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Europe rights court rules conviction of publishers violated freedom of expression

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled [judgment, in French; press release] in favor of French publishers Olivier Orban and Xavier de Bartillat who were convicted in France in 2002 of defending war crimes and aiding and abetting that offense, respectively. The court held that their prior conviction, based on the publication of the book Services Spéciaux Algérie 1955-1957, was a violation of their freedom of expression as per Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights [text, PDF]. The court awarded the publishers €38,041 in damages and costs.

The book, written by General Aussaresses about the Algerian War, describes torture and summary executions carried out by the author and implicates government officials. The original criminal case also resulted in the conviction of Aussaresses and the publishing house, Editions Plon [company website]. The ruling may be embarrassing for France but is not the first of its kind. In 2007, the ECHR ruled [JURIST report] that Belgium had violated Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights for the search and seizure of a journalist's home after he reported on alleged fraud in the EU.

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