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Justice for animal rights campaigners who had pamphlets seized by police

Goussev and Marenk v. Finland  | 2006

Justice for animal rights campaigners who had pamphlets seized by police

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and receive and to impart information and ideas without interference by public authority…

Opening of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Background

Elina Goussev and Michael Marenk were campaigning against the fur trade in Helsinki. Police decided to search their homes, on suspicion of having committed public disorder offences during a demonstration. During the search, the police found pamphlets and other documents. They confiscated these materials, claiming that they were defamatory about companies selling fur at the time.

Ms Goussev and Mr Marenk were later acquitted of this charge. They claimed that the seizure of their pamphlets had been unjustified and unlawful.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court ruled that the seizure of the pamphlets had breached Ms Goussev and Mr Marenk’s right to freedom of expression. Under Finnish law at the time, it had not been clear whether the police had the right to confiscate such materials during a search related to a different investigation. The seized material had been important to the applicants’ freedom of speech, and the law had not been clear about their right to keep it. 

Follow-up

After the case had been submitted to the court, new legislation clarified the law to prevent arbitrary seizures of documents and protect free speech.


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