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Reforms made after pensioner given unreasonable punishments

Tešić v. Serbia  | 2014

Reforms made after pensioner given unreasonable punishments

After the deductions, she was left with approximately 60 euros on which to live and buy her monthly medication … [The medication] would cost her approximately 44 euros.

Judgment of the European Convention on Human Rights, 11th February 2014

Background

Sofija Tešić is a pensioner. She told a journalist that a lawyer had deliberately failed to represent her properly. After the journalist published an article about it, the lawyer brought criminal and civil proceedings against Mrs Tešić. The lawyer won the case. Mrs Tešić was sentenced to six months’ suspended imprisonment and she was ordered to pay the equivalent of almost 5,000 euros in compensation.

Mrs Tešić’s monthly pension was worth the equivalent of only 170 euros. The courts ordered that two thirds of it be sent directly to the lawyer to pay off the debt. According to Mrs Tešić, this left her without enough money to live. She complained that her gas was disconnected for unpaid bills, and that she was not able to pay for the medication she needed for various serious diseases.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that the actions taken by the Serbian authorities had been disproportionate - violating Mrs Tešić’s right to freedom of expression.

Follow-up

The Serbian Constitutional Court developed its case law, specifying that damages awarded in defamation cases should be proportionate to the harm done and to the defendant’s income. Enforcement proceedings were also changed.

Mrs Tešić was awarded compensation covering the amount that had been deducted from her pension as result of the defamation case.