Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Women on Waves

Yesterday, the Court issued its judgment in the case of Women on Waves and others v. Portugal and found a violation of Article 10 ECHR (freedom fo expression).

The applicants were three NGOs: a Dutch one (owning a boat on which they used to give information courses concerning reproductive rights and abortion) and two Portuguese ones. In 2004 Women on Waves planned meetings on its ship in a Portuguese port for interested women, but the Portuguese authorities refused entry to the ship and blocked it by way of a war ship. At the time abortion in Portugal was not allowed and the authorities indicated that they thought the Women on Waves ship would give Portuguese women access to forbidden abortion procedures and medicines.

The European Court held the interference to be disproportionate. It noted that nothing indicated that the NGOs had wanted to administer abortion medicines. The aim rather was to inform people. The Strasbourg judges re-emphasized that not only the content but also the form in which information is conveyed are protected by the European Convention. Thus although meetings on land were held in Portugal eventually, the preference of the NGOs to hold the sessions on the ship as they had always done should have been respected. It also noted that the use of a war vessel to stop the ship in itself may have a chilling effect.

For those familiar with the Court's case law it is interesting to see that the Court referred multiple times to its classic case on abortion information, the 1992 Open Door and Dublin Well Woman judgment, in which a violation of Article 10 ECHR was also found. How much has changed in 17 years: this time the judgment was unanimous, whereas the 1992 case counted a staggering 18 pages of concurring, separate and dissenting opinions!

The judgment itself is available only in French at the moment, but a press release in English may be found here. As the Women on Waves' own press release indicates, following a 2007 referendum, abortion is now legal in Portugal.


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James The Trader said...

Cleverly hidden within this comment, for added incentive to read onward, is one lie. Not a lie of statistical or grammatical error but a ludicrous falsehood at once so absurd as to strike the reader as an insult to human intelligence and yet so dour as to convince the reader that I am fully in accord with those who say that The European Court will simply continue to cause distress to people it doesn't know, has never seen, and who have done it no harm whatsoever. To plunge right into it, The European Court may have access to weapons of mass destruction and stock market secrets. Then again, I consider it to be a weapon of mass destruction itself. Because we continue to share a common, albeit abused, atmospheric envelope, The European Court's hypocrisy is transparent. Even the least discerning among us can see right through it.

I, speaking as someone who is not a churlish swaggerer, am familiar with The European Court's goals, I understand how it operates, I have long recognized its tactics, and I know just about where The European Court now stands on the ladder to total power. I can therefore say that, undeniably, it says that it needs a little more time to clean up its act. As far as I'm concerned, its time has run out. Anyway, that's it for this letter. Let The European Court read it and weep.

Sydney Hotels said...

Why is it that they allowed abortion in Portugal? Isn't it it's a Catholic country?