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CASE OF LOMBARDO AND OTHERS v. MALTA
This judgment will
become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2
of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Lombardo and Others v. Malta,
European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber
Sir Nicolas Bratza, President,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr L. Garlicki,
Mr J. Šikuta,
Mrs P. Hirvelä,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
deliberated in private on 27 March 2007,
the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
case originated in an application (no. 7333/06) against the Republic
of Malta lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for
the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the
Convention”) by four Maltese nationals, Mr M. Lombardo, Mr C.
Bonello, Mr A. Debono and Mr J. Zammit (“the applicants”)
on 2 February 2006.
applicants were represented by Mr J. Zammit Maempel, a lawyer
practising in Valletta (Malta). The Maltese Government (“the
Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr S. Camilleri,
28 May 2006 the Court decided to give notice of the application to
the Government. Under the provisions of Article 29 § 3 of the
Convention, it decided to examine the merits of the application at
the same time as its admissibility.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
applicants, Mr Mark Lombardo, Mr Charles Bonello, Mr Alfred Debono
and Mr John Zammit are Maltese nationals who were born in 1966, 1971,
1945 and 1963 respectively and live in Malta.
A. Background of the case
- The first three applicants are councillors on the Fgura
Local Council elected on behalf of the Nationalist Party. The fourth
applicant is the editor of the newspaper “In-Nazzjon
- In 2001 a controversy arose between the central
government of Malta and the Fgura Local Council over the “Hompesch”
Road Project (hereinafter, the “HRP”) in Fgura. The
matter was brought before the domestic courts and gave rise to a
political discussion in the Local Council.
- On 24 May 2001, during a Local Council meeting, the
applicants presented a motion calling for the Council to hold a
public consultation meeting on the matter. The Council rejected the
- On 26 July 2001 the Fgura Mayor published an article in
the newspaper “In-Nazzjon Taghna”.
- On 7 August 2001 the first three applicants published
an article in reply in the same newspaper. A passage of this article
read as follows:
“The Fgura Local Council did not consult the
public and is ignoring public opinion on the matter.”
B. Proceedings before the Court of Magistrates
- On 26 November 2001 the Fgura Local Council sued the
applicants for libel and defamation in their capacity as authors and
editor of the article published on 7 August 2001. It submitted that
the defendants had attributed to it specific and unproved facts with
the intention of destroying or reducing its reputation.
- The applicants challenged this claim, submitting that
the article complained of amounted to fair comment. They claimed
that, even though they had put forward a motion to hold a public
meeting, the Local Council had failed to hold a public consultation
on the matter. In the applicants' opinion, the efforts made by the
Council to analyse the controversy did not amount to a public
- By a judgment of 12 November 2002, the Court of
Magistrates found in favour of the Local Council and ordered the
applicants in solidum to pay 2,000 Maltese Liri (Lm –
approximately 4,800 euros (EUR)) for moral damage.
- The Court of Magistrates considered that the article
complained of had been written in the context of a political
controversy which had also been discussed in the local press. It
stated that there had been a misunderstanding between the labour
councillors and the Department of Roads. The labour councillors had
proposed that part of Hompesch Road should be one-way. However,
according to the article, this proposal had been rejected by the
Traffic Control Board, the Public Transport Authority and the General
Retailers and Traders Union. The first three applicants, in their
capacity as nationalist councillors, wished to bring forward the
commencement of the works and had asked the labour councillors to
remove the political straightjacket. Finally, the first three
applicants had stated that the Local Council had omitted to consult
the public and was ignoring public opinion on the HRP.
- However, the Court of Magistrates found that, as
highlighted by the plaintiff, a number of measures had been taken in
order to submit the project to public scrutiny.
- In particular, both the Minister responsible for roads
and the Director of the Department of Roads had expressed themselves
publicly to the effect that discussions were being held with the
Local Council regarding the matter. Moreover, it was not true, as
claimed by the applicants, that the proposal that part of Hompesch
Road should become one-way had been rejected. In fact, at the
relevant time, two of the three authorities which had allegedly
rejected the proposal had not yet been constituted. Notwithstanding
that the Local Council was not bound to hold any public consultation,
the matter had been brought up at a public meeting organised by it on
10 April 2001. There had also been public consultation since the
project itself had commenced as a result of a public meeting held in
1995. A qualified “urban planner” had also been engaged
to prepare a report on the road in question. Urban policy for the
locality was based on this report and to reinforce this policy
further public consultation had taken place in November 2000.
