Published in the series "Human Rights Comments", the text gives an overview of the phenomenon of SLAPPs in Europe and suggests some solutions.
"To counter SLAPPs effectively, a comprehensive response should be devised. In my view, this should follow a threefold approach:
- preventing the filing of SLAPPs by allowing the early dismissal of such suits. This should go hand in hand with an awarenessraising exercise among judges and prosecutors, and proper implementation of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights on defamation;
- introducing measures to punish abuse, particularly by reversing the costs of proceedings;
- minimising the consequences of SLAPPs by giving practical support to those who are sued."
Among the cases mentioned in Italy, the lawsuit against the Umweltinstitut Muenchen and the author of a book about the use of pesticides in South Tyrol.
The Commissioner for Human Rights concludes that the issue not only affects journalists and activists, but the whole of society:
"While this practice primarily affects the right to freedom of expression, it also has a dramatic impact on public interest activities more broadly: it discourages the exercise of other fundamental freedoms such as the right to freedom of assembly and association and undermines the work of human rights defenders. This means that it touches on many aspects of my mandate and I will continue to pay close attention to this issue. I believe that the Council of Europe and its member states are well placed to play a role in this context."
The full comment is published on the website of the Council of Europe.
Council of Europe Member States