Finland / Supreme Court / KKO:2012:58, R2010/1101

Country

FinlandFinland

Title

Finland / Supreme Court / KKO:2012:58, R2010/1101

View full Case

Year

2012

Decision/ruling/judgment date

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crime type(s) concerned/related

Incitement to violence or hatred

Related hate bias motivation

Religion Ethnic origin

Groups affected

Muslims EU citizens & nationals with migrant background Third country nationals

Court/Body type

National Higher Court

Court/Body

Supreme Court (Korkein oikeus / Högsta domstolen)

Key facts of the case

The Supreme Court convicted a Finnish MP of incitement to hatred (ethnic agitation) and breach of the sanctity of religion for an article he wrote in his blog in 2008. In this blog entry he described Islam as a paedophile religion and wrote that theft and leading a parasitic life by living off welfare is a national and maybe even genetic characteristic of Somalis. The Helsinki District Court and the Court of Appeal had previously acquitted the defendant of the charge of incitement to hatred, but the Court of Appeal convicted him for breach of the sanctity of religion.

Main reasoning/argumentation

The Supreme Court referred to various cases of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular to Feret vs. Belgium. The court concluded that the claim made about Somalis as a group is defamatory and insulting. The defendant stated that the intention of the blog entry was to provide critique of the press and authorities. The court stated that such an intention does not justify defaming and insulting. The court concluded that the defendant has clearly understood the defamatory and insulting nature of the text, although part of it was written in a sarcastic style. The statements were likely to arouse intolerance, contempt, and possibly even hatred. Therefore the statements can be understood as "hate speech" that does not enjoy the protection of the freedom of expression.

Is the case related to the application of the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia, the Racial Equality Directive?

Key issues (concepts, interpretations) clarified by the case

The judgment clarifies the concept of hate speech and its relationship to freedom of expression. The Supreme Court states that the defendant’s intention may well have been to provide a critique of the press and authorities. However, such an intention does not justify defaming and insulting. The court concluded that the defendant has clearly understood the defamatory and insulting nature of the text, although part of it was written in a sarcastic style. In addition, the Supreme Court states that the defendant has been actively involved in politics and this position has to be taken into account in exploring the boundaries between freedom of expression and its restrictions.

Results (sanctions, outcome) and key consequences or implications of the case

The defendant (Mr. Halla-aho) was sentenced to a 50 day fines (300 euro). The court ordered the parts of the blog text that include incitement to hatred/ethnic agitation to be deleted. As a consequence of the judgment Mr. Halla-Aho had to resign from the chairmanship of the Administration Committee of Parliament. At first, Mr. Halla-aho refused to resign, but gave in on 13 June 2012 after the leaders of all political party groups in Parliament, with the exception of the Finns Party, unanimously voiced the view that he cannot continue in the post. (In 2017, Mr. Halla-aho was elected chairman of the Finns Party.)

Key quotation in original language and translated into English with reference details

“[…] lausumat ovat omiaan herättämään suvaitsemattomuutta, halveksuntaa ja mahdollisesti jopa vihaa niiden kohteena olevaa kansanryhmää kohtaan. Ne ovat siten ymmärrettävissä niin sanotun vihapuheen kaltaisiksi lausumiksi, jotka eivät nauti sananvapauden suojaa.”

"[...]the statements are likely to arouse intolerance, contempt, and possibly even hatred. They can be categorised as hate speech, which does not enjoy the protection afforded to freedom of expression."

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