- Furthermore, a questionnaire had been distributed
locally to give residents the opportunity to express their position
on the matter and a similar invitation had been made in the June/July
2001 edition of the official publication of the Local Council. On 11
June 2001 the Local Council had organised another public meeting with
several bodies and on 24 July 2001 had approved the conclusions
of this meeting.
- In the Court of Magistrates' opinion, there had to be
a clear distinction between an allegation of fact on which fair
comment could be based and an allegation which was solely a malicious
manipulation of the facts. According to the case-law of the European
Court of Human Rights, a comment was justifiable only if it were fair
and made bona fide. Thus, it could only be based on a fact
that was proved to be true. In the present case, however, the facts
alleged by the first three applicants had not been proved. From the
outset of the trial, rather, it had been demonstrated that public
consultation had taken place.
- The Court of Magistrates concluded that the fourth
applicant, as editor of the newspaper, had been aware of the
controversy and believed that the comment of the first three
applicants had been justified. Finally, he had also agreed to publish
a response from the Local Council to the article in issue.
C. Proceedings before the Court of Appeal
- The applicants appealed to the Court of Appeal. They
claimed that the first-instance court had made a wrong assessment of
the facts and had applied the law incorrectly. In any event, the
amount awarded to the Local Council in damages was excessive.
- By a judgment of 24 November 2003, the Court of Appeal
confirmed the Court of Magistrates' finding that the publication had
been libellous and defamatory. However, it decided to reduce the
amount of the damages to Lm 600 (approximately EUR 1,440).
- The Court of Appeal recalled that, as the Local
Council was a public organ, the limits of acceptable criticism
directed at its acts could be wider. However, the establishment,
assessment and evaluation of facts were for the first-instance judge
and, unless this evaluation was arbitrary or illogical, the Court of
Appeal would not interfere. In the present case, on the basis of the
evidence before it, the Court of Appeal found that the facts stated
in the publication did not reflect the truth.
D. Proceedings before the Civil Court
- On 13 January 2004 the applicants filed a
constitutional complaint with the Civil Court (First Hall).
- They claimed that the publication in question was a
legitimate criticism of local government action which was permissible
in a democratic society. Thus, the obligation to pay damages imposed
on them had infringed their right to freedom of expression, as
guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention.
- The applicants considered that their statements were
part of their duty as elected councillors and that they had the right
to inform the public about matters of public interest. They
emphasised that the libel proceedings had not been instituted by a
physical person but by a local council and that the article
complained of had criticised a local government and its
administrative actions. Therefore, no restrictions on their freedom
of expression could be imposed.
- In a judgment of 7 October 2004, the Civil Court
rejected the applicants' claim.
- The Civil Court observed that according to the
case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the right to freedom
of expression was not absolute. In particular, the exercise of this
right carried with it duties and responsibilities, which were
particularly important when it came to attacking the reputation of
private individuals and undermining the rights of others. Journalists
had to act in good faith in order to provide accurate and reliable
- The Civil Court also highlighted the importance of the
balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to
reputation, honour and good name. In the present case, there was no
doubt that the interference with the applicants' right to freedom of
expression had a legal basis in Chapter 248 of the laws of Malta.
Furthermore, it was proportionate and necessary in a democratic
society for the protection of the rights of others. The Civil Court
referred, in particular, to the fact that the amount of damages had
been reduced and had been imposed as a result of civil proceedings.
E. Proceedings before the Constitutional Court
- The applicants appealed to the Constitutional Court.
- They claimed that the Civil Court had failed to
examine the merits of the case. As the article complained of had
contained criticism of a local government, the opinions expressed in
it should enjoy a higher level of protection. Furthermore, according
to the applicants, a local government did not have a reputation which
required protection. Thus, statements made against it could not be
held to be defamatory and libellous. The applicants finally argued
that all they had done was to express their opinion that the
consultation about the HRP had not been satisfactory.
a judgment of 7 October 2005, the Constitutional Court upheld the
Civil Court judgment.
