Instantie: EHRM, 20 juni 2006




The applicant was from 1971 placed on the list of jurors in Malta and remained on the list until at least 2002. Between 1971 and 1997 he served as both a juror and foreman in three different sets of criminal proceedings. In 1997 he was called again to serve as a juror, but failed to appear and was fined approximately EUR 240. The applicant complained that he had been the victim of discrimination on the ground of sex, as the percentage of women requested to undertake jury service in Malta was negligible, and that he had been obliged to face criminal proceedings in relation to the imposition of a discriminatory civic obligation.  The Court observed that it was accepted by the applicant that the difference in treatment complained of did not depend on the wording of Maltese law in force at the relevant time, which made no distinction between sexes, both men and women being equally eligible for jury service. The discrimination at issue was on the contrary based on what the applicant described as a well-established practice, characterised by a number of factors, such as the manner in which the lists of jurors were compiled and the criteria for exemption from jury service. As a result, only a negligible percentage of women were called to serve as jurors. The Court reiterated that statistics were not by themselves sufficient to disclose a practice which could be classified as discriminatory. At the same time, the Court considered that discrimination potentially contrary to the Convention might result not only from a legislative measure, but also from a de facto situation. The Court noted that in 1997 – the year in which the applicant was called to serve as a juror and failed to attend the court’s meeting – the number of men (7,503) enrolled on the lists of jurors was three times the number of women (2,494). In the previous year that difference was even more significant, as only 147 women were placed on the lists of jurors, as opposed to 4,298 men. The Court was also struck by the fact that in 1996, five women and 174 men served as jurors. The Court considered that those figures showed that the civic obligation of jury service had been placed predominantly on men. Therefore, there had been a difference in treatment between two groups – men and women – which, with respect to jury service, were in a similar situation. The Court accepted that, since 1997 an administrative process had been set in motion in order to bring the number of women registered as jurors in line with that of men. As a result, in 2004, 6,344 women and 10,195 men were enrolled on the list of jurors. However, that did not undermine the finding that at the relevant time only a negligible percentage of women were enrolled on the lists of jurors and were actually requested to perform jury service. In the applicant’s case, the Maltese Government argued that the difference in treatment depended on a number of factors. Jurors were chosen from the part of the population which was active in the economy and in the professions. Moreover, according to Article 604 (3) of the CC, an exemption from jury service might be granted to those taking care of their family and more women than men could successfully rely on such a provision. Finally, “for reasons of cultural orientation”, defence lawyers might have had a tendency to challenge female jurors.The Court doubted whether the factors indicated by the Government were sufficient to explain the significant discrepancy in the repartition of jury service. It furthermore noted that the second and third factors related only to the number of females who actually performed jury service and did not explain the very low number of women enrolled on the lists of jurors. In any event, the factors highlighted by the Government only constituted explanations of the mechanisms which had led to the difference in treatment complained of. No valid argument had been put before the Court in order to provide a proper justification for it. In particular, it had not been shown that the difference in treatment pursued a legitimate aim and that there was a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realised. The Court therefore found that there had been a violation of Article 14, read in conjunction with Article 4 § 3 (d).

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