’s honour, reputation, private life or image or amounted to defamation of the country or nation or instigation of war or aggression. It was therefore clear that the exercise of a legitimate constitutional right should not have been punished in the same way as a minor offence.

  13. By a final judgment of 27 June 2012 (available to the parties on 27 September 2012) the District Court allowed the applicant’s challenge in part and replaced the fine imposed on him with a warning. It held that even though the applicant denied committing the act in question, he had failed to prove it either with the video he had recorded or the other documents adduced to the case file. The video recorded by the applicant did not rebut the presumption of veracity of the information recorded in the police report, as he could have committed the act in question before or after he had recorded the video. Moreover, his mobile telephone was not an approved technical device.

  14. As regards the argument that imposing a penalty for exercising a legitimate constitutional right was unconstitutional, the court held that since the applicant had failed to raise an unconstitutionality objection concerning Article 3 § 25 of Law no. 61/1991, it was unable to examine the point raised by him. In addition, the court emphasised that the applicant had not been punished for expressing his views about the current political regime, but for disturbing the public peace and order. In order to prevent a possible abuse of rights, legal rights had to be exercised in good faith and with regard to the rights of other citizens.

  15. Lastly, the court considered that a warning was sufficient in the applicant’s case to correct his behaviour and achieve the preventive, educational and punitive purpose of a penalty of that kind, because there was no indication in the police report that his actions had had any serious consequences.

  16. On 25 January 2012 the applicant sought to have criminal proceedings instituted against the gendarmes concerned for several offences including abusive behaviour, abuse of authority and office by restricting certain rights, and abuse of office against private interests. He relied, amongst other things, on the same arguments as those used in the proceedings contesting the fine imposed on him (see paragraph 12 above). He also argued that the gendarmes had been violent towards him.

  17. On 18 February 2013 a military prosecutor attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice’s Prosecutor’s Office (“the prosecutor’s office”)...

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR TRIAL