Having examined the judgments given by the Court of Magistrates and
by the Court of Appeal, the Constitutional Court found that the law
had been applied both effectively and correctly.
the applicants had not previously raised the plea that a local
council could not be defamed, the Constitutional Court addressed the
matter. It stated that a local council could both defame and be
defamed. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court held that although the
limits of acceptable criticism were wider with respect to
governments, the attribution of false facts was not protected under
Article 10 of the Convention.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
3 of the Press Act, in so far as relevant, states that a press
offence is committed by means of the publication or distribution in
Malta of printed matter. Under Section 11 of the same Act, whosoever
by such means libels any person, shall be liable to a fine upon
to Section 23 of the said Act such proceedings:
“...may be instituted against each of the
(a) the author, if he composed the work for the
purpose of its being published, or if he consented thereto;
(b) the editor;...”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 10 OF THE CONVENTION
applicants complained about a violation of their right to freedom of
expression as provided for in Article 10 of the Convention, which
reads as follows:
“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. This Article shall not
prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting,
television or cinema enterprises.
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, in the interests of
national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the
prevention of disorder or Submissions of those appearing before the
Court crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the
protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the
disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining
the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Government contested that argument.
A. The parties' submissions
1. The applicants
applicants submitted that the sanctions imposed on them to pay
damages and legal costs amounted to an interference with their right
to freedom of expression.
to the applicants, this interference did not fall within any of the
limitations provided for by Article 10 § 2 the Convention, since
the “protection of the rights of others” could not be
interpreted as including the hypothetical rights of governments or
their organs which – being abstract legal entities – did
not have a reputation. While accepting that defamation of a class was
an acknowledged legal concept, the applicants alleged that a libel
action pertained to the individual members of such class; thus, the
Fgura Local Council could not sue for libel.
any case, the applicants submitted that the article published in
“In-Nazzjon Taghna” was a legitimate criticism of
the action of a local government, amounting to a value judgment which
was not susceptible of proof. Recognising a “pressing social
need” to protect government from criticism would give the
authorities a convenient tool to diminish or eliminate freedom of
expression and to negate democracy.
the domestic courts' judgments, though referring to the Strasbourg
case-law, had not appreciated the underlying principles enunciated by
the European Court of Human Rights. The need for protection of
freedom of expression became more important when it was the
government, whether local or national, that was being criticised and
not an individual. Moreover, it was paradoxical that three of the
applicants, out of seven councillors forming the Local Council at
issue, had been ordered to pay damages to protect their own
applicants submitted that they had incurred losses of approximately
EUR 8,000 including the damages they had been condemned to pay.
However, in their view even if they had only incurred EUR 1 the
principle of freedom of expression would still have been infringed.
2. The Government
Government accepted that the requirement for the applicants to pay
damages constituted an interference with their right to freedom of
expression. However, as the protection of the reputation or other
rights of any physical or moral person could not be excluded from the
scope of Article 10 § 2, the protection of the reputation of a
Local Council could legitimately form the basis of an interference
with this right. Moreover, the impugned interference was prescribed
by law and was necessary in a democratic society for the purpose of
responding to the pressing social need of protecting the reputation
of others in terms of Article 10 § 2 of the Convention.
Government submitted that the domestic courts had been correct in
their approach and had acted within the State's margin of
appreciation when taking their decisions. Indeed, the Court of
Magistrates and the Court of Appeal had established that the
applicants had made false assertions of fact to the detriment of the
Council, which went beyond the scope of a value judgment or a mere
exaggeration or provocation based on true facts. Such statements were
not “fair” comments permissible under the Press Act in
order to allow free and fair debate on matters of public interest,
but rather the attribution of gratuitous falsehoods. Moreover, the
applicants themselves had never put forward the defence of the truth
of the facts stated by them, which was also a defence in libel
proceedings according to the Press Act.
Government contested the applicants' arguments regarding the
interpretation given by the domestic courts. The latter, making
reference to the Convention and the Court's case-law and to the
importance of the right to freedom of expression in a democratic
society, had found nothing which justified the attribution of
outright falsehoods to others even if these had been made in the
context of a political debate.
The Government submitted that the proceedings in question were civil
not criminal in nature and it was only the amount of damages actually
payable to the other party that could be identified as a sanction.
