FIRST SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 48198/99 
by Odd F. LINDBERG 
against Sweden

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting on 15 January 2004 as a Chamber composed of

Mr C.L. Rozakis, President
 Mr P. Lorenzen

Mr G. Bonello
 Mrs F. Tulkens
 Mrs N. Vajić
 Mrs E. Steiner, 
 Mrs E. Fura-Sandström, judges
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr Odd F. Lindberg, is a Norwegian national, who was born in 1945 and lives in Sweden. He is represented before the Court by Mr J. Södergren, a lawyer practising in Stockholm.

A.  Introduction

The applicant had been on board the seal hunting vessel M/S Harmoni (“the Harmoni”) during the 1987 season as a freelance journalist, author and photographer. On 3 March 1988 Mr Lindberg applied to the Ministry of Fisheries to be appointed seal hunting inspector for the 1988 season on board the Harmoni. Following his appointment on 9 March 1988 he served on board the Harmoni from 12 March to 11 April 1988, when the vessel returned to its port in Tromsø.

Thereafter, and until 20 July 1988, Bladet Tromsø published twenty-six articles on Mr Lindberg’s inspection, including his entire inspection report (of 30 June 1988).

In the meantime, by 15 July 1988, the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries had decided to exempt the report from public disclosure with reference to the nature of the allegations – criminal conduct – and to the need to give the persons named in the report an opportunity to comment. On 18 July 1988 the Ministry was reported to have stated that veterinary experts would consider the controversial Lindberg report. On 20 July the Ministry expressed doubts as to the applicant’s competence and the quality of the report.

Mr Lindberg’s report continued to receive a wide coverage in other media as well. On 29 July and 3 August 1988 extensive excerpts from the report were published in Fiskaren, a bi-weekly for fishermen.

Over the following months the debate about Mr Lindberg’s report died out until 9 February 1989, when he gave a press conference in Oslo. A film entitled “Seal Mourning” (containing footage shot by Mr Lindberg from the Harmoni) showed certain breaches of the seal hunting regulations. Clips from the film were broadcast by the NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) later the same day and the entire film was broadcast by Swedish TV2 on 11 February 1989. During the next days scenes from the film were broadcast by up to twenty broadcasting companies world-wide, including CNN and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

On account of various publications of allegations by the applicant to the effect that certain seal hunters had violated the Seal Hunting Regulations issued by the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and some instance the Penal Code, the nineteen crew members of Harmoni brought, mostly with success, a series of defamation proceedings against the applicant and a number of media corporations and companies, including Bladet Tromsø and its former editor.

In the defamation case against the applicant himself, the Sarpsborg City Court (byrett) held in a judgment of 25 August 1990 that a number of his statements were defamatory and should be declared null and void and ordered him to pay compensation to the nineteen plaintiffs. Leave to appeal was refused by the Appeals Selection Committee of the Norwegian Supreme Court in May 1991. A more detailed account of those proceedings is given here below. On 26 June 1994 he lodged an application (no. 26604/94) with the former European Commission of Human Rights alleging violations of Articles 6, 10 and 13 of the Convention, which the Commission declared inadmissible on 26 February 1997 as having been lodged out of time.

The defamation case against Bladet Tromsø and its former editor also became the subject matter of an application (no. 21980/93) lodged under the Convention, in which the newspaper and its former editor disputed the Nord-Troms District Court (herredsrett) findings of 4 March 1992 (against which the Supreme Court had refused leave to appeal on 18 July 1992) that its publication of several statements from the applicant’s report (crew in specific instances “beat to death a female harp seal which was protecting her pup”; “Seals skinned alive”; the applicant was “being beaten up by furious hunters, who also threatened to hit him on the head with a gaff if he did not keep quiet.”) made them liable for defamation and that the statements should be declared null and void: In its Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas v. Norway judgment of 20 May 1999 ([G.C.], no. 21980/93, ECHR  
1999-III), the Court, by thirteen votes to four, found that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention with regard to the newspaper and the former editor (see paragraphs 58 to 73 of the judgment and point 1 of the operative provisions).

