Conscientious Offenders: Russia’s Ban on “Extremist” Religious Literature, and the European Court of Human Rights

by Daniel Ortner ~ Mar 30, 2016

Russia’s law on extremist literature, originally intended as a tool to combat terrorism, has turned into a tool to suppress religious minorities and unpopular or offensive speech. Several individual challenges under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) stemming from convictions under the ban are currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Unfortunately, the ECtHR has a poor track record of defending freedom of expression. Despite strong rhetoric about the importance of protecting controversial speech, the ECtHR has been highly deferential to state efforts to restrict speech in order to protect the religious feelings of believers.

The Russian extremism law provides the ECtHR a perfect opportunity to course correct and stake out a more aggressive position in the protection of freedom of expression. 

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