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17.06.2004. Press release issued by the Registrar
CHAMBER JUDGMENT IN THE CASE OF ZHDANOK v. LATVIA
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing a judgment in the case of Zhdanok v.
The Court held by five votes to two
· · that there had been a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (right to free elections);
· · that there had been a violation of Article 11 of the Convention (freedom of assembly and association); and
· · that it was not necessary to examine separately a complaint under Article 10 of the Convention (freedom of expression).
Under Article 41 of the Convention (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the applicant, by five votes to two, 2,236.50 Latvian lati (approximately 3,421 euros (EUR)) for pecuniary damage, EUR 10,000 for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 10,000 for costs and expenses.
(The judgment is available only in French.)
1. Principal facts
The applicant, Tatjana Zhdanoka, is a Latvian national who was born in 1950 and lives in
In 1971 Mrs Zhdanoka 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; her party formed with two other parties an electoral alliance called the PCTVL. However, referring to the 1999 judgment of the Civil Affairs Division, the Central Electoral Commission removed her name from the list of candidates.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the Court on
Judgment was given by a Chamber of 7 judges, composed as follows:
Christos Rozakis (Greek), President,
Peer Lorenzen (Danish),
Giovanni Bonello (Maltese),
Françoise Tulkens (Belgian),
Egil Levits (Latvian),
Anatoli Kovler (Russian),
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky (Italian), judges,
and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.
3. Summary of the judgment
Relying on Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, 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 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 to the Convention
The Court reiterated that in their internal legal orders States party to the Convention had a wide margin of appreciation in subjecting the rights to vote and stand for election to prescribed conditions. In the present case it accepted that the ruling that the applicant was ineligible pursued at least three legitimate aims, namely protection of the State’s independence, the democratic regime and national security.
Such a type of ineligibility could be a punitive measure, punishing a person for his or her past uncivic conduct, or a preventive measure where the present conduct of the person concerned was likely to endanger democracy and where his or her election might create an imminent danger for the State’s constitutional order.
Punitive aspect of ineligibility
The Court accepted the legitimacy of a punitive measure, but considered that in general such a measure should be temporary in order to be proportionate. In the present case the restriction imposed on the applicant was permanent in that it was of indefinite duration and would continue until the relevant legislation was repealed.
Preventive aspect of ineligibility
As regards the applicant’s conduct in 1991, the Court noted that, as there had been no ban prohibiting the activities of the CPL or CPSU before August 1991, the applicant could not reasonably have foreseen the adverse consequences that might result from her personal commitment or militancy within those organisations. She could therefore not be accused of active participation in an illegal association.
The Court considered that it was not its task to take sides in the historical controversy between the parties about the events of 1991, but took the view that the totalitarian and anti-democratic nature of the ruling communist parties in the States of central and eastern Europe before 1990 was a well-known historical fact. It did not exclude the possibility that the restriction in issue could have been justified and proportionate during the first years after the re-establishment of Latvia’s independence, but as time went on it was necessary to ascertain whether other factors, in particular the applicant’s participation in the events concerned, continued to justify her ineligibility.
In that connection, the Court noted that the ineligibility procedure introduced by Latvian legislation and its interpretation by the
Moreover, the Court failed to see why, if parliament considered former active members of the CPSU and CPL so dangerous for democracy, it had not enacted the legislation providing for the ineligibility complained of in 1993 – scarcely two years after the relevant events – but had waited until the following elections in 1995.
Having regard to the observations of the parties and the information supplied by them, the Court concluded that the applicant’s individual conduct in 1991 had not reached such a level of seriousness as to justify her continued ineligibility in the present.
As to the applicant’s present conduct, the Court noted that the criticisms levelled at her mainly concerned the fact that she defended and disseminated
Consequently, the Court considered that the applicant’s permanent ineligibility to stand for election to the Latvian parliament was not proportionate to the legitimate aims it pursued, that it curtailed her electoral rights to such an extent as to impair their very essence and that its necessity in a democratic society had not been established.
Article 11 of the Convention
The Court noted that there had been interference with the applicant’s exercise of her right to freedom of association and that this interference had been “prescribed by law”. The measure complained of had pursued a legitimate aim, namely protection of national security. As to whether it met a “pressing social need”, the Court noted that the party of which the applicant had been a militant member could not have been regarded as “illegal” at the material time, and that the Latvian Government had not supplied information about any specific act by the applicant aimed at destroying the newly-restored Republic of Latvia or its democratic order.
The applicant’s ineligibility to stand for election to parliament or the district councils on account of her active participation in the CPL, which was still in force more than ten years after the events for which that party had been held responsible, was disproportionate to the aim pursued and accordingly not necessary in a democratic society.
Article 10 of the Convention
The finding of a violation of Article 11 made it unnecessary for the Court to rule separately on the question of compliance with the requirements of Article 10.
Judge Bonello and Judge Levits expressed dissenting opinions, which are annexed to the judgment.
 Under Article 43 of the European Convention on Human Rights, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17‑member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.
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michael, 2005-05-26 23:44:14 firstname.lastname@example.org
You betcha Georg!!! Zdanok isnt normal!!! Shes an animal!!!
georg, 2005-05-20 27:10:27 email@example.com
Zdanok is insane!!!