Maurice Papon in 1945.
3 September 1910|
Gretz-Armainvilliers, Seine-et-Marne, France
|Died||17 February 2007
Pontault-Combault, Seine-et-Marne, France
|Known for||Participating in the deportation of over 1600 Jews during World War II, and ordering the 1961 and 1962 Paris massacres of demonstrators for Algeria's independence from colonial France.|
Maurice Papon (French pronunciation: [moʁis papɔ̃]; 3 September 1910 – 17 February 2007) was a French civil servant, leading the police in major prefectures and in Paris during the Nazi Occupation of France and into the 1960s. Forced to resign because of allegations of abuses, he became an industrial leader and Gaullist politician. In 1998 he was convicted of crimes against humanity for his participation in the deportation of more than 1600 Jews to concentration camps during World War II when he was secretary general for police in Bordeaux.
Papon was known to have tortured insurgent prisoners (1954–62) as prefect of the Constantinois department during the Algerian War. He was named chief of the Paris police in 1958. On October 17, 1961 he ordered the severe repression of a peaceful pro-National Liberation Front (FLN) demonstration against a curfew which he had imposed. What became known as the Paris massacre of 1961 left between one hundred and three hundred dead at the hands of the police, with many more wounded. That same year, Papon was personally awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Charles de Gaulle, whose government was struggling to retain Algeria as a French colony.
Papon was in charge of the Paris police during the February 1962 massacre at the Charonne metro station, which took place during a peaceful anti-Organisation armée secrète (OAS) demonstration organized by the Communist Party (PCF).
He was forced to resign in 1967 after the suspicious disappearance of the Moroccan dissident Mehdi Ben Barka, leader of the Tricontinental Conference. He was supported by de Gaulle in being named as director of Sud Aviation company, which created the first Concorde plane. After May 1968, Papon was elected as a representative (député) in the French legislature, and served several terms. From 1978-81, he served as the appointed Minister of the Budget under prime minister Raymond Barre and president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
On May 6, 1981 details about his past under Vichy emerged, when Le Canard enchaîné published documents signed by Papon that showed his responsibility in the deportation of 1690 Bordeaux Jews to Drancy internment camp from 1942 to 1944. After a long investigation and protracted legal wranglings, Papon was eventually tried; in 1998 he was convicted of crimes against humanity. He was subsequently released from prison in 2002 on the grounds of ill health.
Early years and education
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Papon was born in Gretz-Armainvilliers, Seine-et-Marne, the son of a solicitor-turned-industrialist and his wife. His father was elected mayor of Gretz in 1919, when Papon was nine years old, and held that office until 1937. He was also local representative (conseiller général) of Tournan-en-Brie and president of the council of this canton in 1937. Papon studied at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Fellow students at the elite school were Georges Pompidou (later President of France) and René Brouillet (who was part of Charles de Gaulle's cabinet after the war). Papon entered Sciences-Po, the specialty university for future civil servants and politicians, and studied law, psychology and sociology.
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After entering public service at the age of 20, Papon was quickly promoted. During the Second Cartel des gauches, in February 1931, he worked in the cabinet of the Minister of Air Jean-Louis Dumesnil. He was named in the Ministry of Interior, in July 1935, before becoming chief of staff of the deputy director of departmental and communal affairs in January 1936, under Maurice Sabatier.
In June 1936, during the Popular Front government, he was attached to the cabinet of Radical-Socialist François de Tessan, under-state secretary to the presidency of the Council and a friend of his father. He became a member of the Ligue d'action universitaire républicaine et socialiste, a Radical-Socialist youth group, of which Pierre Mendès France was also a member. In Camille Chautemps' government, François de Tessan was appointed as under-state secretary to Foreign Affairs. He selected Papon as his parliamentary attaché in March 1938.
World War II
Mobilized on 26 August 1939 in the 2nd colonial infantry regiment, Papon was sent to Tripoli, then under Italian control. He was assigned to direct the secret services in Ras-el-Aïn. He was next assigned to Syria. After his return in November 1940, following the fall of France, Papon agreed to serve the Vichy government. His two mentors, senator Jean-Louis Dumesnil and Maurice Sabatier, voted on July 10, 1940 to grant extraordinary powers to Philippe Pétain.
