European Court of Human Rights rules against review of the cause of Yasser Arafat’s death


The European Court of Justice has thrown out an attempt by Yasser Arafat’s widow and daughter to have a case that examined the death of former Palestinian leader who died 17 years ago re-opened again.

As predicted by @NewsEchr the court chaired by a Ukrainian judge decided that his widow’s claIm that there had not been a fair trial in France was ” inadmissible” because it was beyond the power of the court to re-examine the evidence.

Yasser Arafat, who died on 11 November 2004 in France at the Percy Military Hospital where he was being treated following a decline in his state of health at a time when he was in Ramallah, Palestine. On his widow’s request, no post mortem was carried out.

Traces of highly radioactive polonium alleged to be found on Arafat’s belongings

In March 2012 traces of polonium 210, a highly radioactive material, suggesting that Yasser Arafat might have been poisoned, were found on his personal belongings that his widow had recovered after his death. They were entrusted to a journalist from the Al Jazeera television channel, C.S., to be analysed.

On 28 August 2012 the public prosecutor of Nanterre opened a judicial investigation on a charge of premeditated murder

Three investigating judges were appointed and three experts were asked to determine the cause of the decline in Mr Arafat’s health. Their operations took place in the presence of French and Swiss teams, together with a Russian team at the request of the Palestinian Authority.

The French judicial expert’s report concluded that the result of radiological analyses did not prove the existence of exposure to polonium 210. The Swiss report disagreed with the French findings. An additional expert’s report, ordered by the investigating judge, confirmed the findings of the French report.

The dispute began when the applicants wanted to submit another expert report and this was refused by the French judges. This led them to appealing to the European Court of Human Rights because they did not think the trial was fair.

The ECHR said that it couldn’t re-open the case again on a quarrel over the admissibility of evidence, this being primarily a matter for regulation by domestic law. It therefore did not fall within the Court’s remit to substitute its own
assessment of the facts and evidence for that of the domestic courts, its task being to ensure that
the evidence was taken in a manner that guaranteed a fair hearing. The judges ruled the application was “inadmissible” thus ending a long legal fight by his widow and daughter.

Exclusive with @NewsEchr: Murder or death by natural causes? European Court of Human Rights ruling 17 years after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death

Picture of Yasser Arafat by SA’AR YA’ACOV at the time he won the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE in 1994.

Family raise suspicions over his death

As the Middle East is still in turmoil an extraordinary ruling will be made by the European Court of Human Rights concerning events around the death of the Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat nearly 17 years ago.

His family have been suspicious he died from poisoning in 2004 and claim there was not a fair trial looking into this after he died in a French military hospital.

The applicants to the ECHR Suha El Kodwa Arafat and Zahwa El Kodwa Arafat, are French nationals.The case concerns a criminal complaint filed by the applicants, the widow and daughter of Yasser Arafat, who died on 11 November 2004 in France at the Percy Military Hospital where he was being treated, claiming that Mr Arafat had been the victim of premeditated murder.

They claim that the French authorities didn’t give their case a fair trial by refusing to include additional expert evidence.

They wanted an additional expert report on the cause of the decline in Mr Arafat’s health, as they had requested on account of their doubts concerning the origin and traceability of the sample used for that assessment, the methodology applied and the results, which were contradicted by the results obtained by Swiss experts.

They also criticise the refusal to order a fresh expert report on their behalf and to grant their other claims, based on contradictions between the results obtained by the different experts, Swiss and French, from their respective measurements and analyses. In French courts, Arafat’s wife and daughter were unsuccessful with their lawsuits and appeals. In 2017, they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights In French courts, Arafat’s wife and daughter were unsuccessful with their lawsuits and appeals. In 2017, they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

The court decision will be announced on Thursday raising an issue that has literally thought to have gone away and could not come at a worse time for Palestinian and Israeli relations. A ruling in their favour might re-open the issue but ECHR News believe they may lose the appeal.

