16.03.2006 Press release on Grand Chamber judgement in case ŽDANOKA v. LATVIA
Press release issued by the Registrar
GRAND CHAMBER JUDGMENT ŽDANOKA v.
The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered at a public hearing its Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Ždanoka v.
The Court held:
· by thirteen votes to four, that there had been no violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) to the European Convention on Human Rights;
· by thirteen votes to four, that it was not necessary to examine separately the applicant’s complaints under Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the Convention;
· unanimously, that it was not necessary to examine separately the applicant’s complaints under Article 10 (freedom of expression).
(The judgment is available in English and French.)
1. Principal facts
The applicant, Tatjana Ždanoka, is a 55-year-old Latvian national who lives in
Her application concerned the fact that she had been ruled ineligible to stand for election in
In 1971 Mrs Ždanoka became a member of the Communist party of
In 1993 the applicant became the president of the “Movement for social justice and equal rights in
On an application by the Procurator General’s office the
The applicant attempted to stand as a candidate in the 2002 parliamentary elections; with two other parties, her party formed an electoral alliance called the PCTVL (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā – “For Human Rights in a United Latvia”). However, referring to the 1999 judgment of the Civil Affairs Division, the Central Electoral Commission removed her name from the list of candidates.
Mrs Ždanoka led the list of the PCTVL electoral alliance in the European elections of June 2004, in which she was elected to the European Parliament.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the Court on
In a Chamber judgment of 17 June 2004 (see press release no. 303 of 2004), the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) and of Article 22 (freedom of assembly and association), and considered that there was no need to examine separately the complaint under Article 10 of the Convention (freedom of expression).
The Government requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber under Article 43 (referral to the Grand Chamber) and on
Judgment was given by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges, composed as follows:
Luzius Wildhaber (Swiss), President,
Christos Rozakis (Greek),
Jean-Paul Costa (French),
Nicolas Bratza (British),
Boštjan M. Zupančič (Slovenian),
Loukis Loucaides (Cypriot),
Riza Türmen (Turkish)
Josep Casadevall (Andorran),
András Baka (Hungarian),
Rait Maruste (Estonian),
Javier Borrego Borrego (Spanish),
Elisabet Fura-Sandström (Swedish),
Alvina Gyulumyan (Armenian),
Ljiljana Mijović (citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina),
Dean Spielmann (Luxemburger),
Renate Jaeger (German), judges,
Jautrite Briede (Latvian), ad hoc judge,
and also Lawrence Early, Deputy Grand Chamber Registrar.
3. Summary of the judgment
The applicant complained of an infringement of her right to stand as a candidate in elections as a result of the ruling that she was ineligible. She alleged a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention since, pursuant to section 5 (6) of the 1995 Parliamentary Elections Act, she was precluded from standing for election to the Latvian Parliament on the ground that she had “actively participated” in the activities of the CPSU (CPL) after
The applicant further submitted that her ineligibility as regards both the Latvian Parliament and district councils had been contrary to Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.
Decision of the Court
Article 3 of Protocol No. 1
The Court considered that the impugned electoral legislation was not primarily intended to punish those who had been active within the CPL, but rather to protect the integrity of the democratic process by excluding from participation in the work of a democratic legislature those individuals who had taken an active and leading role in a party which was directly linked to the attempted violent overthrow of the newly-established democratic regime.
In view of the critical events for the survival of democracy in Latvia which occurred after 13 January 1991, it was reasonable for the Latvian legislature to presume that the leading figures of the CPL had held an anti-democratic stance, unless by their actions they had rebutted this presumption, for example by actively dissociating themselves from the CPL at the material time. However, the applicant had not made any statement distancing herself from the CPSU/CPL at the material time, or indeed at any time thereafter.
In the Court’s opinion, the Latvian authorities’ view that even today the applicant’s former position in the CPL, coupled with her stance during the events of 1991, still warranted her exclusion from standing as a candidate to the national Parliament, could be considered to be in line with the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.
The Court considered that section 5 § 6 of the 1995 Act, providing for the ineligibility of individuals who had actively participated in the CPL’s activities between 13 January 1991 and that party’s dissolution, as applied to the applicant, had not been found to be arbitrary or disproportionate. Furthermore, Mrs Ždanoka’s current or recent conduct was not a material consideration, given that the disputed measure related only to her political stance during the crucial period of
While such a measure could scarcely be considered acceptable in the context of one political system, for example in a country which had an established framework of democratic institutions going back many decades or centuries, it could nonetheless be considered acceptable in Latvia, in view of the historico-political context which had led to its adoption and given the threat to the new democratic order posed by the resurgence of ideas which, if allowed to gain ground, might be likely to lead to the restoration of a totalitarian regime. The Court took account of the context of the instant case. In particular, it noted that
The Court therefore accepted in the present case that the national authorities of
It was to be noted that the
The Court concluded that there had been no violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.
Articles 10 and 11
In the circumstances of the case, the Court considered that no separate examination of the applicant’s complaints under Article 11 was necessary. Furthermore, the Court could find no argument that would require a separate examination of the applicant’s complaints concerning her inability to stand for election from the point of view of Article 10.
Judge Rozakis and Judge Zupančič expressed dissenting opinions. Judges Gyulumyan and Mijović expressed a joint dissenting opinion. Judge Wildhaber expressed a partly dissenting opinion and Judges Spielmann and Jaeger jointly expressed a partly dissenting opinion. The texts are annexed to the judgment.