The amount of legal fees and expenses, which were also moderate,
could not be considered as placing a disproportionate burden on the
applicants. As these damages amounted to approximately EUR 350 for
each applicant, the interference had been proportionate. Therefore,
it could not be said that the judgment of the domestic courts had had
a “chilling effect” on political debate.
in the circumstances of this case, the decisions of the domestic
courts had not been incompatible with a strict interpretation of the
restrictions to which the right to freedom of expression may be
subjected, or with the margin of appreciation enjoyed by national
authorities in identifying the existence of a “pressing social
B. The Court's assessment
Court notes that the application is not manifestly ill-founded within
the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further
notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must
therefore be declared admissible.
(a) Whether there was interference
Court notes that it is common ground between the parties that the
judgments pronounced in the libel and defamation action constituted
an interference with the applicants'
right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 10 § 1.
(b) Whether the interference was justified
is not contested that the interference was prescribed by law, namely
section 11 of the Press Act (see paragraph 33 above). However, the
parties disagreed as to whether it pursued the legitimate aim of
protecting the reputation or rights of others, within the meaning of
Article 10 § 2.
Court considers that it is only in exceptional circumstances that a
measure proscribing statements criticising the acts or omissions of
an elected body such as a council can be justified with reference to
“the protection of the rights or reputations of others”.
In the instant case, it is prepared to assume that this aim can be
relied on. The main issue is whether the interference was “necessary
in a democratic society”.
(i) General Principles
test of necessity requires the Court to determine whether the
interference corresponded to a “pressing social need”,
whether it was proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and
whether the reasons given by the national authorities to justify it
were relevant and sufficient. In assessing whether such a need exists
and what measures should be adopted to deal with it, the national
authorities are left a certain margin of appreciation. This power of
appreciation is not however unlimited, but goes hand in hand with a
European supervision by the Court, whose task it is to give a final
ruling on whether a restriction is reconcilable with freedom of
expression as protected by Article 10. The Court's task in exercising
its supervisory function is not to take the place of the national
authorities, but rather to review under Article 10, in the light of
the case as a whole, the decisions they have taken pursuant to their
margin of appreciation. In so doing, the Court has to satisfy itself
that the national authorities applied standards which were in
conformity with the principles embodied in Article 10 and,
moreover, that they based their decisions on an acceptable assessment
of the relevant facts (see Grinberg v. Russia, no. 23472/03,
§§ 26-27, 21 July 2005).
(ii) Application of the above principles in the
Court must weigh a number of factors in the balance when determining
the existence of a pressing social need and reviewing the
proportionality of the measure complained of. In examining the
particular circumstances of the case, the Court will take the
following elements into account: the position of the applicants, the
position of the plaintiff in the defamation proceedings, the subject
matter of the publication and the qualification of the contested
statement by the domestic courts (see Jerusalem v. Austria,
no. 26958/95, § 35, ECHR 2001 II).
- As regards the applicants' position, the Court
observes that the first three applicants are councillors on the Fgura
Local Council and also authors of the article in question which had
been written in reply to a previous article published by the Mayor of
the Fgura locality (see paragraph 8 above). In this respect the Court
recalls that while freedom of expression is important for everybody,
it is especially so for elected representatives of the people. They
represent the electorate, draw attention to their preoccupations and
defend their interests. Accordingly, interferences with their freedom
of expression call for the closest scrutiny on the part of the Court
(see Castells v. Spain, judgment of 23 April 1992, Series A
no. 236, pp. 22-23, §, 42).The fourth applicant is the editor of
the newspaper in which the article was published. According to the
Court of Magistrates, he was aware of the controversy and had
believed the comment to be justified; he had also granted the Local
Council a right of reply. The Court reiterates that the press fulfils
an essential function in a democratic society. Although it must not
overstep certain bounds, particularly as regards the reputation and
rights of others, its duty is nevertheless to impart – in a
manner consistent with its obligations and responsibilities –
information and ideas on all matters of public interest (see De
Haes and Gijsels v. Belgium, judgment of 24 February
1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997 I, §
37; and Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas v. Norway [GC],
no. 21980/93, § 59, ECHR 1999 III). This implies
acting in good faith in order to provide accurate and reliable
information in accordance with the ethics of journalism (see Radio
France and Others v. France, no. 53984/00, § 37, ECHR
2004-II; Harlanova v Latvia (dec.), no. 57313/00,
3 April 2003; and McVicar v. the United Kingdom, no.
46311/99, §§ 83-86, ECHR 2002-III).
plaintiff in the defamation action was the Fgura Local Council. The
Court recalls that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider as
regards a politician as such than as regards a private individual.
