States must protect individuals from homophobic hate speech under the ECHR
In its judgment in Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania, released today, the ECtHR has declared that refusal to investigate hate-speech comments about a same-sex kiss on social media violates Article 14 ECHR (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), and is also a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
The case concerns hundreds of online hate comments in response to a photograph uploaded by the applicant of him kissing his same-sex partner on his Facebook page. Lithuanian authorities refused to launch a pre-trial investigation for incitement to hatred and violence against homosexuals, finding that the comments, although ‘offensive and vulgar’, did not warrant prosecution, and that the couple’s behaviour had been provocative. The ECtHR has now found that Lithuania failed to protect to protect the applicants’ rights and that it was discriminatory to focus on the applicants’ sexual orientation when handling the case.
The judgment is available here.