Sentence pronounced against a Femen who had mimed the abortion of Jesus in a church: France condemned by the ECHR


A feminist activist, member of Femen, had mimed the abortion of Jesus, topless, in front of the altar of the Madeleine church in Paris in 2013. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned on Thursday France for issuing a suspended prison sentence against him, judging that Paris had violated his freedom of expression.

Eloïse Bouton had demonstrated on December 20, 2013 in the Madeleine church in Paris, outside of any religious office, "by appearing in front of the altar, bare chest and body covered with slogans", recalls the ECHR.

The judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday 13 October precise that "the facts were committed during a rehearsal of the vocal ensemble of the Madeleine" and that she wore the slogan on her chest: "344th bitch" in reference to the "Manifesto of 343" in favor of the legislation of the IVG. While on his back was written: “Christmas is canceled” (Christmas is canceled in French).

She had then "mimed the abortion of the embryo of Jesus by placing on the altar a piece of bloody calf's liver supposed to represent a fetus". “Her performance was brief and she left the premises at the invitation of the choirmaster present. This action was publicized, a dozen journalists being present, ”continues the court.

The young woman, who left the Femen in 2014, would have justified her action during the hearing, "by the desire to denounce 'the anti-abortion campaigns' carried out by the Catholic Church throughout the world and in particular in Spain and in some Eastern countries.

After a complaint from the parish priest, the ex-Femen was notably sentenced to a month's suspended prison sentence, a sentence confirmed on appeal and in cassation.

The ECHR, the judicial arm of the Council of Europe, "recalls first of all that a prison sentence imposed in the context of a political or general interest debate is not compatible with the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention only in exceptional circumstances, for example, the dissemination of hate speech or incitement to violence.

In this case, the applicant's action, which has not been accused of any abusive or hateful behavior, had the sole objective of contributing to the public debate on women's rights”.

The Court further notes that the French courts "limited themselves to examining the question of the nudity of her chest in a place of worship, without taking into consideration the meaning given to her performance or the explanations provided on the meaning given to their nudity by Femen militants”.

The ECHR concludes that the French courts "did not balance the competing interests adequately and that the interference with the applicant's freedom of expression constituted by the suspended prison sentence which was pronounced against him was not + necessary in a democratic society +”. France has therefore violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to freedom of expression.

Paris will have to pay 2.000 euros to the applicant for non-pecuniary damage, and 7.800 euros for costs and expenses.

On Twitter, Eloise Bouton welcomed this news. In this publication appears in particular a photo of the day of the incident in the church of the Madeleine.

Camille Westphal Perrier (with AFP)

Image credit: Shutterstock / Isogood_patrick

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