Unlike the latter, the former inevitably and knowingly lay themselves
open to close scrutiny of their words and deeds by journalists and
the public at large, and they must consequently display a greater
degree of tolerance (see Lingens v. Austria, judgment of
8 July 1986, Series A no. 103, p. 26, § 42, Incal v. Turkey,
judgment of 9 June 1998, Reports 1998-IV, p. 1567, § 54).
Moreover, the limits of permissible criticism are wider still with
regard to the government than in relation to a private citizen or
even a politician. In a democratic system the actions or omissions of
the Government must be subject to the close scrutiny not only of the
legislative and judicial authorities but also of public opinion (see
Sener v. Turkey, no. 26680/95, § 40, 18 July
2000). It follows that a local council, being an elected political
body made up of persons mandated by their constituents, it should be
expected to display a high degree of tolerance to criticism.
- The subject matter of the publication was the
applicants' assessment of the situation regarding the HRP which was
part of a political debate which had been discussed in the local
media. The Court recalls that there is little scope under Article 10
§ 2 of the Convention for restrictions on political speech
or on debate on questions of public interest (see Sürek v.
Turkey (no.1) [GC], no. 26682/95, § 61, ECHR
1999-IV). Therefore the Court is of the view that since the matter of
the HRP was of general interest to the local community, the
applicants were entitled to bring it to the public's attention
through the press.
view of the above factors the State's margin of appreciation in
interfering with the applicants' right to freedom of expression must
be construed narrowly in this case in determining whether the reasons
given by the national authorities to justify the interference were
relevant and sufficient.
regards the qualification of the impugned statement by the domestic
courts, the Court observes that they did not accept the applicants'
argument that it was a value-judgment but considered it to be a
statement of fact given that the Local Council had indeed taken a
number of measures to submit the project to public scrutiny.
Court disagrees with the conclusion reached by the domestic courts.
It reiterates that it has consistently held that, in assessing
whether there was a “pressing social need” capable of
justifying interference with the exercise of freedom of expression, a
careful distinction needs to be made between facts and value
judgments. The existence of facts can be demonstrated, whereas the
truth of value judgments is not susceptible of proof (see De Haes
and Gijsels, cited above, p. 235, § 42, and Harlanova v.
Latvia (dec.), no. 57313/00, 3 April 2003).
59. The Court observes that the statement in issue consisted of
two allegations: the Local Council (i) did not consult the public,
and (ii) was ignoring public opinion on the matter. The first
allegation is capable of various interpretations. It is true that
even where a statement amounts to a value judgment, the
proportionality of an interference may depend on whether there exists
a sufficient factual basis for that statement, since even a value
judgment without any factual basis to support it may be excessive
(see De Haes and Gijsels, cited above, § 47, and
Jerusalem, cited above § 43, ECHR 2001-II). However, in
the present case, the factual basis may be found in the circumstance
that the Local Council had rejected a motion presented by the
applicants calling for the holding of a public consultation meeting
about the HRP. The Court considers that the rejection of the
applicants’ motion provided a sufficient factual basis for the
allegation that the Local Council had not consulted the public so as
to allow that allegation to be construed as a value judgment.
Moreover, political debate does not require unanimous agreement on
the interpretation of particular words. Therefore, even assuming that
it was not a value judgment, the interpretation given by the
applicants is not manifestly unreasonable. The Court finds that the
second allegation cannot but be classified as a value judgment, whose
factual basis is indistinguishable from that above, notwithstanding
the style used by the applicants which may have involved a certain
degree of exaggeration. Furthermore, in the Court's view, nothing
shows that the value judgments were not made in good faith.
- The Court would in any event observe that the
distinction between statements of fact and value judgments is of less
significance in a case such as the present, where the impugned
statement is made in the course of a lively political debate at local
level and where elected officials and journalists should enjoy a wide
freedom to criticise the actions of a local authority, even where the
statements made may lack a clear basis in fact.