The European Court of Human Rights: A judgement that wrecks free speech

The European Court of Human Rights has done itself no favours with bloggers by upholding an absurd  and  outrageous judgement making websites liable for any comment published on their sites.

As  I reported over a year ago the court had already ruled  that judges have made the extraordinary decision to hold news sites and blogs legally responsible for all the comments put up on their site even if they take them down after a complaint.
Effectively it meant that any offended party can pursue a news organisation or blog for any defamatory comment made about them EVEN after it has been removed from the website.
The ruling follows a dispute after a said to be respected Estonian news organisation,Delfi,ran a piece about a ferry company making controversial changes to its routes. The changes to remote Estonian islands attracted widespread criticism including an attack on their owners from anonymous bloggers who put comments on the site. A major shareholder in the company took offence at the comments and decided to sue. The website took them down but the owner decided to pursue the site – not the commentators – saying it should be legally responsible for checking every single comment before it is published..

Now the grand chamber of the court has upheld this absurd decision – saying that it is up to professional bloggers to legally check any comment before it is public – effectively saying they should act like Mystic Meg in predicting whether any comment is offensive. Not surprisingly this has attracted a vehement response in the United States and Europe who see the ruling as dangerous and damaging to free speech. Both the respected Inforrm blog and a US website Techdirt have issued particularly harsh criticism.

Techdirt describes the decision as a disaster for free speech and the decision as ” absolutely crazy”.

The only exceptions to this ruling appear to  be internet forums and people who run their websites as non commercial ventures or as the judgement says ” as a hobby”. The only reason for this is evidently the judges thought people with hobbies shouldn’t be expected to have to employ lawyers to check their every move. But ” freedom of expression” should not be confined to those who have hobbies.

The main effect according to one of two dissenting judges would amount to :” an invitation to self-censorship at its worst.”

Luckily the UK has a Defamation Act that does the opposite – putting the onus on the people who post comments not the website and has procedures to sort out a dispute.

But it would only take one wealthy, vindictive person angered by a comment to go to the ECHR citing this judgement. And then we would in for a battle between British law and the European Court ruling.

Frankly if Michael Gove, the justice secretary, got hold of this judgement – he would have a good case to damn the court. And in this case he would be right.

New law to protect bloggers from defamatory comments on their sites

The government has just tabled draft regulations under the new Defamation Act to protect English and Welsh bloggers from being sued if people put up unwanted libellous comments on their websites.
I am indebted to Rupert Jones,a Birmingham barrister who specialises, among other things, in media law for drawing my attention to draft regulations which have been tabled by the Ministry of Justice. The regulations have to be debated by a committee of MPs and peers before becoming law. As far as I can see these regulations do not apply to Scottish or Northern Ireland websites.
From my reading as a journalist it allows bloggers 48 hours or two working days after a complaint has been received to contact the person who put up the comment and make a decision whether to take down the comment. It also allows – if both sides agree – for the person complaining about the comment to be put in touch with person who posted it.
For WordPress users like myself this is particularly good news. Under present arrangements I can moderate comments from new people who want to debate issues. But I cannot stop existing commentators putting up a new comment which is automatically published at the same time as I am alerted by WordPress.
Luckily all people commenting have to leave an email address – even if they are not using their real name – where they can be contacted.
The regulations also allow a ” get out” clause for websites carrying comments from people who cannot be traced – to remove the comment within 48 hours as a strong defence against anybody suing them for carrying an anonymous comment. There is also a lot of leeway for the courts to extend the 48 hour period to cover disputes.
All this is welcome news given my last report about the mad decision of the European Court of Human Rights to allow people to sue websites for comments from anonymous people even after they had taken them down.
Luckily I am told Britain does not have to follow the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights – unlike – and this has confused some people – the European Court of Justice, which is an EU institution.
These new rules – if followed by a website – will make it much more difficult for an intransigent complainer to win any libel action in the UK. And if they want to take it to the European Court of Human Rights they will have to go through the whole British justice system which will cost them a fortune.
So there is some good news to protect bloggers from comments they have never made.