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Newsletter

EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

January – March 2024

1. European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) 

The ECtHR is a judicial body of the Council of Europe whose main function is to monitor the compliance of States parties with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The ECtHR is responsible for analyzing complaints from individuals, groups of individuals or States for human rights violations committed by States that have accepted the ECtHR’s jurisdiction. 

– On February 20, 2024, the ECtHR decided that Romania was internationally responsible for the violation of the right to freedom of expression by sanctioning a judge for posts he made on Facebook concerning issues of public interest.

the ECtHR decided that Romania was internationally responsible for the violation of the right to freedom of expression
Source: Romania Journal.

Mr. Vasilică-Cristi Danileţ is the applicant in the case “Danileţ v. Romania”, a Romanian national born in 1975 and residing in ClujNapoca, Romania. At the time of the facts, Mr. Danileţ worked as a judge at Cluj County Court, was known for participating in a range of debates, and had a reputation that was known and respected in many places. In this sense, Mr. Danileţ had a Facebook account, that had more than 50,000 followers, and in January 2019 he made two posts on that account. The first publication was perceived by the National Judicial and Legal Service Commission (CSM) as a manifestation capable of throwing doubt on the credibility of public institutions, by implying that they were under the control of the political class and proposing a solution that the army should take the lead and guarantee constitutional democracy. In addition, this body considered that Mr. Danileţ had damaged the honor and unblemished reputation of the judiciary, which violated his duty to maintain its good reputation. The second publication, in which Mr. Danileţ posted a hyperlink to an article claiming that living in Romania had become very risky and that the red line had been drawn when it came to the judiciary system, was considered by the CSM to be a post that crossed the boundaries of decency and was unworthy of a judge. As a result of these two publications, the CSM imposed a disciplinary penalty on Mr. Danileţ, which was a 5% reduction in his salary for two months, pursuant to Article 99(a) of Law No. 303/2004. Mr. Danileţ appealed the decision but in May 2020 the High Court dismissed it and upheld the CSM’s decision.

Initially, the ECtHR pointed out that the national courts had reduced themselves to the way in which Mr. Danileţ chose to express himself, without examining the expressions he employed in their full context, considering that it was a debate on matters of public interest. In this sense, the ECtHR found that the first publication effectively dealt with subjects of public interest relating to the separation of powers and the need to preserve the independence of institutions in a democratic State. The same applied to the second publication, according to the ECtHR, as it concerned legislative reforms affecting the judicial systems. The ECtHR found that the authorities did not bring this interference in the right to freedom of expression under strict scrutiny and that Mr. Danileţ’s publications were not manifestly contrary to the law, defamatory, hateful, or calling for violence. In addition, the ECtHR did not understand why the authorities did not choose to use a less severe sanction, such as a warning, and, in any case, there was no proof of sufficient and relevant reasons for the interference with Mr. Danileţ’s right to freedom of expression. Therefore, the ECtHR concluded that Romania violated the right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the Convention) of the victim. The press release can be found here.

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