Court further recalls the chilling effect that the fear of sanction
has on the exercise of freedom of expression (see, mutatis
mutandis, Wille v. Liechtenstein [GC], no. 28396/95, §
50, ECHR 1999-VII; Nikula v. Finland, no. 31611/96, § 54,
ECHR 2002-II; and Elci and Others v. Turkey, nos. 23145/93
and 25091/94, § 714, 13 November 2003). This effect, which
works to the detriment of society as a whole, is likewise a factor
which goes to the proportionality of, and thus the justification for,
the sanctions imposed on the applicants, who, as the Court has held
above, were undeniably entitled to bring to the attention of the
public the matter at issue (see, mutatis mutandis, Cumpǎnǎ
and Mazǎre v. Romania [GC], no. 33348/96, § 114,
ECHR 2004-XI). The Government in their arguments relied on the
relatively lenient nature of the sanction imposed by the domestic
courts. However, the Court finds that the award of damages to the
defendant constituted a reprimand for the exercise by the applicants
of their right to freedom of expression. Notwithstanding the
relatively low amount of damages awarded, the sanction imposed could
be considered to have had a chilling effect on the exercise by the
applicants of their right to freedom of expression as it was capable
of discouraging them from making statements critical of the Local
Council's policies in the future.
- In the light of the above considerations and taking
into account the role of the press in imparting information and ideas
on matters of public concern, the Court finds that the use of the
phrase in issue, referring to the Local Government's conduct, did not
exceed the acceptable limits of criticism. The fact that the
proceedings were civil rather than criminal in nature and that the
final award was relatively modest does not detract from the fact that
the standards applied by the courts were not compatible with the
principles embodied in Article 10 since they did not adduce “relevant
and sufficient” reasons justifying the interference at issue.
Therefore, the Court considers that the domestic courts overstepped
the narrow margin of appreciation afforded to them to restrict
discussion on matters of public interest. It must be concluded that
the interference was disproportionate to the aim pursued and not
“necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of
Article 10 § 2 of the Convention.
has accordingly been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
- Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a
violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the
internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only
partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford
just satisfaction to the injured party.”
applicants claimed the amount of damages they were ordered to pay by
the Court of Appeal i.e. MTL 600 which according to their calculation
amounted to, 1,460 euros (EUR). They did not make a claim for
Government did not contest this claim.
Court awards the applicants EUR 1,460,
the equivalent of the sum they were ordered to pay to the
plaintiff, in respect of pecuniary damage.
B. Costs and expenses
applicants also claimed MTL 1,086.33, as per attached bill of costs,
which according to their calculation amounted to EUR 5,285 for the
costs and expenses incurred before the Court of Magistrates and the
Court of Appeal. They further claimed MTL 1,574.09, as per attached
bill of costs, which according to their calculation amounted to EUR
3,830 for the proceedings before the constitutional courts. They also
claimed costs incurred in the proceedings before this Court, but
submitted that they could not be quantified at that stage.
Government submitted that the applicants should not be awarded the
full amount of legal costs as the lawsuits were unduly provoked by
their statements. In respect of the expenses incurred before the
Court they could not comment on them as the claim had not been
to the Court's case-law, applicants are entitled to reimbursement of
their costs and expenses only in so far as it has been shown that
these have been actually and necessarily incurred and were reasonable
as to quantum. In the present case, regard being had to the
information in its possession and the above criteria, the Court
considers it reasonable to award the sum of MTL 2,500 which according
to the Court's calculation amounts to EUR 6,000 for costs and
expenses in the domestic proceedings, but dismisses the claim for
costs for the Convention proceedings for lack of substantiation.
C. Default interest
Court considers it appropriate that the default interest should be
based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to
which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
- Declares the application admissible;
- Holds that there has been a violation of Article
10 of the Convention;
the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months
from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with
Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following
amounts, to be converted into Maltese Liras at the rate applicable at
the date of settlement:
EUR 1,460 (one thousand, four hundred and sixty euros) in respect of
(ii) EUR 6,000 (six thousand euros) in respect of costs and expenses;
(iii) any tax that may be chargeable on the above amounts;
from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement
simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal
to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the
default period plus three percentage points;
- Dismisses the remainder of the applicants' claim
for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 24 April 2007, pursuant
to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
T.L. Early Nicolas Bratza