Judgment concerning France

Human Rights building under the snow

In the case of Allée v. France the Court held that there had been a violation of the freedom of expression.

The case concerned the applicant’s criminal conviction for public defamation following her allegations of harassment and sexual assault against a senior executive of the non-profit association where she worked. The claims had been sent by email to six people from both inside and outside the association.

In the present case, the Court considered that the domestic courts’ refusal to adapt the concept of sufficient factual basis and the criteria for assessing good faith to the circumstances of the case had placed an excessive burden of proof on the applicant, by requiring that she provide evidence of the acts she wished to report. The Court also noted that the email, sent by the applicant to six people of whom only one had been an external party, had had only a minor impact on her alleged harasser’s reputation. Lastly, although the financial penalty imposed on the applicant could not be described as particularly severe, she had nonetheless been convicted of a criminal offence. By its nature, such a conviction had a chilling effect, which could discourage people from reporting such serious actions as those amounting, in their view, to mental or sexual harassment, or even sexual assault. The Court concluded that there had been no reasonable relationship of proportionality between the restriction on the applicant’s right to freedom of expression and the legitimate aim pursued.

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