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case of Guja v/s The Republic of Moldova

    Application No. 1085 of 10

    Decided On, 27 February 2018

    At, European Court of Human Rights

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. PRESIDENT ROBERT SPANO
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE PAUL LEMMENS
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE LEDI BIANKU
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE NEBOJ?A VUČINIĆ
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE VALERIU GRIŢCO
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE JON FRIDRIK KJØLBRO & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE STÉPHANIE MOUROU-VIKSTRÖM

    For the Appearing Parties: ----------



Judgment Text

PROCEDURE

1. The case originated in an application (no. 1085/10) against the Republic of Moldova lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by a Moldovan national, Mr Iacob Guja ("the applicant"), on 19 October 2009.

2. The applicant, who had been granted legal aid, was represented by Mr V. Zamă, a lawyer practising in Chișinău. The Moldovan Government ("the Government") were represented by their Agent ad interim, Ms R. Revencu.

3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that his being dismissed from the Prosecutor General's Office once again after the Court had found a breach of his freedom of expression constituted a fresh violation of this right under Article 10 of the Convention.

4. On 31 May 2016 the application was communicated to the Government.

THE FACTS

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

A. Application no. 14277/04 and the Court's judgment of 12 February 2008

5. The applicant was born in 1970 and lives in Sestaci.

6. The applicant is a journalist who, at the time of the events, was employed as Head of the Press Department of the Prosecutor General's Office. In January 2003 he sent to a newspaper two letters containing information about pressure put on the Prosecutor General's Office by a high-ranking politician. In one of the letters, the Vice-President of Parliament expressed discontent that several police officers were being criminally prosecuted for allegedly ill-treating and unlawfully detaining suspects. In another letter it was stated that one of those police officers had previously been convicted of similar offences, but had been exempted from serving a sentence and had soon been re-employed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Subsequently, the newspaper published an article on the basis of the letters. The applicant was then dismissed by the Prosecutor General for having violated the internal regulations of the Press Department. In proceedings for his reinstatement brought against the Prosecutor General's Office, he argued before the domestic courts that the disclosure of the letters had been in good faith and had pursued the aim of "fighting corruption and trading in influence". He argued that, in any event, the letters could not be classified as secret under domestic law. The domestic courts found in favour of the applicant's employer, on the grounds that the applicant had breached his duty of confidentiality by disclosing the letters, and that he had failed to consult other heads of departments before disclosing the letters to the newspaper.

7. On 30 March 2004 the applicant lodged an application with the Court.

8. In a judgment of 12 February 2008 the Grand Chamber of the Court held that the applicant's dismissal from his employment had infringed his right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention (see Guja v. Moldova [GC], no. 14277/04, ECHR 2008).

9. The Court found that, for the purposes of Article 10 2, the measure taken against the applicant had constituted an interference with his right to freedom of expression, had been "prescribed by law", and had pursued a legitimate aim.

10. As to whether the measure had been "necessary in a democratic society" within the meaning of that provision, the Court noted firstly that the applicant had not had alternative channels for disclosing the letters, and that, in the circumstances of the case, external reporting, even to a newspaper, could be justified. Against that background, it also found that the information disclosed by the applicant was of major public interest, because it concerned such issues as the separation of powers, improper conduct by a high-ranking politician, and the government's attitude towards police brutality. Balancing the different issues involved, the Court also took into consideration the detriment caused to the Prosecutor General's Office by the disclosure. In doing so, the Court came to the conclusion that the public interest in having information about undue pressure and wrongdoing within the Prosecutor General's Office revealed was so important in a democratic society that it outweighed the interest in maintaining public confidence in the Prosecutor General's Office. Lastly, the Court noted that the applicant had acted in good faith and that the most severe sanction possible had been imposed on him. In view of all the considerations, the Court came to the conclusion that the interference with the applicant's right to free

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dom of expression, in particular his right to impart information, had not been "necessary in a democratic society", and that there had been a breach of Article 10 of the Convention.

11. As to the application of Article 41, the Court ordered Moldova to pay the sum of 10,000 euros (EUR) for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage, and EUR 6,000 for costs and expenses.

B. Subsequent proceedings before the Moldovan authorities

12. After the Court had delivered the above judgment, the applicant applied to the domestic courts to have the domestic judgments confirming his dismissal set aside. He was successful, and on 28 May 2008 the Supreme Court of Justice ordered his reinstatement. On the same day the applicant lodged an application for reinstatement with the Prosecutor General's Office.

13. According to the applicant, on 29 May 2008 he had a meeting with the Prosecutor General, who asked him to resign from his position. As the applicant refused, the Prosecutor General told him that "he had enough wits to force him to do that". He was told to go home and wait for hi