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Trade Union of the Police and Others v. Slovakia, Application No. 11828/08

THIRD SECTION

CASE OF TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK
REPUBLIC AND OTHERS v. SLOVAKIA

(Application no. 11828/08 )

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

25 September 2012

FINAL

11/02/2013

This judgment has become final under Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be
subject to editorial revision .

TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS 1
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT
In the case of Trade Union of the Police in the Slovak Republic and
Others v. Slovakia ,
The European Court of Human Rights ( Third Section ), sitting as
a Chamber composed of:
Josep Casadevall , President,
Egbert Myjer ,
Alvina Gyulumyan ,
Ján Šikuta ,
Luis López Guerra ,
Nona Tsotsoria ,
Kristina Pardalos , judges,
and Santiago Quesada , Section Registrar ,
Having deliberated in private on 28 August 2012 ,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
PROCEDURE
1. The case originated in an application (no. 11828/08) against the
Slovak Republic lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention
for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the
Convention”) by the Trade Union of the Police in the Slovak Republic
(Odborový zväz polície v Slovenskej republike ) and three individuals who
are members of it (“the applicant s”), on 16 February 2008 .
2. The applicant s were represented by Mr I. Syrový, a lawyer practising
in Bratislava. The Slovak Government (“the Government”) were
represented by their Agent, Ms M. Piro šíková.
3. The applicant s alleged that their rights to freedom of expression and
freedom of assembly and association had been breached as a result of
statements made by the Minister of the Interior.
4. On 29 March 2011 the application was communicated to the
Gove rnment. It also decided to rule on the admissibility and merits of the
application at the same time (Article 29 § 1).
THE FACTS
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The Trade Union of the Police in the Slovak Republic (the first
applicant) is registered as a trade union of members of the Police Corps of
the Slovak Republic. It is a legal person with its registered office in

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Bratislava. The application on its behalf was lodged by Mr M. Litva, the
trade union ’s president. Mr Štefan Dvor ský (the second applicant) is
a Slovak national who was born in 1960 and lives in Malacky. At the
relevant time he was vice -president of the first applicant association.
M r Marián Magdoško (the third applicant) is a Slovak national who was
born in 1962 and lives in Prešov. He is the first applicant ’s vice -president.
Mr Karol Michalčík (the fourth applicant) is a Slovak national who was
born in 1953 and lives in Bratislava. He is a member of the first applicant
association.
6. On 25 October 2005 the first applicant, of which nearly 9,000
policemen were members at that time, organised a public meeting in one of
the main squares in Bratislava. Its aim w as to protest against envisaged
legislative amendments concerning the social security of policemen and
their low remuneration. In its course the participants spontaneously shouted,
inter alia , that the Government should step down. One of the banners
displa yed by the participants read “If the State doesn ’t pay a policeman, the
mafia will do so with pleasure”.
7. Subsequently the Minister of the Interior criticised the meeting and its
organisers. He considered it to be an attempt to i nvolve policemen in
politics, in particular because of the slogan calling for the Government ’s
resignation , which he considered incompatible with the ethical code of the
police.
8. Apart from the public statements described below, the Minister of the
Interior, on 26 October 2005, removed Mr Litva, the president of the first
applicant, from the post of director in the police force and assigned him to
a different post as an ordinary policeman. At an extra -ordinary general
meeting of t he police joint health insur ance company held on
3 November 2005, the third applicant was removed , upon a proposal by the
Minister of the Interior, from the company ’s supervisory board. The
policeman who had carried the above -mentioned banner was summoned by
the inspection service of the Ministry of the Interior and was asked to
explain its content.
9. The applicants refer to the following public statements by the Minister
of the Interior in particular.
10 . In an article published on 28 October 2005 in the daily newspaper
Sme the Minister of the Interior was quoted as saying that if anyone act ed
contrary to the ethical code of the police again they “would be dismissed”.
11 . In an interview published in the same newspaper on
29 October 2005 the Minister stated that he did not challenge the
policemen ’s right to elect their trade union representatives. He expressed the
view that, nevertheless, he was not obliged to ne gotiate with those
representatives as they had lost credibility.
12 . In a TV debate broadcast on 30 October 2005 the Minister of the
Interior stated, among other things:

