Versita

THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES UNDER THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN JOKŠAS V. LITHUANIA

Stefan Kirchner, Vanessa Maria Frese
Keywords: European Convention on Human Rights, freedom of expression, government, military, subordination, public servant ,

Abstract

Freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights in a democratic society. In fact, the freedom to express one’s opinion and to impart, as well as to receive, information, is essential for the participation in the democratic process. The ability to make decisions as a citizen requires access to information; the participation in the life of the society requires the ability to express one’s opinions. It is imperative that in a democratic society, as it is envisaged by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), everybody is able to express their views, regardless as to whether these views correspond to the views of those who are in power. This ability is one of the key differences between democracy and dictatorship. In particular in the nation-states of Eastern Europe, which have only known freedom for a bit less than a quarter of a century, the growth of democratic structures is inextricably linked to the ability to exercise this right. But while human rights in principle pit the citizen against the State, the citizen who serves the State in a professional function might also wish to express opinions that go against the view of those who are entrusted with leading the State. This is particularly the case when it comes to members of the armed forces. The jurisprudence of the Convention organs with regard to the right of public officials and other State agents to express their opinion freely is not as coherent as it is with regard to other questions concerning the ECHR. In a case decided in late 2013, the European Court of Human Rights dealt with this question with regard to Lithuania. In this article, the authors look at the question of how far the State can restrict the freedom of expression of members of the armed forces under the European Convention on Human Rights.