Papon was appointed as the vice-chief of bureau to the central administration of the Ministry of Interior, before being named in February 1941 vice-prefect, 1st class. The next month, he became Maurice Sabatier's general secretary, and general secretary of the administration for the Interior Minister. While Papon chose Vichy, 94 civil servants were revoked at the end of the spring of 1941, 104 pensioned off and 79 muted: as Le Monde put it quoting in 2002, "neutrality is no longer an option".
In May 1942, his chief Sabatier was named prefect of Aquitaine by Pierre Laval, head of the Vichy government. Papon was appointed as general secretary of the prefecture of Gironde, in charge of Jewish Affairs.
Papon later claimed he had Gaullist tendencies during the war. A confidential report from the Nazis at the time shows that in April 1943, he identified as a "collaborationist", during "personal or official conversations". Another document of July 1943 called him a "good negotiator".
During World War II, Papon served as a senior police official in the Vichy regime. He was the number two official in the Bordeaux region (secretary general of the prefecture of Gironde) and supervisor of its Service for Jewish Questions. With authority over Jewish affairs, Papon regularly collaborated with Nazi Germany's SS Corps, responsible for the extermination of Jews. Under his command, approximately 1560 Jewish men, women and children were deported. The majority were sent directly to the camp of Mérignac, from which they were transported to Drancy internment camp at the outskirts of Paris, and finally Auschwitz or similar concentration camps for extermination.
From July 1942 to August 1944, 12 trains left Bordeaux for Drancy; approximately 1600 Jews, including 130 children under 13, were deported. Few survived. Papon also implemented the anti-Semitic laws voted by the Vichy government. By July 1942, he had "dejudaised" 204 companies, sold 64 land-properties owned by Jewish people, and was in the process of "dejudaising" 493 other businesses.
By mid-1944, when it was clear that the war was turning against the Germans, Papon began to prepare for the future, meeting once with Gaston Cusin, a civil servant engaged in the Resistance.
Papon under the Fourth Republic (1945–1958)
Some Resistants questioned his activities, but Papon escaped being judged by the Comité départemental de libération (CDL) of Bordeaux for his role during Vichy. He was protected by Gaston Cusin. He presented a certificate attesting that he had taken part in the Resistance, although its authenticity was later rejected.
The CDL were in charge of the épuration, the pursuit of collaborators. By the time of Liberation, the Resistance in Bordeaux was very weak; it lacked members after being divided by internal dissensions and suffering German repression. Maurice Sabatier, Papon's mentor and chief, was accused by the CDL of having "boasted" that his prefecture was one of the most efficient concerning the "percentage" of "deportations". He was sentenced only to a several months' suspension, during which he was paid half his salary. In 1948 he was awarded the Legion of Honour for general wartime service.
Papon became chief of staff of the commissaire de la République, a high civil servant status which replaced Vichy's prefects. He effectively retained the same functions which he had exercised during the war. Among others, Charles de Gaulle "perfectly knew his past," according to Olivier Guichard." De Gaulle had received him personally after the liberation of Bordeaux, in September 1944.
Papon was first named prefect of the Landes department in August 1944, and then chief of staff of the commissaire of the Republic of Aquitaine under Gaston Cusin. When Cusin left Bordeaux, his successor, Jacques Soustelle, a Gaullist Resistant, confirmed Papon into his functions. A few months later, Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury also confirmed him there.
In October 1945, Papon was appointed as vice-director of Algeria at the Minister of Interior. A year later, he became secretary of state to the Ministry of Interior Jean Biondi (French Section of the Workers' International, SFIO). Eric Roussel, a De Gaulle biographer, wrote that to the general and president:
"the authority of the state is so sacred, the danger constituted by the communists so intolerable, that he is disposed to accept without too many problems of conscience men who may have, for a fairly long time, worked on behalf of Vichy."
