3321/67 3322/67 3323/67 3344/67 (2)

Applicant name Denmark, Sweden, Norway & The Netherlands
Applicant type State
Country Greece
Decision no. 3321/67 3322/67 3323/67 3344/67
Date 31/05/1968
Institution Decision
Type Commission (Plenary)
Outcome Art. 8
Type of privacy
Keywords Insterstate complaint; abuse of right
Facts of the case See earlier decision
Analysis In their earlier application, the applicant governments had already underlined that they might ‘update’ their complaint, when more, other or new legal issues came to the fore. They do so in this application. Greece stresses that such is not allowed; it is stresses the Commission, which it had already accepted in its previous decision. Greece argues that it should be submitted as a new application; no, the Commission stresses, when the facts and legal issues are closely related to the original complaint, they can be added to that initial complaint.

This decision is interesting because, like the previous decision, the Commission stresses that the rules for admissibility of individual complaints do not apply to complaints issued by governments. It is good to reiterate that when drafting the Convention, there was fierce opposition against allowing individuals (natural persons, legal persons, groups) to submit complaints. Rather, many felt that only states should be able to submit applications; they feared for ‘shoals of complaints’ issued by individuals that wanted to protect their own private interest. The Convention was not drafted for protecting private interests of particular individuals, it was drafted in the wake of the Second World War and wanted to prevent gross abuse of power by totalitarian governments (much like the current case). These types of cases, many drafters of the Convention felt, were limited in number and could be addressed by states.
To reach a compromise, the drafters agreed that also individuals could submit applications, but that while states could go directly to the ECtHR with their complaint, individuals first had to go to the ECmHR. Here, the Commission assess on the grounds of exhaustion of domestic remedies, the principle of locus standi, the de minimis rule, the six month time limit, the validity of the claim, etc. Only when all these requirements were met, would the Commission declare a case admissible. Even then, the individual applicant could not go to the ECtHR with her claim; only a state or the Commission could decide to bring the application to the attention of the ECtHR, which ensured that only cases that concerned a broader matter would be dealt with by the Court.

One of the requirements for individual petitions is that such applications should not be considered ‘abuse of right’. One of the fears of the drafters of the Convention was that the right to application would be abused for political reasons. Especially, when drafting the Convention, there was a considerable battle ongoing between the Capitalist and the Communist World. Many Western countries had substantial groups of citizens that supported Communism. Hence, the fear was that these individuals would use their right to petition for political and media purposes – as a manner of rhetoric rather than as a legal instrument.
Interestingly, Greece stresses that the applicant governments have abused their right to petition under the Convention for political reasons. Such is interesting because, on the one hand, the Convention was precisely intended to allow governments to raise alarm when they saw fascist, totalitarian or other abusive regimes come to power in other European countries, but on the other hand, it does raise the question whether states could, in theory, not also abuse their power for political purposes.
Interestingly, the Commission finds an elegant solution. On the one hand, it stresses that the principle contained in the Convention on the abuse of right does not apply to inter-state complaints. Such states are ‘not to be regarded as exercising a right of action for the purpose of enforcing its own rights, but rather as raising an alleged violation of the public order of Europe; whereas it is true that the decision of a Contracting Party to proceed under Article 24 may involve considerations of Government policy; whereas, nevertheless, it remains the object of such proceedings to ensure the observance of the legal engagements undertaken by the Parties in the Convention;’. On the other hand, however, it stresses that there is a more general legal principle, embedded in the general principles of international law, that rights such not be abused, which also applies to inter-state complaints under the Convention. Still, however, the Commission does not find any sign of abuse in the case at hand.

Documents Decision