Sunday, May 30, 2010

Court clears neo-Nazi of race hate speech

Surprising support for free speech in Latvia. They seem to be a lot more restrictive in nearby Finland. Both Latvia and Finland are "next door" to Russia. But, unlike Finland, Latvia has experienced being under Communism so they probably value liberty more.
"The so-called “Senate” or highest appeal level of the Latvian Supreme Court (Augstākā tiesa) has let stand a lower appeals court decision clearing Latvian neo-Nazi Andris Jordāns of charges of inciting race hatred. Jordāns was originally sentenced to an 18 month jail term for statements he made at a meeting of the Latvian Anti-Fascist Committee denouncing Jews and Roma (gypsies) as “not being human”. There were a number of Latvian Jews in the audience during Jordan’s remarks, which, as some video records show, were delivered in a normal, non-threatening tone of voice.

From news reports, it appears that the lower appeals court decision was based on a failure of prosecutors to prove that Jordāns’ speech was an incitement to racial hatred. It did not touch the issue of whether there should be hate speech laws (probably more of a question for Latvia’s Constitutional Court), simply that the prosecution failed to make its case.

Jordāns is precisely the kind of hard case (a racist, anti-semitic loony-tune) where it is necessary to separate principle from personality and stand by the broadest interpretation of free speech. Free expression applies to all speech and expression, regardless of its content and with some very, very narrow exceptions (had Jordān’s statement immediately been followed by an attack on Jews in the audience, there might be a case, similarly, there could be a case for diminished responsibility based on provocation if a Jewish person from the audience had taken a punch at Jordāns)


It sounds like tone of voice was important -- a statement of alleged fact was not seen as threatening. Makes sense, I suppose.


Anonymous said...

Was his statement an incitement to racial hatred, or was he simply voicing his opinion? It seems the latter would be free (or protected) speech, while the former "might" be considered incitement to violence, except no violence occured. The tone of voice might be a factor since most speakers who's intention is to incite violence don't normally do it in a low, calm voice.

Anonymous said...

speech should never on its own be cause for prosecution.
Had someone acted on that speech (and admitted as much) incitement to violence would have occurred.

Of course such nuances are usually lost on leftists who see it (correctly) as making it impossible for them to get their ideals enforced on the general population that doesn't agree with them.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 6:18 - doesn't that make the speaker's criminality entirely dependent on the rationality of the other people in the room?
If you said 'kill all jews' in a meeting of the ADF the chances of them actually then killing jews is pretty low. If you said it in a crowd of mentally unstable skinheads, you might get another reaction. The speaker might be expected to know this.
But what if the comment was said at the ADF but there just happened to be one crazy skinhead in the audience? Does the statement then become criminal when some mentally unhinged person acts but the speaker could not know that they might?

Anonymous said...

Like shouting FIRE in a crowded theater?