Saturday, July 08, 2006

Segerstedt-Wiberg and Others v. Sweden

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), June 6, 2006.

ECtHR recenly delivered decision in case of Segerstedt-Wiberg and Others v. Sweden regarding alleged violation of various Convention rights. The applicants are Swedish nationals who made unsuccessful requests to view records held on them by the Swedish Security Police. Their requests were refused on the ground that making them available might threaten national security or hinder police activities. The police and courts relied on Chapter 5, section 1(2), of the 1980 Secrecy Act. The applicants, relied on the following provision of European Convention on Human Rights: Article 8 of(right to respect for private life), Article 10 (freedom of expression), Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).

With regard to alleged violation of Article 8 and the storage of applicants’ information, the Court held that the storage of the information had a legal basis under the 1998 Police Data Act. In addition, the scope of the discretion conferred on the competent authorities and the manner of its exercise was indicated with sufficient clarity. The Court also accepted that the storage of the information in question pursued legitimate aims, namely the prevention of disorder or crime, in the case of Segerstedt-Wiberg, and the protection of national security, for the other applicants. The Court concluded that the continued storage of the information that had been released was necessary concerning Segerstedt-Wiberg, but not for any of the remaining applicants. In terms of the refusal to grant full access to the information, the Court held that Sweden was entitled to consider national security interests and the fight against terrorism over the interests of the applicants.

With regard to alleged violation of Articles 10 and 11, the Court considered that the storage of personal data related to political opinion, affiliations and activities that had been deemed unjustified for the purposes of Article 8 constituted an unjustified interference with the rights protected by Articles 10 and 11 concerning all the applicants, except Segerstedt-Wiberg.

Regarding violation of Article 13 and the applicants’ access to an effective remedy, the Court observed that the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman and Chancellor of Justice could receive individual complaints and had a duty to investigate them to ensure that the relevant laws had been properly applied. However, they lacked the power to render a legally-binding decision. Therefore, the court found neither remedy, considered on its own, to be effective within the meaning of Article 13 for all of the applicants. Under Article 41 of the Convention (just satisfaction) the Court awarded 3,000 EUR to Segerstedt-Wiberg, 7,000 EUR to Nygren and Schmid, and 5,000 EUR to Ehnebom and Frejd for non-pecuniary damage. The Court also awarded 20,000 EUR, jointly, for costs and expenses.

Decision is available here.

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