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“Mr Litva was demoted because he misled … the public, those policemen whom he
had lured out to the square … Mr Litva was not demoted because of his opinion, but
for having lied. He lied in that he called into question [the fact] that the Government
had money at their disposal for increasing policemen ’s salaries …
The Police Corps of the Slovak Republic is an armed security force. As such it must
remain strictly apolitical. This means in practice, as article 3 of the ethical code of the
police indicates, that when expressing his or her views in public a policema n must act
in an impartial and reserved manner, so that there can be no doubt about his or her
impartiality. Thus slogans calling for the Government ’s resignation are in complete
contradiction to that code … I am telling you, it will not be possible for excesses like
the ones at that meeting to reoccur in the future. This is what I guarantee to you. If
a policeman behave s in such a way in the future, he or she will no longer be
a policeman. I still proceeded in a particularly moderate manner in this case , where
the sanction applied concerned Mr Litva exclusively.”
13 . On 1 December 2005 the applicants lodged a complaint with the
Constitutional Court. They alleged a breach of Articles 10 and 11 of the
Convention and their constituti onal equivalents. The applicants specifically
referred to the above -mentioned statements of the Minister of the Interior
which had been published in Sme on 28 and 29 October 2005 and to the
statements he had made in context of the TV broadcast of 30 Octobe r 2005 .
14 . In particular, the applicants maintained that the Minister ’s
statements, when considered in the light of his powers in respect of the
police, gave rise to a fear that members of the police force would be
sanctioned for availing themselves of their freedoms of expression,
assembly and association. There had been no breach of the Ethical Code of
the police in the context of the public meeting organised by the first
applicant. The Minister ’s stateme nts had been repressive , as he had
indicated that he was not obliged to negotiate with the representatives of the
first applicant. T hose statements, accompanied by the transfer of the
president of the first applicant to a different position, deterred the p olice
from defending their rights through their trade union.
15 . On 18 October 2007 the Constitutional Court found that the
statements in question had not breached the applicants ’ rights.
16 . The judgment s tated that the freedom of assembly and association
under Article 11 of the Convention and the ILO Convention No. 98
extended exclusively to natural persons. The Minister ’s statements
complained of could not, therefore, amount to a breach of that freedom in
respect of the first applicant.
17 . The Constitutional Court considered that, in the context of the
meeting held on 25 October 2005, the applicants had exercised their right to
freedom of expression. At the same time the second, t hird and fourth
applicants had exercised their right to freedom of association with others.
They had done so freely and independently of the will of the Minister of the
Interior. The Minister ’s statements published in the media were to be

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understood as par t of a dialogue between both parties , who had thus been
given the opportunity to express their opinions and standpoints.
18 . Admittedly, the Minister ’s statements could be characterised as
“bold and, from a certain point of view, c apable of creating an atmosphere
of fear”. However, their nature and intensity were not such as to amount to
a breach of the freedoms in issue.
19 . The Constitutional Court further held that the Minister of the Interior
had been en titled to express his opinion on the situation within the ministry
for which he was politically responsible. His statements represented an
immediate reaction to ideas and views expressed at the meeting. Those
statements had not interfered with the applicants ’ rights in issue. They
merely described a situation which might occur under specific
circumstances. However, the Constitutional Court was exclusively entitled
to examine complaints of breaches of rights which were based on facts that
had actuall y occurred .
20 . In a separate opinion to the decision on admissibility one of the
constitutional judges expressed the view that the applicants ’ complaint
should have been rejected for their failure to use the other remedies
available, namely , to seek redress by mea ns of an action under the State
Liability Act 2003.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
A. Constitutional provisions
21 . Article 26 § 1 guarantees to everyone freedom of expression and the
right to information. They can be restricted by law where it is necessary in
a democratic society for the protection of rights and freedoms of others, the
security of the State, public order or protection of health and morals
(paragraph 3 of Article 26).
22 . Article 37 § 1 provides that everybody has the right to free
association with others for the protection of his or her economic and social
interests. Paragr aph 3 of Article 37 allows for restriction by law of the
activities of trade unions and other associations where such measure is
indispensable in a democratic society for the protection of State security,
public order or the rights and freedoms of other pe rsons.
23 . Article 108 provides that the Government is the supreme body of the
executive branch of power. Under Article 116 § 1, a member of the
Government is responsible for the exercise of his or her function to the
National Council of the Slovak Republic.