Papon was named prefect of Corsica in January 1947 by Léon Blum's government, and in October 1949 prefect of Constantine in Algeria by Radical Henri Queuille's government (with SFIO member Jules Moch at the Interior). He went to Morocco in 1954 as general secretary of the protectorate, where he helped repress the Moroccan nationalists. He returned to Constantine in 1956 during the Algerian War (1954–62), where he actively participated in the repression and use of torture against the civilian population
Prefect of Police of Paris (1958–1967)
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In March 1958, Papon was named Prefect of Police for Paris by Félix Gaillard (Radical)'s government. He thus had an important role in the May 1958 crisis which brought de Gaulle to power and led to the founding of the Fifth Republic. He took part in the Gaullist confidential meetings which assured the instrumentalization of the crisis, preparing de Gaulle's nomination as President of the Council, which granted him extraordinary powers. On 3 July 1958, he managed to get what, according to Le Monde, he could "never have dreamed of": a "Carte d'Ancien Combattant de la Resistance". On 12 July 1961, president Charles de Gaulle bestowed on him the French Legion of Honour for service to the state.
Papon oversaw the repression during the Paris massacre of 1961: on 17 October 1961, a peaceful march organized by the Algerian National Liberation Front contravened a curfew imposed by Papon. The police arrested 11,000 persons, simply because of their appearance.
They were mostly people from the Maghreb, but also included Spanish, Portuguese and Italians. These detainees were sent, in a tragic echo of the Vichy regime, on public buses to the Parc des Expositions, the Winter Velodrome, and other such centers which had been used under Vichy as internment centers. A massacre occurred in the courtyards of the Prefecture of Police, while the detainees were held without specific charges. In the following days at the Parc des Expositions, detainees were subject to inhumane treatments. Arrests continued during all of October 1961. Meanwhile, bodies were found floating in the Seine River.
Up to 200 people were killed during these events, according to leading historian Jean-Luc Einaudi. Because some archives have been destroyed and others remain classified, the exact number of the dead remains unknown. At the time, the French government, headed by Charles de Gaulle with Roger Frey as Interior Minister, only admitted two dead. A government inquiry in 1999 concluded 48 drownings on the one night and 142 similar deaths of Algerians in the weeks before and after, 110 of whom were found in the Seine; it also concluded the true toll was almost certainly higher. According to Le Monde, Papon "organized the silence". It wasn't until the 1990s that historians began to speak out. The French government reluctantly recognized 48 deaths, although the Paris Archives consulted by historian David Assouline register 70 persons dead. Papon never acknowledged any responsibility for this massacre.
Papon was also in charge during the 8 February 1962 demonstration against the OAS pro-"French Algeria" terrorist group. Organized by the French Communist Party (PCF), it had been prohibited by the state. Nine members of the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) trade union, most of them communists, were killed at Charonne métro station by the police forces, directed by the same Maurice Papon under the same government, with Roger Frey as Minister of Interior, Michel Debré as Prime minister and Charles de Gaulle as president, who did all they could to "dissimulate the scale of the October 17 crime" (Jean-Luc Einaudi). The funerals on 13 February 1962 of the nine persons killed (among them, Fanny Dewerpe) were attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
On 8 February 2007 the Place du 8 Février 1962, a square nearby the metro station was dedicated by Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, after sprays of flowers were deposited at the foot of a commemorative plaque installed inside the metro station where the killings occurred.
Papon was forced to leave his functions after the kidnapping, in Paris, of Mehdi Ben Barka, Moroccan dissident and leader of the Tricontinental Conference, in October 1965. Two French police agents, as well as French secret agents, participated in this "disappearance" orchestrated at the minimum [clarification needed] by Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Oufkir, which remains to this day a mysterious case involving various international intelligence agencies. (Ben Barka was preparing a meeting the next year in Havana aiming to gather all anti-colonialist parties from all continents.) De Gaulle was forced to ask Papon to resign at the start of 1967; Papon was succeeded by Maurice Grimaud as prefect of police.
CEO and Government Minister (1967–1981)
De Gaulle helped Papon become president of the company Sud Aviation (1967–68). The firm, which later merged into Aérospatiale, built the first Concorde plane in 1969. During May 1968, he wrote: "Is it the return of the Occupation? The young German anarchist [Daniel] Cohn-Bendit is freely arranging the riots." The new chief of the Paris police managed to take care of the situation without a single death.
