CLD uses litigation strategically to establish and advance key rights protections, based on constitutional and international law. Below are some examples of our litigation work.
CLD and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Islamabad High Court on behalf of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). The case involves a constitutional challenge to Pakistan’s criminal defamation provisions, which provide for sanctions of up to two years’ imprisonment. The main argument is that criminal defamation laws are not justified as necessary restrictions on freedom of expression because civil defamation laws, which exert less of a chilling effect on speech, provide adequate protection for reputations. The full brief is available here.
CLD submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Constitutional Court of Colombia outlining freedom of expression concerns raised by an exception to Colombia’s net neutrality protections. The exception enables “zero-rating” schemes, whereby Internet access providers effectively give free access to certain services, content or applications (i.e. access which is not counted as using up the data on a user’s plan). While zero-rating schemes may seem like a free perk to customers, they channel traffic towards dominant services such as Facebook or Whatsapp and, in most cases, prevent or delay users from transitioning to access to the full Internet. The brief is available in English and Spanish. CLD’s Toby Mendel subsequently appeared by video before the court.
CLD’s Executive Director, Toby Mendel, appeared as an expert witness and presented a written Statement before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Palacio Urrutia and Others v. Ecuador. The case challenges the conviction of journalist Urrutia and fellow defendants for defamation for a newspaper article in 2011 about then-Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The conviction resulted in sentences of three years’ imprisonment and a civil damages award of USD 30,000,000, as well as an additional damages award of USD 10,000,000 against the defendant newspaper, El Universo.
CLD provided an amicus brief to the Constitutional Court of Colombia, setting out international standards to support the claim that a civil defamation provision from a 1944 law is unconstitutional. The provision, Article 55 of Law 29 of 1944, provides for broad civil indemnification for anyone who has been harmed by content distributed by the media unless the responsible media outlet proves that it acted without “culpability”. The CLD brief argues that this fails to respect international guarantees of freedom of expression, which require sufficient defences to be available for a claim of defamation.
Early in 2020, the Islamabad High Court in Pakistan asked for help from experts in determining a number of questions relating to the law of contempt of court and media reporting on ongoing court cases. In March, the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), with support from the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), filed an amicus curiae brief with the court setting out relevant international standards.
CLD filed a human rights complaint (communication) against Germany with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The communication alleges that Germany has failed to meet its obligations to respect freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because the German state of Bavaria does not have a right to information law. CLD’s client, Mr. Walter Keim, was refused access to public interest documents related to his human rights activism.
The Centre for Law and Democracy filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in a constitutional appeal in Indonesia lodged by the Central Information Commission asserting that there are problems in its founding legislation in terms of the protection of its independence. While the members of the Commission have historically been independent of the public authorities they oversee, the Secretariat of the Commission is “operated by the government”, to use the very words of the legislation, Law No. 14 of 2008 on Public Information Disclosure.
CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel provided a witness statement to the UK Information Tribunal in support of an appeal against refusal lodged by Pamela Bartlett Quintanilla of Access Info Europe. The request was for minutes taken by UK representatives at the Working Party on Information meetings in the years 2010, 2011 and what has passed of 2012. Ms. Quintanilla also requested a list of attendees from the various Working Party on Information meetings that have taken place in 2011 and 2012. The witness statement discussed international recognition of the right to information, as well as the importance of the right to information within the EU and of the specific need for transparency with regard to this particular issue.