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B. The Government and Central State Administration Organisation
Act 2001 (Law no. 575/2001, as amended)
24 . Section 11 provides that the Ministry of the Interio r is the central
State administration authority in charge of , inter alia , protection of the
constitutional institutions, public order, security of persons and property and
of the Police Corps.
C. The Police Corps Act 1993
25 . Purs uant to section 1(1), the Police Corps fulfils duties in matters
related to internal order, security and the fight against crime as well as
duties resulting from the international obligations of the Slovak Republic.
Its activity is controlled by the Nation al Council of the Slovak Republic and
the Government (section 1(2)).
26 . Section 6(1) provides that the Police Corps is subordinated to the
Minister of the Interior.
D. Law no. 73/1998 Coll.
27 . Law no. 73/1998 g overns, inter alia , service in the Police Corps of
the Slovak Republic. Section 35(2) entitles the Minister of the Interior to
transfer a policeman from the position of a superior to a different position
where it is in the significant interest of the service. The reasons for such
a transfer need not be indicated.
28 . Pursuant to section 225(1) , trade unions ensure the protection of the
rights and j ustified interests of policemen in accordance with th e law.
29 . Section 227(1) prohibits the dismissal of a policeman on account of
his or her acting as an elected trade union representative.
30 . Section 228 provides for co -operation between high -ranking police
officers and trade un ions. It includes providing information on the use of
salary mass, respect for just remuneration, information on staff -related
measures and provi sion of material and technical equipment free of charge
to trade unions.
31 . Section 2 29 provides for collective bargaining and collective
agreements between the trade union bodies and police authorities concerned
with a view to protecting the justified interests and needs of the members of
the police corps.
E. Ethical Code of the Police
32 . Article 3 of the Ethical Code of Members of the Police Corps states
that, when expressing their views in public, policemen should act in an

6 TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS
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impartial and reserved manner so that they do not give rise to doubts about
their impar tiality.
III. RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTS
A. International Labour Organisation (ILO)
1. Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the
Right to Organise
33 . The relevant provisions of the ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom
of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (adopted in 1948 and
in force in respect of Slovakia since 1 January 1993) provide as follows:
“Article 3
3.(1) Workers ’ and employers ’ organisations shall have the right t o draw up their
constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their
administration and activities and to formulate their programmes.
3.(2) The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restric t
this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof.
Article 9
9.(1) The extent to which the guarantees provided for in this Convention shall apply
to the armed forces and the police shall be determined by national laws or
regulations. ”
2. Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective
Bargaining
34 . The I LO Convention No. 98 Concerning the Application of the
Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively has been in
force in respect of Slovakia since 1 Ja nuary 1993. The relevant provisions
read as follows:
“Article 1
1. Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti -union discrimination
in respect of their employment.
2. Such protection shall apply more particularly in respect of acts calcula ted to – (…)

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v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT
(b) cause the dismissal of or otherwise prejudice a worker by reason of union
membership or because of participation in union activities outside working hours or,
with the consent of the employer, within working hours. ( …)
Article 5
1. The extent to which the guarantees provided for in this Convention shall apply to
the armed forces and the police shall be determined by national laws or regulations.”
(…)
B. Council of Europe
35 . Resolution 690 (1979) of the Parlia mentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe includes the Declaration on the Police. Point 8 of part B of that
declaration provides that membership of a police professional organisation
and playing an active part therein shall not be detrimental to any police
officer .
36 . Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States
on the European Code of Police Ethics (Rec (2001) 10 ) wa s adopted on
19 September 2001. Part D concerns the rights of police personnel. Its
relevant parts read as follows:
“5. Police personnel shall be subject to the same legislation as ordinary citizens, and
exceptions may only be justified for reasons of the proper performance of police work
in a democratic society. (…)
12. The police shall be organised with a view to earning public respect as
professional upholders of the law and providers of services to the public. (…)
31. Police staff shall as a rule enjoy the same civil and political rights as other
citizens. Restrictions to these rights may only be made when they are necessary for
the exercise of the functions of the police in a democratic society, in accordance with
the law, and in conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights.
32. Police staff shall enjoy social and economic rights, as p ublic servants, to the
fullest extent possible. In particular, staff shall have the right to organise or to
participate in representative organisations, to receive an appropriate remuneration and
social security, …”

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THE LAW
ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE S 10 AND 11 OF THE
CONVEN TION
37 . The applicants complain ed that by his above -mentioned statements
and actions the Minister of the Interior had breach ed their rights to freedom
of expression and freedom of assembly and association . They relied on
Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention , which , in their relevant parts , read as
follows:
Article 10
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include
freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without
interference by public authority …
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities,
may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are
prescribed by law and are nec essary in a democratic society, in the interests of
national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or
crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or
rights of others, for pr eventing the disclosure of information received in confidence,
or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Article 11
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of
association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the
protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as
are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of
natio nal security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the
protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of
others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the
exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the
administration of the state.”
38 . The Government contested th e applicants ’ argument s.
A. Admissibility
39 . The Government argued that the first, second and fourth applicants
lacked the standing of victim s within the meaning of Article 34 of the
Convention. In particular, no sanction or any other measure had been taken