Papon was elected deputy of Cher as candidate of the Union of Democrats for the Republic (UDR, Gaullist Party) in May 1968. He was re-elected in 1973 and again in 1978 (as member of the Rally for the Republic (RPR) neo-Gaullist party). He was elected mayor of Saint-Amand-Montrond in 1971 and 1977. Papon was director of the Verreries mécaniques champenoises, a glass art firm in Reims.
On the evening of 4–5 June 1977, a commando shot at workers on strike, killing Confédération générale du travail (CGT) trade-unionist Pierre Maître and severely injuring two others. Four of the five members of the commando, adherents to the CFT "yellow trade-union" were arrested by the police.
The leader of the commando and shooter (who received a 20-year jail sentence), as well as the driver were members of the Service d'Action Civique. From 1968-71, Papon was treasurer of the UDR party. He became President of the Finance Commission of the National Assembly in 1972 and was the deputy presenting the budget (rapporteur général du budget) from 1973-78. He served as Budget Minister under Prime Minister Raymond Barre and President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing from 1978–81, before finishing his mayoral mandate in 1983 and renouncing political activity.
Papon's trial (1981–1998)
Evidence of his responsibility in the Holocaust emerged in 1981, and throughout the 1980s he fought a string of legal battles. Le Canard enchaîné newspaper published an article titled "Papon, aide de camps. Quand un ministre de Giscard faisait déporter des juifs" (Papon, Aide-de-camp: When one of Giscard's ministers deported the Jews) on 6 May 1981, just before the presidential election opposing Socialist candidate François Mitterrand and right-wing candidate Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. (Mitterrand won, defeating incumbent president Giscard.) The newspaper showed documents signed by Papon which demonstrated his responsibility in the deportation of 1690 Jews of Bordeaux to Drancy from 1942-44
These documents had been provided to the satirical newspaper by one of the survivors of Papon's raid, Michel Slitinsky (1925–2012), in the spring of 1981. He had received them from historian Michel Bergés, who had discovered them in February 1981 in the departmental archives.
Noted Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld helped bring him to trial, where Serge and his son, Arno, represented the families of the victims. Other important collaborators, such as René Bousquet, head of the French police under Vichy, did not undergo trials. Bousquet was assassinated in 1993, shortly before his trial was to start. His adjunct, Jean Leguay, died of cancer in 1989, 10 years after he was indicted for crimes against humanity for his role in the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of July 1942, but before he went to trial. In 1995, President Jacques Chirac recognized French state complicity in the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup.
Charges of crimes against humanity, complicity of assassination and abuse of authority were first brought against Papon in January 1983. Three months later, Papon sued the families of the victims for defamation, but eventually lost. The slow investigation was canceled in 1987 because of legal technicalities (a mistake by the investigating magistrate). New charges were laid in 1988, in October 1990, and in June 1992. The investigation was finished in July 1995. In December 1995, Papon was sent to the Cour d'Assises, accused of organizing four deportation trains (later increased to eight trains). The French press contrasted Papon, the Bordeaux official who was "just following orders" in the commission of murder, to Aristides de Sousa Mendes, another Bordeaux official from the same period who defied orders in order to save lives.
Papon finally went to trial on 8 October 1997, after 14 years of bitter legal wrangling. The trial was the longest in French history, finishing on 2 April 1998. Papon was accused of ordering the arrest and deportation of 1560 Jews, including children and the elderly, between 1942 and 1944. As in Adolf Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem 30 years before, one of the issues of the trial was to determine to what extent an individual should be held responsible in a chain of responsibility. Papon's lawyers argued that he was a mid-level official, not the person making decisions about whom to deport. His lawyers argued that he did the most good he could, given the circumstances, and ensured that those to be deported were treated well while in his custody.
