ECtHR (Grand Chamber) Raëlien Suisse v. Switzerland – Human rights and Extraterrestrials? – ¿Derechos humanos y extraterrestres?

CASE OF MOUVEMENT RAËLIEN SUISSE v. SWITZERLAND (Application no. 16354/06)

Trending topic: freedom of expression und public orderTendencia: libertad de expresión y orden público

Summary: “…The applicant association, which was set up in 1977, is a non-profit association registered in Rennaz (Canton of Vaud). It is the national branch of the Raelian Movement, an organisation based in Geneva and founded in 1976 by Claude Vorilhon, known as “Raël”. According to its constitution, its aim is to make the first contacts and establish good relations with extraterrestrials.

11.  According to the information available on the applicant association’s website at the time of the adoption of the present judgment, the Raelian Movement’s doctrine is based on Raël’s alleged contact with the “Elohim”, extraterrestrials with “advanced technology”, who are said to have created life on earth and a number of world religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Raelian Movement’s followers believe that scientific and technical progress is of fundamental importance and that cloning and the “transfer of conscience” will enable man to become immortal. In that connection the Raelian Movement has expressed opinions in favour of human cloning.

12.  Some texts of the Raelian Movement or works written by Raël himself advocate a system of government called “geniocracy”, a doctrine whereby power should be entrusted only to those individuals who have the highest level of intellect”.

Moreover, according to the Swiss authorities, there is “the possibility that the Raelian Movement’s literature and ideas might lead to sexual abuse of children by some of its members” (parr. 71).

(…)

“14.  On 7 March 2001 the applicant association requested authorisation from the police administration for the city of Neuchâtel (the “police administration”) to conduct a poster campaign in the period between 2 and 13 April 2001. The poster in question, measuring 97 cm by 69 cm, featured in the upper part the following wording in large yellow characters on a dark blue background: “The Message from Extraterrestrials”; in the lower part of the poster, in characters of the same size but in bolder type, the address of the Raelian Movement’s website, together with a telephone number in France, could be seen; at the very bottom was the phrase “Science at last replaces religion”. The middle of the poster was taken up by pictures of extraterrestrials’ faces and a pyramid, together with a flying saucer and the Earth.

15.  On 29 March 2001 the police administration denied authorisation, referring to two previous refusals. It had been indicated in a French parliamentary report on sects, dating from 1995, and in a judgment of the president of the Civil Court for the district of La Sarine (Canton of Fribourg), that the Raelian Movement engaged in activities that were contrary to public order (ordre public) and immoral”.

(…)

“28.  The applicant association claimed that the measures taken by the Swiss authorities to prohibit the display of its posters had breached its right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention.

72.  Even though some of these reasons, taken separately, might not be capable of justifying the impugned refusal, the Court takes the view that the national authorities were reasonably entitled to consider, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, that it was indispensable to ban the campaign in question in order to protect health and morals, protect the rights of others and to prevent crime.

56.  The Court finds that the domestic authorities’ accusations against certain members of the applicant association, as regards their sexual activities with minors, are of particular concern. … Admittedly, it is not within the Court’s remit, in principle, to review the facts established by the domestic bodies or the proper application of domestic law; therefore, it is not called upon to ascertain whether the authorities’ accusations are proven. However, the Court is of the opinion that, having regard to the circumstances of the present case, the authorities had sufficient reason to find it necessary to deny the authorisation requested by the applicant association”.

(…)

“The Grand Chamber does not see any reason to depart from the Chamber’s considerations in this connection. Accordingly, the Court finds that the concerns expressed by the national authorities were based on relevant and sufficient reasons”.

There is a joint dissenting opinion of judges TULKENS, SAJÓ, LAZAROVA TRAJKOVSKA, BIANKU, POWER-FORDE, VUČINIĆ AND YUDKIVSKA. To sum up we shall quote paragraph 5: ” As regards “geniocracy”, the idea put forward by the applicant association undeniably runs counter to democratic principles. However, as the Government themselves have admitted, this idea is not presented by the applicant as a real political project but rather as a utopia. The situation is thus different from those where the Court has found restrictions on freedom of expression to be proportionate in respect of organisations defending political projects that were incompatible with the concept of a “democratic society” (see, for example, Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 41340/98, 41342/98, 41343/98 and 41344/98, § 132, ECHR 2003‑II)”.

Comment: in our view, it is surprising that such a case has ended on the ECtHR Grand Chamber and even more surprising that there is a joint dissenting opinion of several judges.

Resumen: el caso analiza la prohibición de una campaña de publicidad a través de carteles organizada por el movimiento Raeliano, cuyo fin radica en establecer contactos y buenas relaciones con extraterrestres (sic), al vez que fomenta la “geniocracia” (el gobierno de las personas con capacidades intelectuales extraordinarias). Además, según las autoridades suizas, existe la posibilidad de que las publicaciones e ideas del movimiento raeliano conduzcan a abusos de menores por parte de algunos de sus miembros.

Las autoridades suizas prohiben la campaña. Tras diversas vicisitudes judiciales la Gran Cámara del Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos se pronuncia, considerando que la restricción del derecho a la libertad de expresión queda justificada por razones de interés público.

Comentario: A nuestro juicio resulta sorprente que este caso haya alcanzado tales instancias y, aún más, que exista un voto discrepante de varios magistrados.

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