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v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT
in their respect in the context of the public meeting organised on
25 October 2005.
40 . The Government further argued that it had been open to the
applicants to seek redress by means of an action under the State Liability
Act 2003 and also by means of an action for protection of their personal
right s under Articles 11 et seq. of the Civil Code. Accordingly, the
application should be rejected for the applicant s’ failure to exhaust domestic
remedies.
41 . The applicants disagreed with the Government ’s objections. They
argued that the Constitutional Court had addressed their complaint under
Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention and that the impugned statements had
affected their rights. In particular, measures had been taken in respect of the
elected re presentatives of the first applicant, who represented the interests of
its members. Its president had been transferred to a lower position in the
police force . The third applicant, the vice -president of the first applicant,
had been removed from the superv isory board of the joint health insurance
company of the police force . The second and the fourth applicants, as
vice -president and a member of the first applicant respectively, had been
intimidated by the Minister ’s statements. They considered that their
positions within the police force would be under threat if they continued
their activities as members of the first applicant.
42 . The Court reiterates that the rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies
referred to in Article 35 § 1 of the Convention obliges those seeking to
bring their case against the State before an international judicial organ to use
first the remedies provided by the national legal system. Normal recourse
should be had by an applicant to remedies which are availabl e and sufficient
to afford redress in respect of the breaches alleged. Article 35 § 1 also
requires that the complaints intended to be made subsequently to the Court
should have been made to the appropriate domestic body at least in
substance and in compli ance with the formal requirements (see Akdivar and
Others v. Turkey , 16 September 1996, § § 65 -67 , Reports of Judgments and
Decisions 1996 -IV ).
43 . Before the Constitutional Court the applicants specifically sought
a finding of a breach of Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention on account of
the above -quoted statements of the Minister of the Interior which had been
published in the newspaper Sme on 28 and 29 October 2005 and the
statements he made during the TV broadcast of 30 October 2005 (see
paragraphs 13 and 14 above). While the Constitutional Court Act 1993
requires prior use of other available remedies (see Borovský v. Slovakia ,
no. 24528/02, § 27, 2 June 2009), the Constitutional Court did not require
that the appl icant s should have first filed an action under the State Liability
Act 2003 or any other remedy .
44 . The Constitutional Court, which is the supreme authority charged
with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Slovakia ,

10 TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS
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addressed the applicants ’ complaints and concluded that there had been no
breach of Article s 10 and 11 of the Convention on account of the impugned
statements . To the extent that their application concerns those statements,
the applicants were therefore not required, for the purpose of Article 35 § 1
of the Convention, to have recourse to the remedies available before the
ordinary courts as argued by the Government (see also Lawyer Partners a.s.
v. Slovakia , nos. 54252/07, 3274/08, 3377/08, 3505 /08, 3526/08, 3741/08,
3786/08, 3807/08, 3824/08, 15055/08, 29548/08, 29551/08, 29552/08,
29555/08 and 29557/08, § § 45 -46 , ECHR 2009 , with further reference; or
Štetiar and Šutek v. Slovakia , nos. 20271/06 and 17517/07 , § § 71 -75 ,
23 November 2010 ). The obj ection concerning the applicant s’ failure to
exhaust domestic remedies must therefore be dismissed to the extent that it
relates to the complaints which the applicants raised before the
Constitutional Court.
45 . The Court takes the view that, in respect of those complaints, the
Government ’s objection concerning the applicants ’ status as victims is
closely linked and shoul d be joined to the merits of the case.
46 . The Court considers that th e application , as far is it concerns the
issues which the applicants raised before the Constitutional Court, raises
serious questions of fact and law which are of such complexity that their
determination should depend on an examination on the merits. It cannot,
therefo re, be considered manifestly ill -founded within the meaning of
Article 35 § 3 of the Convention, and no other ground for declaring it
inadmissible has been established. It must therefore be declared admissible.
47 . To the extent th at the applicants may be understood to be
complaining about facts other than those on which they sought
a Constitutional Court finding, such as the transfer of the president of the
first applicant association to a different position within the police force or
the removal of the third applicant from the supervisory board of the police
health insurance company , it does not appear from the documents submitted
that they sought redress for those grievances , in accordance with the formal
requirements , either befo re the civil courts or the Constitutional Court. In
that respect t he Government ’s objection must therefore be granted .
Accordingly, the Court declares inadmissible the remainder of the
application.

