Vejdeland and Others v Sweden (App no 1813/07) ECHR 9 February 2012

The applicants, Tor Fredrik Vejdeland, Mattias Harlin, Björn Täng and Niklas Lundström, are Swedish nationals who were born in 1978, 1981, 1987 and 1986 respectively. Mr Vejdeland lives in Gothenburg and the other applicants live in Sundsvall (Sweden).

In December 2004 the applicants, together with three other persons, went to an upper secondary school and distributed approximately a hundred leaflets by an organisation called National Youth, by leaving them in or on the pupils’ lockers. The school’s principal intervened and made them leave the premises. The statements in the leaflets were, in particular, allegations that homosexuality was a “deviant sexual proclivity”, had “a morally destructive effect on the substance of society” and was responsible for the development of HIV and AIDS.

The applicants claimed that they had not intended to express contempt for homosexuals as a group and stated that the purpose of their activity had been to start a debate about the lack of objectivity in the education in Swedish schools. The District Court found that the applicants’ intention had been to express contempt for homosexuals and convicted them of agitation against a national or ethnic group. The charges against the applicants were rejected on appeal, on the ground that a conviction would amount to a violation of their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

On 6 July 2006 the Supreme Court convicted the applicants of agitation against a national or ethnic group. The majority of judges found in particular that the pupils had not had the possibility to refuse the leaflets and that the purpose of supplying the pupils with arguments for a debate could have been achieved without offensive statements to homosexuals as a group. The first three applicants were given suspended sentences combined with fines ranging from approximately 200 to 2,000 euros and the fourth applicant was sentenced to probation.

The applicants alleged that the Supreme Court convicting them of agitation against a national or ethnic group had constituted a violation of their freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention. They further submitted that they had been punished without law in violation of Article 7. 

(from the official press-release prepared by the Registry Office of the  European Court of Human Rights)