STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday in favour of the German pro-life advocate Mr. Klaus Annen, upholding his right to freedom of expression. German courts had banned him from distributing leaflets in front of abortion clinics and naming the doctors running those clinics on his website.
When the ECHR took on the case, ADF International filed an expert brief in Annen v. Germany on behalf of “Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle”, one of Germany’s largest pro-life organizations, arguing that the ECHR should protect freedom of speech in line with its previous case law.
“The ECHR has had a longstanding tradition of giving robust protection to freedom of expression, including expression that is offensive, shocking and disturbing”, argues Paul Coleman, Senior Legal Counsel with ADF International. In ADF International’s intervention, he reminded the court of the importance of campaign groups to the democratic process as well as of the interest a broad public audience takes in the issue of abortion.
The court agreed with this reasoning and confirmed the sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised. It recognized the importance of the public interest at stake and ruled that freedom of expression in regard to pro-life issues shall enjoy full protection under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The legal arguments ADF International provided point out the right to freedom of expression under the Convention, and that a decision against Mr. Annen would have wider consequences for freedom of speech across Germany, and possibly all of Europe.
Coleman added: “Klaus Annen’s case is a victory for campaigners and free speech advocates across the continent. In a free society people must not be silenced just because others do not like what they have to say. That would denote the beginning of the end of our democratic process.”