The present application relates to the Swedish courts’ refusal to prevent the enforcement in Sweden (where the applicant lived) of the Sarpsborg City Court’s judgment of 25 August 1990 in the defamation proceedings against the applicant on account of similar or comparable allegations. For a broader view of the factual background of the case complex, the context of the impugned allegations and also details of Norwegian defamation law, the Court refers to paragraphs 8 to 44 of its above-cited judgment.

B.  Defamation proceedings brought against the applicant

In March 1989 the crew members of the Harmoni had instituted defamation proceedings against Mr Lindberg before the Sarpsborg City Court, referring to statements which he had made about them in respect of the 1987 and 1988 hunting seasons, in his report of 30 June 1988, in a television programme “Antenne 10” broadcast by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation on 9 February 1989 and the film broadcast by the Swedish TV2 on 11 February 1989 in its programme “Miljöbilder” (Environment pictures). They sought the mortification of certain statements imputing reprehensible conduct on the part of the crew. The plaintiffs further requested a prohibition against the publication of the report and of film footage taken by the applicant during the seal hunt on the West Ice in 1987 and 1988.

By judgment of 25 August 1990 (extending to some 80 pages), the City Court, after holding an oral hearing over six days, found for the applicant with regard to some of the impugned statements but declared five statements in his inspection report null and void under Article 253 § 1 of the Penal Code, as well as two other statements made by him in television programmes:

In the report

i “Finally, it is my firm opinion that every seal in the hunting area was to be put to death – no matter the cost or risk.”

ii “The sharp end of the gaff was forcefully driven into the head of the animal by an intoxicated man.”

ii “Some of these people seem to have an excessive, raw lifestyle.”

iv “Since I thought the mental health of [Mr. K] was unbalanced (last year I made the same observation reg. this man) I found it best to avoid the man for the rest of the season.”

v “When the hunter realises that he has failed – that he is the loosing party – he kills the female... .The hunter always invokes self-defence as an excuse for killing the female–who is able to prove the contrary?”

In the TV2 programme

vi “Due to the present conditions, it is a tragedy to the seal, to Norway as a nation it is a scandal – that the set of rules, as it is drafted by the Ministry of Fishery, is violated nearly to one hundred percent.”

In the NRK programme

vii “I often saw these whitecoats, bluebacks also for that matter, being kicked to death or being stamped to death when they came on board.”

The City Court further prohibited the applicant from making accessible to the relevant public film footage, where the plaintiffs could be identified, and ordered him to pay to each of them NOK 10,000 in compensation for non-pecuniary damage, plus NOK 3,000 in respect of profits he had obtained through illegal publication of the film, as well as legal costs.

The City Court’s reasoning, which went over 30 pages or so, included a detailed analysis of, inter alia, the contents of the impugned allegations, with an assessment of whether they were defamatory in character; whether the applicant had adduced sufficient proof to establish the veracity of those allegations that were found defamatory, the justification of the request for a prohibition on publication and compensation.

The applicant’s request for leave to appeal against the judgment was rejected by the Appeals Selection Committee of the Supreme Court (Høyesteretts Kjæremålsutvalg) on 16 May 1991.

C.  Ensuing enforcement proceedings against the applicant in Sweden

The applicant opposed the execution of the Sarpsborg City Court’s judgment of 25 August 1990. Since he was residing in Sweden, the crew members requested the Enforcement Office (kronofogdemyndigheten) of the County of Älvsborg to execute the award of compensation and costs made in the said judgment. On 10 October 1995 the Enforcement Office ordered the applicant to pay certain specified sums. The applicant lodged a judicial appeal against that decision, invoking that the 25 August 1990 judgment violated his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention.

