European Court of Human Rights delivered judgment on a case concerning right to a fair hearing

European Court of Human Rights delivered judgment on a case concerning right to a fair hearing

On 14 February 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) gave its judgment in a case concerning Finland. The Court held that there had been no violation of Article 6 (right to a fair hearing) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned proceedings in Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court relating to restrictions of competition. The Supreme Administrative Court based its decision on documentary evidence presented in court and on testimonies heard in the Market Court and in the Supreme Administrative Court, among other things. These included both evidence experienced by witnesses themselves and what they had heard or inferred from others. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, comprehensive examination of the presented evidence was of central significance in the assessment of evidence.

The applicant complained that the proceedings in the Supreme Administrative Court did not fulfil the standards of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant alleged that the Supreme Administrative Court had accepted hearsay evidence, which meant that the applicant company did not have an opportunity to interview the persons who were the original sources of the testimonies. Additionally, the applicant alleged that the Supreme Administrative Court had accepted that the standard of proof in competition law cases could be lower than the level of “beyond reasonable doubt” or of the “preponderance of evidence”. The applicant also complained of a reversal of the burden of proof.

In respect of indirect evidence, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. In its decision, the Supreme Administrative Court had not unfoundedly relied on testimonies. The ECHR also noted that indirect evidence had not been a decisive factor in the Supreme Administrative Court's decision. The ECHR examined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole and noted, for example, that the applicant had an opportunity to exercise its right of defence providing adequate safeguards also in respect of the evidence on which the judgment was based. 

In respect of the complaints concerning the standard of proof and burden of proof applied by the Supreme Administrative Court, the ECHR observed that the application was manifestly ill-founded and declared it inadmissible.

A press release on the case and the judgment in full can be accessed on the website of the European Court of Human Rights and on the HUDOC database.

Inquiries: Päivi Rotola-Pukkila, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, tel. +358 295 351 922.

The Foreign Ministry’s email addresses are in the format [email protected]