However, the prosecution argued that the defence of following orders was not sufficient, and that Papon bore at least some of the responsibility for the deportations. Calling on assistance from the best historians of the period, they dismantled his arguments of having tried to "humanize" the conditions of deportations of the Jews. While Papon claimed that he had worked to grant humane conditions of transport to the camp of Mérignac, historians testified that his concerns were motivated by efficiency. Although Papon claimed that he had used ordinary trains, and not livestock trains as used by the SNCF in numerous other transfers, the historians asserted that he was trying to prevent any demonstration of sympathy toward the Jews from the local population.
Leading historians of the period who testified as "experts" during the trial included Jean-Pierre Azéma, André Kaspi, Marc-Olivier Baruch, Henry Rousso, Denis Peschanski, Maurice Rajsfus, René Rémond, Henri Amouroux, and American historian Robert Paxton. The defense tried to exclude Paxton's testimony, claiming the international and national context was irrelevant; the magistrate dismissed their argument. He said that "crimes against humanity" necessarily imply a larger context.
Paxton, an expert in Vichy history, dismissed the "preconceived ideas" according to which Vichy had "hoped to protect French Jews" by handing "foreign Jews" over to the Germans. "From the start, at the summit, it was known that their departure [of the French Jews] was unavoidable". He said, "Italians had protected the Jews. And the French authorities complained about it to the Germans ... The French state, itself, has participated in the politics of extermination of the Jews", Paxton concluded.
In his 36-minute final speech to the jury, Papon rarely evoked those killed during the Holocaust. He portrayed himself as a victim of "the saddest chapter in French legal history". He denounced a "Moscow Trial", and compared his status to that of Alfred Dreyfus in the nineteenth century.
Having proved that Papon had organized eight "death trains", the plaintiffs' lawyers recommended that he be given a 20-year prison term, as opposed to the sentence of life imprisonment, which is usually the norm for such crimes. Papon was convicted in 1998 and was given a 10-year prison term. His lawyers filed an appeal in the Court of Cassation, but Papon fled to Switzerland under the name of Robert de La Rochefoucauld, in violation of French law which requires one to report to prison before the beginning of the appeal hearing. The real Robert de La Rochefoucauld, a well-known hero of the French Resistance, who maintained that Papon had worked with the Resistance, had given Papon his passport to enable him to escape. Papon's appeal, scheduled for 21 October 1999, was automatically denied by the Court because of his flight. France issued an international arrest warrant, and he was quickly apprehended by the Swiss police, and extradited. On 22 October 1999, Papon began serving his sentence at La Santé Prison in Paris.
Papon's release in 2002
Papon applied for release on the grounds of poor health in March 2000, but President Jacques Chirac denied the petition three times. He continued to fight legal battles while in prison. His lawyers appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, where they argued that the French court's denial of his appeal on a technicality (rather than on the merits of the case) constituted a violation of Papon's right to appeal his conviction. The Court agreed in July 2002, admonishing the Court of Cassation and awarding Papon FF429,192 (approx. €65,400) in legal costs, but no damages.
Meanwhile, Papon's lawyers pursued a separate appeal in France, petitioning for his release under the terms of a March 2002 law, which provided for the release of ill and elderly prisoners to receive outside medical care. His doctors affirmed that Papon, by this time 92 years old, was essentially incapacitated. He became the second person released under the terms of the law, leaving jail on 18 September 2002, less than three years into his sentence. Former Justice Minister Robert Badinter expressed support for the release, prompting indignation from the families of the victims and the lawyers Arno and Serge Klarsfeld.
Relatives of Papon's victims and human rights NGOs pointed out that many other detainees did not benefit from that law (including detainees in terminal stages of AIDS, or Nathalie Ménigon, a member of Action Directe still imprisoned as of 2007[update], despite suffering from partial hemiplegia, etc.) The Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League) criticized the inequality before the law, under which Papon was freed while other prisoners did not have this luck. Israeli officials also expressed dismay.
In March 2004, the chancery of the Legion of Honour accused Papon of wearing his decoration (which he was stripped of after his conviction) illegally while being photographed for a press interview for Le Point. He was tried and fined €2,500. In February 2007, Papon had heart surgery for congestive heart failure. While it was initially thought to be successful, he died a few days later on February 17 at the age of 96.