In proceedings to which the nineteen crew members were parties, the Vänersborg City Court (tingsrätt), by a decision (beslut) of 22 February 1996, rejected the applicant’s claim. It noted that the impugned matter predated the entry into force of the 1988 Lugano Convention (on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters) for Sweden and Norway (respectively on 2 January and 1 May 1993), so it fell to be considered under Act 1977:595 regarding the Recognition and Enforcement of Nordic judgments in the area of Private Law, section 8 § 1 no. 6 of which provided that a judgment which was obviously incompatible with the Swedish public order should not be recognised or implemented in Sweden. According to the preparatory works this provision should be applied with great caution. In practice it had only been applied in narrowly defined and exceptional circumstances, when there was question of principles fundamental to the Swedish legal system and provisions protecting the interests of a weaker party. In this respect the City Court observed that the principle of exclusive responsibility on the part of the publisher of an allegation in a periodical or a film was a very important part of the Swedish constitutional protection of free speech. That principle did not exist in the Norwegian legal system, under which several persons might incur liability with respect to the contents of a periodical or a television programme. However, this difference between the Swedish and the Norwegian law, albeit decisive in part for the outcome before the Sarpsborg City Court, did not amount to an exceptional circumstance warranting the application of the public order provision in the 1977 Act. Accordingly, there was no obstacle to recognition and enforcement of the Sarpsborg City Court’s judgment of 25 August 1990. Nor could that judgment be said to breach the Convention.

The applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) of Western Sweden which by a decision of 25 April 1997 upheld the City Court’s reasoning in the main and its conclusion that public order considerations did not prevent the execution of the Norwegian court’s judgment in Sweden.

The Court of Appeal held that it was not for a Swedish court to review compatibility with the Convention beyond considering what followed from the Swedish public order rules. Of particular interest were the rules on exclusive responsibility of the publisher and the limitations on the possibilities for bringing compensation proceedings against persons other than the publisher of a programme. The question was whether it would be inconsistent with fundamental principles of Swedish law to allow enforcement of the compensation award against the applicant for statements with respect to which he would not have been made liable under Swedish law. Since the Freedom of the Press Act (tryckfrihetsförordningen, an instrument forming part of the Swedish Constitution) only applied to printed matters which had been published, it could not apply to the report published by the newspaper without the Ministry of Fisheries’ consent. The applicant’s statements during television programmes, on the other hand, were such that they were covered by the principle of the publisher’s exclusive responsibility. The legal grounds on which the applicant was made liable to pay compensation differed in part from the Swedish rules. In particular he would not have been liable with regard to the statements made during the television programmes.

In the assessment of whether execution of the Norwegian judgment would be obviously incompatible with the fundamental principles of the Swedish legal order, the Court of Appeal had special regard to its consideration that a restrictive attitude ought to be adopted in matters that had particular links to the other State. The applicant’s statements concerned Norwegian matters and an activity in that country which did not concern Swedish interests beyond those of public opinion.

On a further appeal by the applicant, the Swedish Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen), by a decision of 16 December 1998, upheld the lower courts’ decision. It gave the following reasons:

“A first question arising is whether, in a case concerning enforcement, there is an obligation under the Convention for Swedish authorities to examine the conformity of a foreign judgment with the Convention.

The European Court has been inclined to consider enforcement proceedings following a judgment as part of the proceedings concerning the determination of civil rights and obligations (see Danelius, Mänskliga rättigheter i europeisk praxis pp 133 and 193). The Court’s judgment in Pérez v France, dealing with an issue of enforcement in France of a criminal judgment delivered in Andorra, could be interpreted to mean that in cases of flagrant denial of justice in foreign proceedings, a certain review ought to be carried out prior to the execution of a criminal judgment (see Danelius, op.cit, p. 116).

