Case of European Court of Human Rights, May 17, 2016 (case Karácsony and Others v. Hungary [GC])

Resolution DateMay 17, 2016

Information Note on the Court’s case-law 196

May 2016

Karácsony and Others v. Hungary [GC] - 42461/13 and 44357/13

Judgment 17.5.2016 [GC]

Article 10

Article 10-1

Freedom of expression

Fine imposed on opposition MPs for showing billboards and using a megaphone during parliamentary votes: violation

Facts – At the material time, the seven applicants were members of the opposition in the Hungarian Parliament. On a motion introduced by the Speaker, they were fined amounts ranging from EUR 170 to EUR 600 for having gravely disrupted parliamentary proceedings after they displayed billboards and used a megaphone accusing the government of corruption. The fines were imposed by the Parliament in plenary session without a debate.

In two judgments of 16 September 2014, concerning the cases Karácsony and Others (42461/13, Information Note 177) and Szél and Others (44357/13) respectively, a Chamber of the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of the applicants’ freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 10 of the Convention.

On 16 February 2015 the cases were referred to the Grand Chamber at the Government’s request.

Law – Article 10: The fines imposed on the applicants amounted to an interference with their right to freedom of expression. The expression consisted mainly of non-verbal means of communication through the display of a placard and banners. The impugned measures were imposed on the basis of a provision (section 49(4) of the Parliament Act) which, in common with similar legislation in many European countries, included an element of vagueness and was subject to interpretation through parliamentary practice. However, on account of their professional status, the applicants must have been able to foresee, to a reasonable degree, the consequences their conduct could entail, even in the absence of any previous application of the impugned provision. The provision therefore met the required level of precision for the interference to be prescribed by law. The interference pursued two legitimate aims: the prevention of disorder and the protection of the rights of others.

As to whether the interference was necessary in a democratic society, the Court was called upon for the first time to examine the compliance with Article 10 of the Convention of internal disciplinary measures imposed on MPs for the manner in which they expressed themselves in Parliament. The Grand Chamber recalled the general principles, developed in its case-law, governing...

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