Case of European Court of Human Rights, November 20, 2018 (case Toranzo Gomez v. Spain)

Resolution DateNovember 20, 2018

Information Note on the Court’s case-law 223

November 2018

Toranzo Gomez v. Spain - 26922/14

Judgment 20.11.2018 [Section III]

Article 10

Article 10-1

Freedom of expression

Conviction for slander for qualifying methods used by police as “torture”, in discord with its legal definition: violation

Facts –To protest against his eviction from a building, the applicant attached himself to the floor of an underground tunnel which he had dug together with the other protesters. In order to get him out, the police tied a rope around his waist, attempting to persuasively pull him out, and tied his hand to his ankle for a long period of time in a painful position. They also threatened him with the use of gas and the imminent collapse of the whole underground structure. The applicant eventually released himself voluntarily and was arrested.

In a press conference, he alleged that he had been subjected to torture by the police officers and fire fighters during the eviction. He was convicted of slander for this statement and sentenced to a daily fine of 10 euros for 12 months, with one day’s imprisonment for every two days of fine unpaid in default. He was also ordered to pay compensation to the police officers in a total amount of EUR 1,200 and to publish, at his own expense, the judgment in the media.

Law – Article 10: The interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression had been prescribed by the Spanish Criminal Code and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting “the reputation of rights of others”.

(i) Nature of the applicant’s statements – Even if the applicant had used a style which might have involved a certain degree of exaggeration, he had complained about his treatment by the authorities during his confinement, which, regardless of the fact that the applicant had put himself in that situation, must have caused him a certain feeling of distress, fear and mental as well as physical suffering.

(ii) The context of the interference and the method employed by the Spanish courts to justify the applicant’s conviction – The applicant had carefully described the methods used by the police and fire fighters, which corresponded to what had also been proven before the domestic court in the framework of the criminal proceedings. Additionally, he had left no room for public opinion to picture something different from what had happened and there was nothing in the case to suggest that the applicant’s allegations had been made otherwise than in...

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