In these circumstances the Supreme Court finds that an examination ought to be made of [the applicant’s] submission that the Sarpsborg City Court’s judgment must not be executed on the grounds that it violates Article 10 in the Convention. It can, however, not be a question of undertaking a complete review of the City Court’s judgment. Such a scheme would cause an excessive burden to the international co-operation aimed at facilitating the execution of judgments in countries other than that where the judgment was delivered (cp., Danelius, op.cit, p. 116).

It is also apparent that a court in the State of origin is normally better placed than an authority in the State of enforcement to make certain assessments, for example evidentiary matters and the application of the national law of the State of origin. Normally the proceedings in that State have been complete and afforded the parties an opportunity to adduce evidence and legal arguments in support for their case. This can be presumed to be the case especially with respect to States which have ratified the Convention (cp., Danelius, op.cit, p. 60).

In the relations among the Convention States themselves it should normally suffice for the authority in the country of execution to pursue a rather summary assessment in verifying whether the judgment is in conformity with the Convention. However, should there, for example on a claim by a party, emerge circumstances that would make it questionable whether the judgment fulfils the requirements in the Convention, a closer scrutiny must be carried out.

According to paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the European Convention everyone has a right to freedom of expression. Pursuant to the second paragraph this right may be subjected to certain limitations, provided that they are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society inter alia for the protection of the reputation of others. If a person has made a defamatory statement against another person and the case is brought before a court, the court has to weigh the former’s interest in enjoying his right to freedom of expression against the latter’s interest in protecting his personal integrity. As a principle, the person who has made a defamatory allegation against another person must be able to prove that the statement is true. This applies in particular if the statement includes an allegation that the person pointed at has committed a criminal offence. The person who has made the statement must however not be imposed with an unreasonable burden of proof (see the European Court’s judgment in Thorgeir Thorgeirsson v Iceland [of 25 June 1992, Series A no. 239]).

The balance that shall be struck between the interest of freedom of expression and the interest of protecting the reputation of an individual may depend on who is the victim of the defamatory allegation and the accusation’s importance to public debate. A politician, for instance, must be prepared to accept more than a private person. The same holds true for political and other institutions. If the allegation is part of a public debate or serves to enlighten on a question of public interest, that is a factor that carries great weight.

In the examination of the City Court’s judgment to be carried out in the present enforcement case, the Supreme Court finds from the outset that it must be deemed acceptable that the City Court has placed the burden of proof on [the applicant] with regard to the truth of his statements. The Supreme Court further finds no reason to question the establishment of facts made by the City Court. It must, amongst other, be taken into account that the City Court held an oral hearing of the case over six days and must be assumed to have had ample opportunity to go into the different issues of the case. Finally, as regards to the balancing of interest to be carried out between [the applicant’s] right to freedom of expression and each individual seal hunters’ interest in protecting his reputation, regard must be had inter alia to the fact that the subject that [the applicant] raised in the debate was of great public interest and that he had the mission to serve as a seal hunting inspector and had special reasons for expressing himself. Against this it should be weighed that the applicant’s statements were not pointed at seal hunters in general but at individual persons and that these persons did not occupy a position suggesting that they should accept to be pointed at in the same way as public persons. Having regard to these circumstances, the Supreme Court finds that the City Court’s assessment did not entail a violation of [the applicant’s] right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention. There is thus no hindrance under this Article to the enforcement of the City Court’s judgment.

As regards the question whether there are obstacles to enforcement of the City Court’s judgment in view of public order considerations it should be underlined that, generally speaking, only in exceptional cases can there be question of refusing enforcement of a judgment on such grounds ... This applies especially when there is question of enforcement of a judgment delivered in another Nordic country.