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B. Merits
1. The arguments of the parties
(a) The applicants
48 . The applicant s maintained that there had been an unjustified
interference with their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.
They pointed to the fact that the public meeting in issue had been organised
by the first applicant as a trade union of members of the police force . Its aim
had been apolitical, namely , to defend the economic and social rights and
interests of the police in the context of envisaged legislative amendments.
While not denying the Ministe r’s right to react to the statements made at the
meeting, the applicants considered that his reaction had been excessive as it
had involved threats , including possible dismissal from the police force, and
a refusal to communicate with the representatives o f the first applicant.
49 . Measures had been taken in respect of the elected representatives of
the first applicant in that, in particular, its pres ident had been transferred to
a lower position in the police force . The other appli cants had been
intimidated by the Minister ’s statements. They considered that their
positions within the police force would be under threat if they continued
their activities as representatives or members of the first applicant
association .
(b) The Govern ment
50 . The Government maintained, with reference to the reasoning of the
Constitutional Court, that the Minister ’s statements had not been contrary to
the applicants ’ rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention. The
impugned statements had been part of a political debate about the
remuneration of the police and their right to criticise the policy of the
Government. Th ey had been made in reaction to excessive and
inappropriate views expressed at the public meeting, such as calls for the
Government to step down and indication that police officers might be paid
by the mafia. No specific action had been taken in respect of the first,
second or fourth applicants.
2. The Court ’s assessment
(a) Provision applicable to the present case
51 . The Court notes that the facts of the present case are such that the
question of freedom of expression is closely related to that of freedom of
association in a trade -union context. It reiterates that the prote ction of
opinions and the freedom to express them , as secured by Article 10, is one

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of the objectives of freedom of association as enshrined in Article 11 (see
Ezelin v. France , 26 April 1991, § 37 , S eries A no. 202 ; Gorzelik and
Others v. Poland [GC], no. 44158/98, § 91 , ECHR 2004 -I; or Barraco
v. France , no. 31684/05, § 27 , ECHR 2009 ).
52 . The thrust of the applicants ’ complaints relates to the effect which
the Minister ’s statements had on the position and activities of the first
applicant as the trade union of the police force , and the other applicants as
its representatives or members. In these circumstances, t he Court considers
that Article 11 takes precedence as the lex specialis for the freedom of
association and it will deal with the case principally under this provision,
whilst interpreting it in the light of Article 10 (see also Zhechev v. Bulgaria ,
no. 57045/00, § 33 , 21 June 2007 ; Sergey Kuznetsov v. Russia ,
no. 10877/04, § 23 , 23 October 2008 ; and, to the contrary, Palomo Sánchez
and Others v. Spain [GC], no s. 28955/06, 28957/06, 28959/06 and
28964/06, § 52 , ECHR 2011 ).
(b) The relevant principles
53 . The relevant principles in the Court ’s case -law on free dom of
association and the freedom of expression are set out , inter alia , in National
Union of Belgian Police v. Belgium , 27 October 1975, § 38 -40 , Series A
no. 19 ; Swedish Engine Drivers ’ Union v. Sweden , 6 February 1976,
§§ 37 -39 , Series A no. 20 ; Wilson , National Union of Journalists and
Others v. the United Kingdom , nos. 306 68/96, 30671/96 and 30678/96,
§ 42, ECHR 2002 -V; Tüm Haber Sen and Çınar v. Turkey , no. 28602/95,
§§ 28 -29 , ECHR 2006 -II; Demir and Baykara v. Turkey [GC], no.
34503/97, § 109 , ECHR 2008 ; Palomo Sánchez and Others , cited above,
§§ 56 and 76; Rekvényi v. Hungary [GC], no. 25390/94, § 43 , ECHR
1999 -III ; or Guja v. Moldova [GC], no. 14277/04 , § § 70 and 71 , ECHR
2008 . They can be summed up as foll ows.
54 . Article 11 § 1 presents trade union freedom as one form or a special
aspect of freedom of association. It safeguards freedom to protect the
occupational interests of trade union members by trade union action, the
conduct and development of which the Contracting States must both permit
and make possible . A trade union must thus be free to strive for the
protection of its members ’ interests and the individual members have the
right that the trade union be heard in order to protect th ose interests . Article
11 does n ot, however, require any particular treatment of trade unions or
their members and leaves each State a free choice of the means to be used to
secure the ir right to be heard .
55 . For the purpose of guaranteeing the meaningful and ef fective nature
of trade union rights, the national authorities must ensure that
disproportionate penalties do not dissuade trade union representatives from
seeking to express and defend their members ’ interests . In order to be
fruitful, labour relations mu st be based on mutual trust.

