France / Court of Cassation/19-81631/ECLI:FR:CCASS:2019:CR01817

Country

France

Title

France / Court of Cassation/19-81631/ECLI:FR:CCASS:2019:CR01817

View full Case

Year

2019

Decision/ruling/judgment date

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Crime type(s) concerned/related

Hate speech

Related hate bias motivation

Religion

Groups affected

Muslims

Court/Body type

National Higher Court

Court/Body

Court of Cassation (Cour de cassation)

Key facts of the case

On 13 September 2016, an article was put on line on the site saintnazairebleumarine.fr., entitled ‘The alarming sacrifice of Eid al-Adha (Aïd el-Kébir) in a Saint-Nazaire sports hall’ containing the following, ‘we learn that the Council grants organizational facilities through lending of rooms to associations responsible for such practices. The sports halls of our municipality are places for development at the service of sport, public health and our youth. They are not theatres of agony and death. They cannot become, year on year, places of such sacrifices, as was alas the case in 2015 with the Soucoupe, which the council had opened for an identical occasion'. The Muslim Cultural Association of Saint-Nazaire and its region had the editor, who was also the author of this article, cited on the charge of public defamation of a person or group of persons on account of their origin or their membership or non-membership of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion before the court, which found him guilty. The Court of Cassation overturned and annulled the decision of the Rennes Court of Appeal.

Main reasoning/argumentation

The offence of defamation provided for in the law of 29 July 1881 on freedom of the press is only established if the judges find that, in terms of both their meaning and their scope, the incriminating statements contain an allegation or imputation of a fact that is prejudicial to the honour or consideration of a person or group of persons on account of their origin or their membership or non-membership of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion. In finding the author of the article guilty of this offence, the decision notes that the contested article attributes the commission of the offence of unlawful slaughter in a Saint-Nazaire sports hall, where, as the accused acknowledged, nothing of the kind occurred, to all Muslims by reason of their religion, in view of the reference to Eid al-Adha (Aïd-el-kébir), which is one of the most important Islamic festivals. In so ruling, considering that the reported events were inaccurate and the statements made were aimed only at individuals who had participated in a ritual practice, moreover under conditions that had rendered it reprehensible, and not at the Muslim community as a whole or at a group of persons because of their membership of the Muslim religion, which is not limited to the mere exercise of a religious practice, the Court of Appeal misinterpreted the above-mentioned legal texts and the above-mentioned principle.

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

Is the reference to a ritual practice intended to undermine the honour or consideration of a person or group of persons on account of their origin or their membership or non-membership of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion?

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

The Court of Cassation ruled that the Court of Appeal had misinterpreted the law of 29 July 1881 on freedom of the press and overturned and annulled the decision of the Rennes Court of Appeal, as it found that the offence in question had not taken place.

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

"Les faits relatés, fussent-ils inexacts, et les propos poursuivis ne visaient que les particuliers qui auraient participé à une pratique rituelle, de surcroît dans des conditions l'ayant rendue répréhensible, et non la communauté musulmane dans son ensemble ou un groupe de personnes en raison de son appartenance à la religion musulmane, laquelle ne se réduit pas au seul exercice d'une pratique religieuse, la cour d'appel a méconnu les textes susvisés et le principe précédemment rappelé. "

"The reported events were inaccurate and the statements made were aimed only at individuals who had participated in a ritual practice, moreover under conditions that had rendered it reprehensible, and not at the Muslim community as a whole or at a group of persons because of their membership of the Muslim religion, which is not limited to the mere exercise of a religious practice, the Court of Appeal misinterpreted the above-mentioned legal texts and the above-mentioned principle. "

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