The issue of Swedish public order in this case concerns firstly [the applicant’s] participation in the film that was shown on Swedish television. This participation should be considered against the background of the principles on the freedom to impart information under the Freedom of the Press Act (tryckfrihetsförordiningen, an instrument forming part of the Swedish Constitution) and the Constitutional Act on Freedom of Expression (yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen). According to this principle everyone is free to provide information for publication by a printed matter, by radio or television broadcast or other medium, which enjoy special constitutional protection. A person who contributes in this way to the creation of for example a television programme (except in certain circumstances which do not apply here), is free from criminal liability and liability to pay compensation, which instead lay on the publisher and, in the case of liability to pay compensation, on the company. The Constitutional Act on Freedom of Expression is certainly not applicable to the Swedish television programme, as it was shown before the entry into force of the constitutional provisions on 1 January 1992, though corresponding provisions existed under the Act 1966 on the Responsibility for Radio Broadcasting.

The freedom to impart information is a fundamental principle under the Swedish Constitution ... It must therefore be assumed that Swedish public order considerations bar the enforcement in Sweden of a foreign judgment imposing criminal punishment or an award of compensation, where the establishment of liability on the other country constitutes a circumvention of the Swedish constitutional protection of persons who contribute to the preparation of a presentation in any of the constitutionally protected media. However, Swedish public order considerations cannot go as far as to always protect a person who has contributed to a programme shown on Swedish television against the enforcement of a foreign judgment concerning liability for participation in the programme. Thus, a person who defames another person in a programme shown in another country, which is later shown in Sweden, cannot, as a rule, avoid enforcement of a judgment delivered in the [first] country establishing that defamation has occurred there. The conclusion is that in an enforcement matter, the question whether there are circumstances warranting the refusal of enforcement in Sweden must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

As regards the film in question it has been stated that it was shown at press conferences in Stockholm and Oslo, in which [the applicant] participated, two days before it was broadcast on Swedish television. On the same day as the press conferences took place, the film was also broadcast by English television. It does not appear clearly from the City Court’s judgment what instances of visioning of the film gave rise to liability, but there is no reason for assuming that it did not concern also those instances that did not occur in Sweden. Even if a greater Norwegian public could view the film only when it was broadcast by Swedish television, in the above-mentioned circumstances and the situation as a whole, it cannot be considered against Swedish public order to enforce the Norwegian judgment in this point.

Nor were there any other public order grounds constituting a hinder to the requested enforcement.”

COMPLAINTS

The applicant complains under Article 13 of the Convention, in conjunction with Article 10, that the Swedish Supreme Court had failed to carry out a proper review of his claim that the Norwegian City Court’s judgment of 25 August 1990 violated his rights under Article 10 of the Convention.

The applicant further submitted that the Swedish recognition and enforcement of the Norwegian judgment also entailed a violation of Article 10 of the Convention taken on its own.

THE LAW

1.  The applicant alleged in the main that he had been the victim of a violation of Article 13 of the Convention taken together with Article 10. In so far as relevant, these articles provide:

Article 10

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

2.  The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, ... for the protection of the reputation or rights of others ... or for maintaining the authority ... of the judiciary.”

Article 13

“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”

(a)  The applicant’s arguments

Under these provisions the applicant complained about the scope of the review carried out by the Swedish courts, notably the Swedish Supreme Court, in dealing with his arguable claim that the Norwegian judgment violated his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 and his request to the Swedish authorities to refuse their co-operation in enforcing the judgment. The Supreme Court had failed to consider whether the impugned interference in the light of the case as a whole was proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued and whether the reasons adduced by the national authorities were relevant and sufficient. Nor had it expressed any view on whether the applicant’s statements constituted opinions or value-judgments. On the contrary it admitted that the review was not a complete one. Given the limited scope of the Supreme Court’s examination, the applicant had not been afforded an effective remedy for the purposes of Article 13 of the Convention.

The applicant did not request the Supreme Court to re-interpret the seal hunting regulations, in the sense that it should establish that seals must be blood tapped on the ice, but to examine in the light of Article 10 whether the applicant had reasonable grounds for believing that seals were frequently skinned with tactual sensations.

