East European Yearbook on Human Rights

Article

Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania

Recognizing Individual Harm Caused by Cyber Hate?

Keywords hate speech, verbal hate crime, cyber hate, effective investigation, homophobia
Authors Viktor Kundrák
Author's information

Viktor Kundrák
Viktor Kundrák has worked for the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a Hate Crime Officer since 2018. He has been responsible for ODIHR’s hate crime reporting, trained police, prosecutors and judges, and provided legislative and policy support at the national level. He is also a PhD candidate at Charles University in Prague. The views in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of ODIHR. Some of the opinions are based on an article published in Czech earlier this year (see V. Kundrák & M. Hanych, ‘Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania (Verbal Hate Crime on Social Network and Discriminatory Investigation)’, The Overview of the Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, Vol. 3, 2020.
  • Abstract

      The issue of online hatred or cyber hate is at the heart of heated debates over possible limitations of online discussions, namely in the context of social media. There is freedom of expression and the value of the internet in and of itself on the one hand, and the need to protect the rights of victims, to address intolerance and racism, as well as the overarching values of equality of all in dignity and rights, on the other. Criminalizing some (forms of) expressions seems to be problematic but, many would agree, under certain circumstances, a necessary or even unavoidable solution. However, while the Court has long ago declared as unacceptable bias-motivated violence and direct threats, which under Articles 2, 3 and 8 in combination with Article 14 of the ECHR, activate the positive obligation of states to effectively investigate hate crimes, the case of Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania presented the first opportunity for the Court to extend such an obligation to the phenomenon of online verbal hate crime. This article will first address the concepts of hate speech and hate crime, including their intersection and, through the lens of pre-existing case law, identify the key messages for both national courts and practitioners. On the margins, the author will also discuss the issue of harm caused by verbal hate crime and the need to understand and recognize its gravity.

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