His attorney, Francis Vuillemin, declared that Papon should be buried with insignias of Commander of the Legion of Honour. This triggered public expressions of indignation from all French political parties, except Jean-Marie Le Pen's far-right National Front. Bernard Accoyer, head of the UMP group in the French National Assembly, suggested that, as high chancellor of the Order of the Legion of Honour, President Chirac might personally intervene to prevent this, which did not occur. Papon was eventually buried with the insignias on 21 February 2007. A son of one of Papon's victims observed, "Besides being a remorseless dead man, he also wishes to remain a vengeful one."
- French official quoted in Drowning by Bullets (2001) documentary, directed by Philip Brooks & Alan Hayling
- Maurice Papon, une carrière française, Le Monde, 19 September 2002. (French)
- Les dates clefs de la vie de Maurice Papon, Le Figaro, 12 February 2007. (French)
- "Les grandes dates de sa carrière", Le Nouvel Observateur, 17 February 2007. (French)
- Éric Roussel, Charles de Gaulle, éd. Gallimard, 2002, p. 460 (French)
- Raphaëlle Branche, THE FRENCH ARMY AND TORTURE DURING THE ALGERIAN WAR (1954–1962), mfo.ac.uk (2004); accessed 1 September 2015. (English)
- See in particular Eric Roussel, Charles de Gaulle, op. cit., pp. 598–99
- The important dates of the Papon Affair, Le Figaro, 17 February 2007. (French)
- (French) Jean-Luc Einaudi: "La bataille de Paris: 17 octobre 1961", 1991; ISBN 2-02-013547-7
- "Charonne, passé au scalpel de l'historien (interview with historian Alain Dewerpe, member of the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales)". L'Humanité. 6 February 2006.
- "Charonne et le 17 octobre enfin réunis". L'Humanité. 11 February 2006.
- Alain Dewerpe, Charonne, 8 février 1962, anthropologie historique d'un massacre d'Etat, Gallimard, 2006.
- French "Est-ce le retour de l'Occupation ?", ose-t-il demander. Le jeune anarchiste allemand Cohn-Bendit règle librement l'émeute (...) " in Le Monde, "Maurice Papon, une carrière française", ibid.
- Verrerie dite Verreries Mécaniques Champenoises, puis Verre Mouvement Création. à Reims (51), patrimoine-de-france.org; accessed 1 September 2015. (French)
- Jean-Paul Piérot L'Assassin était chez Citroën L'Humanité, 4 June 2007.
- Les Français et Vichy, L'Express, 2 October 1997. (French)
- "Les mémoires secrètes de Papon", Le Figaro, 20 February 2007. (English)
- Daniel Gervais, "Bordeaux, 1940: l'honneur d'un fonctionnaire. Aristides de Sousa Mendes," Libération, 22 March 1996; retrieved 18 March 2014.
- "Robert Paxton donne une accablante leçon d’histoire", L'Humanité, 1 November 1997, (French)
- "Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld". London, UK. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012.
- Paul Webster (21 October 1999). "French justice on trial as Papon flees". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- Henley, Jon (23 October 1999). "Swiss extradite Nazi collaborator Papon". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
- Johnson, Douglas (19 February 2007). "Obituary of Maurice Papon". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
- Film interview of Robert Badinter, Arno Klarsfeld and Gérard Boulanger, ina.fr; accessed 1 September 2015.
- Maurice Papon: la dernière polémique, RFI, 20 February 2007 (French)
- Surgery for French collaborator, BBC, 13 February 2007. (English)
- Le Figaro, 18 February 2007, "Maurice Papon sera-t-il enterré avec la Légion d'honneur?", lefigaro.fr; accessed 1 September 2015.
- "Papon enterré avec sa Légion d'honneur", Le Figaro, 21 February 2007. (French)
- Maurice Papon, enterré décoré, Libération, 21 February 2007 (read here)
- Simon Kitson, (University of Portsmouth French History Interview series)
- "Bousquet, Touvier and Papon: Three Vichy personalities"
- Video of the opening of the Papon trial, INA archive website
- "Maurice Papon's trial", Trial, video
- Decision by the chancellor of the Legion of Honour, related to Papon's conviction and the stripping of his decoration (French)
- ECHR judgment