The applicant submitted that the Supreme Court should have examined whether he could be said to have expressed his opinions in good faith and therefore was not only obliged under Norwegian law to give statements to the Ministry for Fisheries but was also entitled  under Article 10 to make his opinions available to the public. The Supreme Court pursued no such examination.

While the applicant did not seek the Supreme Court’s review of the findings of fact made by the Norwegian court, he invited it to examine whether there was sufficient evidence to find that the undisputed instances of violations of the seal hunting regulations provided a sufficient basis for holding that the impugned statements by him were not merely invented and untrue. He requested it to take into consideration that the Norwegian court gave the seal hunters all the benefit of the doubt while it at the same time applied a reversed and a very strict burden of proof on him although he was the defendant. Moreover, it rejected his report as evidence regarding the truth of violations the seal hunting regulations, while at the same time holding the same report against him when it came to evaluating the contents of his statements. The Supreme Court further disregarded the fact that the seal hunters in a private criminal procedure chose to invoke general statements that were impossible to prove and refrained from invoking the more detailed violations described in the applicant’s report. In addition, no regard was had to the fact that it was undisputed that the applicant had made balanced statements in relation to the specific group targeted and that the statements were made in the course of a heated public debate.

(b)  The Court’s assessment

The Court reiterates that Article 13 of the Convention guarantees the availability of a remedy at national level to enforce the substance of the Convention rights and freedoms in whatever form they may happen to be secured in the domestic legal order. The effect of Article 13 is thus to require the provision of a domestic remedy allowing the competent “national authority” both to deal with the substance of the relevant Convention complaint and to grant appropriate relief, although Contracting States are afforded some discretion as to the manner in which they comply with their obligations under Article 13. However, Article 13 requires a remedy in domestic law only in respect of grievances which can be regarded as “arguable” in terms of the Convention (see, among other authorities, Boyle and Rice v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 27 April 1988, Series A no. 131, § 54 and Stockholms Försäkrings- och Skadeståndsjuridik AB v. Sweden, Application no. 38993/97, judgment of 16 September 2003, § 68).

As to the latter question, whether the applicant had an arguable claim, it should be observed that the defamation in question proceedings were related to the same case-complex as the case of Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas v. Norway (judgment of 20 May 1999, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1999-III), in which a Grand Chamber of the Court, by thirteen votes to four, held that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. Like the latter, the present case concerns defamatory allegations made by the applicant in his official inspection report, after having served as a hunting inspector on board of the vessel Harmoni in the West Ice in 1988, of breaches of seal hunting regulations committed by members of the crew. Unlike the Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas case, the case now under consideration does not relate to the freedom of the press to impart information but to the applicant’s own freedom of expression as a public official.

A crucial issue in the Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas judgment was whether the press could reasonably rely on the applicant’s official inspection report, without having to carry out its own research into the accuracy of the facts reported. For the Court this question was to be answered in the affirmative. Having regard to various factors limiting the likely harm to the individual seal hunters’ reputation and to the situation as it presented itself to Bladet Tromsø at the relevant time, the Court considered that the paper could reasonably rely on the official Lindberg report, without being required to carry out its own research into the accuracy of the facts reported. It saw no reason to doubt that the newspaper acted in good faith in this respect. (See paragraphs 66-73 of the judgment).

However, those considerations do not apply to the present case, which concern libel proceedings brought against the seal-hunting inspector himself as the author of the defamatory allegations contained in the inspection report (and in television programmes).

Furthermore, in so far as the applicant claims that the outcome of the main proceedings in Norway was incompatible with Article 10 of the Convention, the proper venue of redress for him would have been to pursue an application to Strasbourg against Norway in accordance with the formal conditions under the Convention. He did in fact seek to bring an application (no. 26604/95) under Article 10 of the Convention, but failed to observe the six months’ time limit and so, on 26 February 1997, the former Commission declared the application inadmissible as being out of time. Thus, the Court’s assessment of the existence of an arguable claim in the present case may not directly address the main libel case in Norway but is limited to the ensuing enforcement proceedings in Sweden. A contrary approach would give an applicant the undue possibility of having reopened matters already finally settled, at the risk of upsetting the coherence of the division of roles between national review bodies and the European Court, making up the system of collective enforcement under the Convention.

