Freedom of expression only for you or also for me?: BPE Statement At 2012 OSCE Human Dimension Meeting In Warsaw

By • on October 6, 2012


OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Working Session 1

Fundamental Freedoms I

Freedom of Expression

Warsaw, September 24, 2012

Freedom of expression only for you or also for me?

At the HDIM in 2009 we expressed our concern about the increasing use of intimidation to curb the exercise of civil liberties in the OSCE area. This covers fundamental liberties: freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and – most importantly – freedom of expression. All of the preceding liberties are included in the human dimension sphere of the OSCE. We therefore present an overview of recent cases in the OSCE area in which these liberties were curtailed. None of these cases should have occurred in liberal democracies.

The German national Ralf Mayer has received a penalty order for €1,800 from the German authorities for publishing an article about US pastor Terry Jones and the Islamic prophet Mohammed. A team of lawyers are currently trying to prove the truth in Mayer’ statements.

A German police officer has been suspended from his post because he supported the German political party Pro-NRW by running for a political office. This was deemed unacceptable by the police authorities in Aachen. The police officer has been stripped of his right to join a political party. He is now dependent on government help to pay his bills and support his family.

Michael Mannheimer, another German national, received a penalty order for €2,500 on February 14, 2012, for incitement and “demonizing, falsifying and distorting Islam”. He is currently fighting the charges by presenting the truth to the court.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an Austrian national and housewife, was fined €480 (120 day fines) by an Austrian court for making remarks about the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The case is currently pending at the European Court for Human Rights.

Fazil Say, a Turkish artist, pianist and composer and former European Union culture ambassador, is accused of “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation.” He poked fun at an Islamic vision of afterlife via Twitter and is scheduled to appear in court in Turkey on October 18, 2012.

In July 2010, a former local politician from the Austrian Freedom Party was fined €1.200 for hate speech and denigration of religious teachings. He had posted his comments on an internet platform and was reported to the authorities by a rival Greens politician.

On 2 August, Christopher Knowles was summarily dismissed from his job in the Council’s Children’s Services Department. This follows a seven month “investigation” and suspension of Mr. Knowles, initiated in December 2011 by a denunciation to the Leeds Council by the Sunday Times about Mr Knowles’ “political activities.”

United Kingdom: Members of a girl gang who kicked a woman in the head while yelling ‘kill the white slag’ were freed after judge hears ‘they weren’t used to drinking because they’re Muslims’

When Jacqueline Woodhouse, 42 launched into a racist tirade on a London subway, the video, in which she was clearly drunk, went viral around the world. Woodhouse clearly did not endear herself to other passengers on the train with her profanity-laden rant, which because of its racial component was upgraded from simply disturbing the peace to Britain’s equivalent of a racial crime.

In another, less publicised video, four members of a girl gang set upon a female victim, beating her, kicking her and pulling out handfuls of her hair. During the attack, they hurled racial epithets (Kill the white slag) at her. All four defendants walked away with suspended sentences.

What is the difference between the two attacks, in which one perpetrator just ran her mouth, and another in which four gang members seriously injured their victim, who has lost her job since the attack? Did the four female gang members luck out with a soft judge? Did Jacqueline Woodhouse strike out with a tough judge?

Or did the fact that the four female gang members were Somali Muslims account for the grotesque disparity in sentencing? It is stories like these that feed the anger of British voters as politically correct judges enforce a manifestly unfair double standard in their courtrooms.


BPE calls on participating States to implement the commitments in the human dimension sphere, particularly as concerns freedom of expression.

BPE calls on participating States to ensure that there is no disparity in sentencing by the judiciary.


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