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Road blockades part of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly

category dublin | bin tax / household tax / water tax | opinion/analysis author Friday October 24, 2003 17:44author by lawyer Report this post to the editors

Road blockades part of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly

It might be useful for activists to use a judgement of the European
Court of Justice accepting road blockades as part of the freedom of
expression and assembly. Here's a rough translation from an article
on the Belgian CWI site about this:



Road blockades part of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly

The European Court of Justice recently decided that a road blockade
can be seen as part of the freedom of expression and the freedom of
assembly.

The Court made a judgement after a transport company started a
procedure against the Austrian government because that government
had allowed an action in 1998 which included a blockade of the
Brenner motorway for 30 hours.

The Court decided that there has to be a balance between the right
on free movement and the freedom of expression and assembly. The
latter are human rights which are fundamental rights recognised by
the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms. According to the Court those rights therefore have to be
taken into account.

The fact that this action method means a physical obstacle to the
free movement of people does not automatically lead to the fact that
the action would not be peaceful.

The Court however says there has to be a sense of proportion between
the legitime goal of freedom of expression and the limitations to
the free movement of people and goods. That leaves the door open for
restrictions on the right to organise blockades, but still the
judgement is useful for activists all over Europe.

Joe / Clare: jailing goes against European law

The recent jailing of Joe Higgins and Clare Daly for their
involvement in organising actions against the bin tax goes against
several European rules. The Irish court says blocking the bin trucks
would be unacceptable. With the recent judgement of the European
Court of Justice this position is questionable. The Irish court
furthermore jailed Joe and Clare on the basis of expressing their
opinion, while supporting the people they represent in their fight
against double taxation.

The freedom of expression and assembly is an important human right
according to the European Court on Human Rights, and it is a right
which should be implemented in a very strict way if it involves
elected representatives.

The jailing of Joe Higgins and Clare Daly goes against articles 10
and 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms. Was the Irish government not keen on
European institutions and rules? Or does that only apply when it
suits them?

Reference: Court of Justice 12 june 2003, C-112/00, Eugen
Schmidberger, Internationale Transporte und Planzüge v. Republik
Österreich

author by Roebuck Scholarpublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 18:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think it's interesting to see the judgement in relation to road blockades. But in fairness, Joe and Clare were sent to prison for contempt of court. Politically and morally it was for engageing in blockades and protests, but unfortunatly, legally it was for contempt.

author by Adampublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 19:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The decision mentioned above (see curia.eu.in/jurisp for the full judgement) doesn't quite say that we have a right to block roads. It arises from a case where an 'official' demo was held (they had a permit, announced it in advance, etc.) which required that a motorway was closed. A haulage company sued the Austrian gov afterwards saying that they should have banned the demo as it interfered with the free movement of goods (a right under EU law). The ECJ decided that by holding the demo the protesters were expressing freedom of assembly and speach (Art 10, 11 ECHR) and that the Austrian gov was allowed to permit the demo, not that it had to.

If you try using this for a blockading case the problem you're likely to run into is Lucas v UK in the European Court of Human Rights (http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/hudoc/ViewRoot.asp?Item=6&Action=Html&X=1024184255&Notice=0&Noticemode=&RelatedMode=0) arising from a blockade at Faslane Naval Base in Scotland where they held that the government were allowed to restrict the Art 10 & 11 rights (in the ways permitted in the text of those rights) and arrest someone who was blocking the road.

This judgement could be useful as part of a case and going from the principles behind the judgement, not relying just on the headline

Related Link: http://makeashorterlink.com/?W19322356
author by R Isible - Indymedia Irelandpublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 19:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

but the second URL doesn't work (some error message about Fulcrum timing out). Also I changed your first URL to become a shorter link using makeashorterlink.com because it was wrapping the page weirdly. Any chance of more info on the second link?

Related Link: http://www.makeashorterlink.com
author by John - nonepublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 20:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Surely the same applies for the Orange Order? Look forward to Joe and Clare highlighting this injustice

author by iosafpublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 23:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

but I reckon it's french.
The French have long needed a decision like this.
convenient that it's in Belgium.

author by Adampublication date Sat Oct 25, 2003 00:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry, I'd got to that link through the search feature on the ECHR website and for some inexplicable reason the results seem to time out.

If you go to http://makeashorterlink.com/?D1B252456
and put in application number 00039013/02 then it will give you the case.

It appears also to be available in Word format at http://makeashorterlink.com/?N19222456

And iosaf - the precedent the Haulage company tried to use was Commission v France when France was found to be breaching right to free movement of goods by not doing enough to stop blockades of foreign goods by French workers!

Related Link: http://makeashorterlink.com/?D1B252456
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