Accordingly, notwithstanding the public interest in the subject matter (see paragraph 63 of the above-cited judgment), the Court does not find that the applicant could pray in aid the Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas judgment to underpin his argument that the Swedish authorities recognition and enforcement of the Norwegian judgment in his case violated Article 10 of the Convention. On a whole, the Court finds it questionable whether the applicant could at all be said to have an arguable claim for the purposes of Article 13 with respect to his claim that the Swedish authorities’ cooperation was inconsistent with Article 10 of the Convention. However, for the reasons set out below it does not need to decide this question and will proceed on the assumption that Article 13 is applicable.

Turning, then, to the issue whether the applicant was afforded an effective remedy in Sweden against the Swedish authorities’ recognition and enforcement of the Norwegian judgment, the Court cannot but note that the Swedish courts, at three levels of jurisdiction, reviewed the applicant’s appeal against enforcement. The only question is whether the scope of review carried out was sufficient to provide the applicant an effective remedy for the purposes of Article 13 of the Convention.

Comparable issues have previously been examined in the context of co-operation between States inside and outside the Convention territory, notably in the plenary Drozd and Janousek v. France and Spain judgment of 26 June 1992 (Series A no. 240) and the Iribarne Pérez v. France judgment of 24 October 1995 (Series A no. 325-B). Both cases concerned complaints about the enforcement in a Contracting State of a judgment by a court of a non-Contracting State (in Andorra - before joining the Council of Europe) reached in proceedings claimed to be at variance with due process. The Court attached decisive weight to whether the impugned conviction was the result of a “flagrant denial of justice” (see Drozd and Janousek, § 110; and Iribarne Pérez, § 31; see also Pellegrini v. Italy, no. 30882/96, ECHR 2001-VIII, even though no express mention was made of the said criterion in that judgment).

However, the Court does not deem it necessary for the purposes of its examination of the present case to determine the general issue concerning what standard should apply where the enforcing State as well as the State whose court gave the contested decision is a Contracting Party to the Convention and where the subject-matter is one of substance (i.e., here, the freedom of expression) rather than procedure. In the particular circumstances it suffices to note that the Swedish courts found that the requested enforcement (in respect of the award of compensation and costs made in the Norwegian judgment) was neither prevented by Swedish public order or any other obstacles under Swedish law. The Court, bearing in mind its findings above as to whether the applicant had an arguable claim, does not find that there were any compelling reasons against enforcement. That being so, the Court is clearly satisfied that the Swedish courts reviewed the substance of the applicant’s complaint against the requested enforcement of the Norwegian judgment, to a sufficient degree to provide him an effective remedy for the purposes of Article 13 of the Convention.

It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 § 4.

2.  The applicant further alleged that the Swedish recognition and enforcement of the Norwegian judgment entailed in addition a violation of Article 10 of the Convention taken on its own.

However, the Court sees no reason to doubt that the interference with the applicant’s Article 10 rights by the Swedish authorities’ enforcement of the Norwegian judgment was “prescribed by law” and pursued legitimate aims, namely “the protection of the reputation or rights of others” and “maintaining the authority of the judiciary”. Moreover, bearing in mind its reasoning and conclusions above in relation to Article 13, the Court finds that the interference resulting from the decision to enforce the judgment was clearly “necessary” within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 10. The application discloses no appearance of violation of Article 10 of the Convention.

It follows that also this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of article 35 § 3 of the Convention and must be rejected under Article 35 § 4.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the application inadmissible.

Søren Nielsen Christos Rozakis 
 Registrar President

LINDBERG v. SWEDEN DECISION


LINDBERG v. SWEDEN DECISION