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P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 08/03/02
McLibel Legal Update
Case Against the British Government Is Still Before the European Court of Human Rights
As you may know, on 20th September 2000 Helen Steel and Dave Morris - the McLibel 2 - lodged an application to take the U.K. Government to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Helen and Dave, the two defendants in the longest trial in English legal history, assert that the McLibel trial breached, in particular, Article 6 [right to a fair trial] and Article 10 [right to freedom of expression] of the Human Rights Convention, and that English libel laws are incompatible with the convention.
On 2nd April 2001 they submitted their full written Application, a 173 page document. [See www.mcspotlight.org/case/trial/verdict/Echr.html.]
Their case is currently before the Court, and they are are now awaiting a decision on the admissability of their claim. They have been waiting an unusually long time for a response. On August 29th 2001 they requested their case be expedited (speeded up) in the light of the Court's decision to admit the case of John McVicar v. The United Kingdom. That case has some similarities to the McLibel case, being a libel case which involved the denial of legal aid, and the burden of proof being on the defence.
Should the Court find that the Steel and Morris v. The United Kingdom application is admissable, the British Government would be invited to respond to defend its defamation laws.
The McLibel 2 are seeking to defend the public's right to criticise companies whose business practices affect people's lives, health and the environment. They also seek an end to oppressive, unfair and archaic defamation laws and procedures in general, and in their case in particular. The main arguments in Europe cover breaches of Articles 6, 8, 10, 11 and 13. For example:
a. Multinational corporations, should have no right to sue for libel as it is in the overriding public interest that they be subjected to unfettered scrutiny and criticism (as currently applies to criticism of governmental organisations) since they have huge power and influence.
b. If there be a right to sue, it should be a defence for a defendant to show 'reasonable belief' in the words complained of, or that the issues are of public importance.
c. The McLibel case was unfair or an abuse of legal process due to several factors - for example: the denial of legal aid and the inequality of financial and legal resources as between the two sides; and the burden of proof being on the defence, rather than on the claimant as is usual in most other areas of law.
The full Application is now available on the McSpotlight website. Please note that there may be some discrepancy in the page numbering in the index, which relates to the hard copy as sent to the ECHR.
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