Italian Court Fined For “Playing Down Gender-Based Violence”

There is an interesting decision out of the European Court of Human Rights. The court fined an Italian court for “playing down gender-based violence” in a ruling on a gang rape case. The ECHR objected to references to the alleged victim’s sexuality, behavior, and the color of her underwear.

The case involved an alleged gang rap by seven men in a car after a party in 2008.  The woman was a student who said that she was drunk at the time. The trial court convicted six of the men. However, the appellate court in Florence overturned the convictions in 2015.

What is striking is that the ECHR did not challenge that verdict but objected that the “language and arguments” used by the Florence court “conveyed prejudices existing in Italian society regarding the role of women.”

In the United States, such a fine of a court would be virtually impossible. Judges can obviously be reversed or reprimanded or even brought up on judicial conduct charges. However, the fining of a court is quite extraordinary.  Indeed, in the United States, even parties are protected from defamation lawsuits for statements made in court. They are subject to court contempt sanctions.

The ECHR indicates that more such fines could on the way because courts are expected to “avoid[] reproducing sexist stereotypes” or “playing down gender-based violence and exposing women to secondary victimisation by making guilt-inducing and judgmental comments.”

The court must pay the woman 12,000 euros ($14,600) in compensation.

The concern about the ruling is not the merits but the means for such objections.  Such fines could be used in a variety of areas to pressure or coerce courts. If courts can be sued by parties for references and evidence cited in opinions, it could chill some judges in writing frankly about what are viewed as flaws or contradictions in the record. It is important for all parties that courts be open and honest about such grounds for decisions. We can then address errors and confront bias in the form of reversals or reprimands. The risk of such reversals or reprimands is itself a deterrent. However, exposing courts to damages could create a countervailing financial pressure on decision making.

This is not the first controversy involving the ECHR.  It ruled in 2010 that a women’s human rights were violated by being denied an abortion in Ireland. In 2018, it ruled that a pro-life advocate could not refer to abortion as “murder.” I was particularly critical of the court in 2018 when it ruled that a teacher could be prosecuted for comparing Muhammad’s marriage to a six-year-old girl as pedophilia. That decision was a direct attack on free speech and reflected a broad assault on free speech rights across Europe.

13 thoughts on “Italian Court Fined For “Playing Down Gender-Based Violence””

  1. Apparently, the judgement in question by the Florence Court of Appeals, to which the ECHR took such exception, was rendered by a panel consisting of three judges, of which two were women. Rather amusing.

  2. The ECHR is a Mickey Mouse court in which leftist activists dress up in judicial garb and presume to impose their twisted ideological preferences on the whole continent. That Europe’s sovereign states should put up with its posturing continually amazes me but I guess that’s just a reflection of Europe’s sad decline into a morass of self-hate and leftist orthodoxy. This so-called court should be abolished asap.

  3. Jonathan the whole premise of this piece is wrong – the ECtHR found that Italy, not the Florence court, had violated the applicant’s rights. A correction would be in order. Perhaps clarify that there is no question of the ECtHR imposing a fine on a court, thereby creating a chilling effect.

      1. I read the judgment casati11 – I hope you did too. My original point stands, this article is so wrong-headed it’s embarrassing. Jonathan has expertise on the first amendment, but he clearly doesn’t understand the ECHR legal framework or the meaning of state responsibility under international law. Just to be clear, the applicant took this case against Italy, the state. The finding of a violation was made against Italy, the state. The premise of the article, which relies on an incorrect understanding that the ECtHR fined an Italian court, is simply wrong.

        Jonathan perhaps you can remove this post or issue a correction? Otherwise what we are left with is disinformation.

        1. You should have said that right from the start. You want the post removed. Stefan you must read it again, but it is hopeless. Oh, you are German, right?

  4. Female or male sex? Feminine or masculine gender? Feminist or masculinist (i.e. sex-correlated gender chauvinism)? Can they abort the baby, cannibalize her profitable parts, sequester her carbon pollutants, and have her, too? That said, men and women are equal in rights and complementary in Nature/nature. Reconcile.

  5. George Orwell’s book “1984” was essentially about top-down authoritarianism and totalitarianism practiced by control-freak bureaucrats. The lesson from Orwell is that it simply doesn’t work. Citizens have to perceive the written rules of the game as fair with fair enforcement or citizens simply drop out. Citizens lose faith in arbitrary government practices using arbitrary searches and arbitrary rules.

    In America, citizen-voters self-govern and decide which laws we want. We don’t ask permission to exercise our legal and peaceful constitutional rights.

  6. Color of underwear. Color of dog. Color of car. Color of national flag. Color of one’s kin. Color of one’s itShay.

  7. And there are people who actually think we should follow the European model. Go Figure.

  8. When the EU falls and it will, list this as an exhibit in the case. An international court fining a national court? Wanna bet on the collection success?

    1. Excellent point. The Italians are not exactly unified in their support of the EU…but then again, they are rarely unified period. What has happened in agriculture has destroyed so much of the heritage and culture while at the same time you have UNESCO with its oppressive regulations supposedly preserving heritage and culture, yet hurting it with the cost of compliance in the UNESCO zones. Of course, EU also stands for Etats-Unis and we aren’t exactly on firm footing now.

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