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56 . Paragraph 2 in fine of Article 11 of the Convention clearly indicates
that the State is bound to respect the freedom of assembly and association of
its employees, subject to the possible imposition of “lawful restrictions” in
the case of members of its armed forces, police or administration .
57 . Employees owe to their employer a duty of loyalty, reserve and
discretion. Since the role of civil servants in a democratic society is to assist
the government in discharging its functions, the duty of loyalty and reserve
assumes special significance for them. Such considerations apply equally to
military personnel and police officers.
(c) Application of the relevant principles to the present case
(i) Existence of any interference with the applicants ’ rights
58 . The Court reiterates that a “victim” of a breach of rights or freedoms
is the person directly affected by the act or omission which is in issue ( see
Bączkowski and Others v. Poland , no. 1543/06, § 65 , 3 May 2007 ).
59 . The impugned statements of the Minister of the Interior were made
in response to statements pronounced or displayed in the course of a public
meeting organised b y the first applicant as the trade union of the police
force , of which the other applicants are representatives and/or members. The
Minister ’s statements indicated that he might no longer communicate with
the representatives of the first applicant, that he had sanctioned its president
by transferring him to a different position and that he might sanction other
policemen more severely (see paragraphs 10 -12 above).
60 . In these circumstances, the Court accepts that the applicants were
intimidated by the Minister ’s statements , a situation which could have thus
had a chilling effect and discouraged the m from pursuing activities within
the first applicant trade union , including organising or taking part in similar
meetings (see also, mutatis mutandis , Nurettin Aldemir and Others
v. Turkey , nos. 32124/02, 32126/02, 32129/02, 32132/02, 32133/02,
32137/02 and 32138/02, § 34 , 18 December 2007 ).
61 . The Court therefore considers that the applicants were affected by
the Minister ’s statements and that there has therefore been an interference
with the exercise of their right to freedom of association . Accordingly, the
Government ’s objection concerning the alleged lack of the applicants ’
victim status must be dismissed .
(ii) Compliance with Article 11 read in the light of Article 10 of the Convention
62 . Such interference will constitute a breach of Article 11 unless it was
“prescribed by law”, pursued one or more legitimate aims and was
“necessary in a democratic society” for the achievement of those aims.
63 . The Court notes that the Police Corps is subordinated to the Minister
of the Interior, who bears political responsibility for its appropriate
functioning in accordance with the Constitution and the Police Corps Act

14 TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT
1993 (see paragraphs 23 and 26 above). The Minister of the Interior
indicated that his statements pursued the aim of ensuring compliance with
article 3 of the Ethical Code of Members of the Police Corps . According to
that provision, when expressing their views in public, police officers must
act in an impartial and reserved manner, so that there can be no doubt about
their impartiality.
64 . In these circumstances, the Court considers that the interference
complained of can be regarded as having been in accordance with the law .
65 . Its aim was to ensure appropriate behaviour on the part of the police
and maintain public trust in them. Those are indispensable condition s for
the discharge of the duties of the police , which include ensuring public
safety, prevention of disorder or crime and the protection of the right s and
freedoms of citizens. The interference in issue therefore had a legitimate
aim as required by the second paragraph of both Article s 11 and 10 of the
Convention.
66 . For the purpose of determining whether an interference is necessary
in a democratic society, the adjective “necessary”, within the meaning of
Article 11 § 2, implies the existence of a “pressing social need”. In that
context, t he Court must look at the interference complained of in the light of
the case as a whole in order to determine whether it was “proportionate to
the legitimate aims pursued” and whether the reasons adduced by the
national authorities to justify it are “relevant and sufficient”. In so doing, the
Court has to satisfy itself that the national authorities applied standards
which were in conformity with the principles embodied in Article 11 and,
moreover, that they based their decisions or actions on an acceptable
assessment of the relevant facts (see, for example, Yazar and Others
v. Turkey , nos. 22723/93, 22724/93 and 22725/93, § 51, ECHR 2002 -II).
67 . Th e present case concerns interference with the exercise of the trade
union rights of members of the police force and their trade union. It has
been generally acknowledged that the duties and responsibilities inherent in
the position and role of the police justify particular arrangements as regards
the exercise of their trade union rights. This follows from p aragraph 2 of
Article 11 of the Convention , the ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 , and
the European Code of Police Ethics (see paragr aphs 33 -34 and 36 -37
above ).
68 . The documents submitted indicate that the impugned statements of
the Minister of the Interior were in reaction to calls for the Government ’s
resignation and a slogan implying that the re was a risk t hat the police might
get involved with the mafia if their social rights were disregarded.
69 . The police play a primordial role in ensuring internal order and
security and fighting crime. The duty of loyalty and reserve assumes spe cial
significance for them, similarly as in the case of civil servants (see
paragraph 57 above). The call for the Government ’s resignation expressed

TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS 15
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT
at the meeting held on 25 October 2005 should be assessed in the light of
the above.
70 . In these circumstances, the Court accepts t hat the interference in
issue, which aimed at ensuring respect for the requirement that police
officers should act in an impartial manner when expressing their views so
that their reliability and trustwort hiness in the eyes of the public be
maintained , corresponded to a “pressing social need ”. It further considers
the reasons for t hat interference “relevant and sufficient” .
71 . In assessing whether the interference was proportionate to the
legitimate aim pursued, the Court notes , on the one hand, that the
Constitutional Court had admitted that the Minister ’s statements could be
characterised as “bold and, from a certain point of view, capable of creating
an atmosphere of fear” (see p aragraph 18 above). In particular, the Minister
indicated that he would dismiss anyone “who act ed contrary to the ethical
code of the police again ”, that the first applicant ’s representatives had “lost
credibility”, that he was “not obliged to negoti ate with those
representative s”, and that he had sanctioned the first applicant ’s president
for making what he considered to be false statements in the course of the
meeting of 25 October 2005.
72 . On the other hand, the Court finds it relevant that the Minister ’s
statements implying the possibility of the imposition of further sanctions
were exclusively directed against the above -mentioned calls for the
Government ’s resignation , which he considered to be in breach of the
requirement th at police officers should express their views in public in an
impartial and reserved manner. The Minister expressly acknowledged the
right of the police to elect their trade union representatives.
73 . While it is true that he had stated that he was not obliged to negotiate
with those representatives who, in his view, had lost credibility, it does not
appear from the documents submitted that the first applicant ’s right to be
heard was subsequently impair ed. In particular, it has not been shown that
the first applicant was prevented from pursuing trade union activities,
organising other public meetings or from defending the rights of its
members through a variety of means for which the domestic law express ly
provides (see paragraphs 2 8 and 30 -31 above). Similarly, there is no
indication that the other applicants were prevented , as a result of the
impugned statements or any consecutive action , from availing themselves of
their freedom of association as repre sentatives or members of the first
applicant association .
74 . Furthermore, the Constitutional Court established that the Minister ’s
statements represented an immediate reaction to ideas and views expressed
at the meeting , and that he had been entitled to express his opinion on the
situation concerning the Ministry for which he was responsible (see
paragraph 19 above). There is no indication that the Minister ’s statements or

16 TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT
the Constitutional Court ’s view on them , detailed above, were based on an
inappropriate assessment of the relevant facts .
75 . The Court therefore concludes that the means employed in order to
achieve the legitimate aim pursued were not disproportionate .
76 . Ther e has accordingly been no violation of Article 11 of the
Convention read in the light of Article 10 .
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT
1. Joins unanimously to the merits the Government ’s objection concerning
the alleged lack of the applicants ’ victim status , i n so far as it relates to
the complaints which the applicants raised before the Constitutional
Court, and dismisses it ;

2. Declares unanimously the complaints under Articles 10 and 11 of the
Convention admissible to the extent that they coincide with the
complaints which the applicants raised before the Constitutional Court ,
and the remainder of the application inadmissible ;

3. Holds by five votes to two that there has been no violatio n of Article 11
of the Convention , read in the light of Article 10 .
Done in English, and notified in writing on 25 September 2012 , pursuant
to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Santiago Quesada Josep Casadeval l
Registrar President

In accordance with Article 45 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 74 § 2 of
the Rules of Court, the separate opinion of Judge s Myjer and Gyulumyan is
annexed to this judgment.
J.C. M.
S.Q.

TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHER S 17
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT – SEPARATE OPINION
DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE MYJER JOINED BY
JUDGE GYULUMYAN
1. It is not uncommon for members of a trade union and representatives
of an employer ’s organisation – when expressing their views regarding their
respective opponents – to use expressions lacking in subtlety and finesse.
That seems to have been what happened in the present case. In a reaction
to what had been shouted and otherwise expressed at a public meeting
organised by the Trade Union of the Police, the Slovak Minister of the
Interior – the Minister responsible for the policemen concerned – made
several public statements in which he made it clear that any policeman
acting contrary to the ethical code of the police would be dismiss ed. And he
also took action accordingly.
The applicants complain that the Minister, in expressing himself as he
did, went too far and violated Article 11 of the Convention.
The statements were “bold and, from a certain point of view, capable of
creating an atmosphere of fear”, in the measured language of the Slovak
Constitutional Court. But, in the Constitutional Court ’s view, their nature
and intensity were not such as to amount to a breach of the trade union ’s
rights (see paragraph 18). The majority of the Chamber “ accept that the
applicants were intimidated by the Minister ’s statements, a situation which
could have thus had a chilling effect and discouraged them from pursuing
activities” within the trade union (paragraph 60). But they go on to conclude
that the means used were not disproportionate (paragraph 75).
2. I do not agree with either conclusion . I am convinced that the Minister
went beyond acceptable limits in expressing himself thus. He went so far as
to threaten the (members of the) Trade Uni on of the Police to make them
keep silent or risk being dismissed. In my view this is an infringement
of Article 11 of the Convention
3. The facts in relation to the trade union public meeting are described
in paragraph 6. Three aspects seem to have cause d the anger of the Minister:
– the president of the Union, Mr Litva, had, as the Minister put it, lied
during the meeting by calling into question the official position “that the
Government had money at their disposal for increasing policemen ’s
salaries” ( see paragraph 12);
– the participants had spontaneously shouted – inter alia – that the
Government should step down;
– one of the banners displayed by the participants had read: “If the State
doesn ’t pay a policeman, the mafia will do so with pleasure.”
4. The Minister ’s reaction is described in paragraphs 7 -12. In the days
following the trade union meeting he made various forceful statements and
took some measures. And although the complaint is only admissible as far
as the Minister ’s statements are conce rned, the fact remains that it is clear
that those statements were more than just a first political reaction phrased

18 TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHERS
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT – SEPARATE OPINION
in admittedly strong terms. The very fact tha t he took immediate action of
a punitive nature shows at the very least that the Minister ’s th reats deserved
to be taken seriously.
In this respect it is not without importance that even after the Minister
had had some more time, and even some days, to rethink his first reaction,
he repeated what he had said earlier.
5. I leave open the answer to the question whether a trade union or its
leaders can be held responsible if participants in a meeting spontaneously
start shouting certain slogans, or whether they can only be held responsible
if they did not do their best to stop the participants from ex pressing
themselves in an improper way.
I am, however, prepared to accept that the participants who publicly
started to shout that the Government should step down transgressed the
limits of what can be considered acceptable for police personnel.
I shall not comment on the Minister ’s rather remarkable statement that
the president of the trade union lied when suggesting that the Government
did not have money at its disposal for increasing policemen ’s salaries.
As far as the statement on the banner is con cerned I have only this to say:
I am not in a position to express an opinion on the adequacy or otherwise of
the salaries paid to Slovak police personnel. I would, however, stress that it
is generally acknowledged that policemen should receive an adequate
salary, if only to prevent them from succumbing to the temptation – in order
to meet their and their families ’ minimum daily basic needs – to supplement
their salary with other – illegal – forms of income. Indeed, this Court has
handled many cases in which the underlying facts reflected corruption on
the part of underpaid Government authorities. I can accept that the Trade
Union of the Police wished to convey the following message: if the
Government fails to provide police personnel with an adequate living
standard, and if the police continue to perceive themselves as underpaid,
then there is a real danger that ultimately some policemen may be
susceptible to offers of additional or alternative income. I cite as a recent
authority the booklet by the former Co uncil of Europe Commissioner on
Human Rights, Thomas Hammerberg, Human Rights in Europe: no grounds
for complacency (Council of Europe 2011) and his comments under the
heading Co rruption undermines justice (pp. 228 -33).
Trade union banners will seldom win prizes for the diplomatic and
balanced expression of the message they intend to convey. The message has
to be short and catchy. A banner tries to explain as briefly and expressively
as possible the perceived problem and preferred solution thereto, in the h ope
of influencing people ’s views. Exaggeration or even the use of phrases that
may shock, offend and disturb outsiders are not uncommon in that context.
6. I agree with the relevant principles as set out in paragraphs 53 -57 of
the judgment.

TRADE UNION OF THE POLICE IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC AND OTHER S 19
v. SLOVAKIA JUDGMENT – SEPARATE OPINION
The duty of l oyalty to one ’s employer takes on a special significance for
civil servants, including the police. It is not without significance that
Article 11 § 2 expressly states: “This Article shall not prevent the
imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members
… of the police …”. However, this trade union was not subject to any
unlawful restrictions relevant to the present case.
Equally, I am prepared to accept that the Slovak Ethical Code of the
Police states that, when expressing th eir views in public, policemen should
act in an impartial and reserved manner so that they do not give rise to
doubts about their impartiality (see paragraph 32).
7. I have no difficulty agreeing that the Minister of the Interior was
entitled to react wit h force and determination to the publicly shouted calls
for the resignation of the Government. Even so, the fact that he, as the
Minister responsible for the police, repeatedly indicated – even when the
crisis was no longer at its height – that he would di smiss anyone who “acted
contrary to the ethical code of the police again ”, that the trade union ’s
representatives had “lost credibility ”, that he was “not obliged to negotiate
with those representatives ”, and that he had actually imposed a sanction on
the president of the trade union for having “misled … the public, those
policemen whom he had lured out to the square ”‘ in that he had “called into
question [the fact] that the Government had money at their disposal for
increasing policemen ’s salaries ”, was indeed capable of creating an
atmosphere of fear, was indeed intimidating, and did indeed creat e
a situation which could have had a chilling effect and discourage d trade
union members from pursuing activities within the trade union. That is
reinforced by t he fact that the Minister – by imposing a sanction on the
president of the trade union – demonstrated that his reaction was no empty
threat.
By acting to muzzle the trade union ’s leadership he undermined the very
essence of the trade union ’s rights – a trade union that, let us remember, was
itself entirely lawful. That cannot be right.

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