Since the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights has examined a large number of complaints in which the applicants raised issues of violation of the right to respect private and family life in various aspects. A particular feature of Article 8 of the Convention is it contains both guarantees of the enforcement of the law and the restriction of the right to respect for private life.
According to the Article 8 of the Convention: Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
At the same time, paragraph 2 of Article 8 provides for an exception to this right as follows: There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well being of the country, 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. 1
In the case Elbert v. Latvia 2 the European Court of Human Rights stated: The essential object of Article 8 is to protect the individual against arbitrary interference by public authorities. Any interference under the first paragraph of Article 8 must be justified in terms of the second paragraph, namely as being “in accordance with the law” and “necessary in a democratic society” for one or more of the legitimate aims listed therein. The notion of necessity implies that the interference correlates with a pressing social need and, in particular, that it is proportionate to one of the legitimate aims pursued by the authorities. The Court refers to the interpretation given to the phrase “in accordance with the law” in its case-law. Of particular relevance in the present case is the requirement for the impugned measure to have some basis in domestic law, which should be compatible with the rule of law; this, in turn, means that the domestic law must be formulated with sufficient precision and must afford adequate legal protection against arbitrariness. Accordingly, the domestic law must indicate with sufficient clarity the scope of discretion conferred on the competent authorities and the manner of its exercise (§ 103, 104).
According to the content of paragraph 2 of the Article 8, we determine the conditions under which the interference will be considered in accordance with the Convention: 1. Interference should be provided by law; 2. This interference should be a necessary measure in a democratic society; 3. Intervention should be directed to one of the following objectives: a) national security, b) public safety, c) economic well-being of the country, d) protection of order and crime prevention, e) protection of health or morals, f) protection of the rights and freedoms of others persons.
The European Court of Human Rights has elaborated the practice of dealing with cases in which there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention, as following: The applicant must prove that there has been an interference with his right guaranteed by the Article 8 of the Convention. This proof doesn’t need to be based on facts, it is sometimes sufficient to prove the existence of national legislation that allows interference with the applicant's right to privacy and information received by the applicant about the possibility of such interference. The Court considers that the violation of the right to privacy and the rights resulting from Article 8 of the Convention is often exercised by the police, state security agencies and secret services, without the person who has been under investigation measures aware of this.
At the first stage of the proceedings, the Court determines whether there has been interference under Article 8 of the Convention. In majority of cases, the Court finds intervention, the respondent State itself recognizes the existence of interference with this right.
After the interference has been established, the Court determines whether this interference occurred in accordance with Article 8 § 2 of the Convention. The list of objectives of the intervention is exhaustive and does not provide for any deviation. The possibility of interference, restriction of law, should be provided by law and must have legitimate aims.
The first condition for the legality of interference with the right to privacy as provided for in Article 8 § 2 of the Convention is that this should be provided by national legislation. In other words, the intervention must have a legal basis.
The term "law" means material sources of law. National courts play an important role in determining this legal framework, since they are intended to interpret the material rule applicable to a particular case.
The court ruled that it was for the national authorities to be competent to interpret national law, especially if the interference was "prescribed by law", and the Court had limited competence to verify to what extent the national authorities had fulfilled this role. 3
In the case Broniowski v. Poland 4, the Court has stated principle of lawfulness as follows: The first and most important requirement of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 is that any interference by a public authority with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions should be lawful: the second sentence of the first paragraph authorises a deprivation of possessions only “subject to the conditions provided for by law” and the second paragraph recognises that States have the right to control the use of property by enforcing “laws”. Moreover, the rule of law, one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society, is inherent in all the Articles of the Convention (§ 147). The principle of lawfulness also presupposes that the applicable provisions of domestic law are sufficiently accessible, precise and foreseeable in their application.
In case S. and Marper v UK 5 the Court notes from its well established case-law that the wording “in accordance with the law” requires the impugned measure both to have some basis in domestic law and to be compatible with the rule of law, which is expressly mentioned in the Preamble to the Convention and inherent in the object and purpose of Article 8. The law must thus be adequately accessible and foreseeable, that is, formulated with sufficient precision to enable the individual – if need be with appropriate advice – to regulate his conduct. For domestic law to meet these requirements, it must afford adequate legal protection against arbitrariness and accordingly indicate with sufficient clarity the scope of discretion conferred on the competent authorities and the manner of its exercise (§95).
The court has developed a standard for the concept of "law" to ensure knowledge of the "law" under reasonable conditions by the person to whom it applies, which means that the law must meet two criteria:
a) Accessibility of the law. The law should be accessible to all, it must be published. The principle of accessibility of the law was put forward in the case of Khan v. United Kingdom 6 the Court recalls that the phrase “in accordance with the law” not only requires compliance with domestic law but also relates to the quality of that law, requiring it to be compatible with the rule of law. In the context of covert surveillance by public authorities, in this instance the police, domestic law must provide protection against arbitrary interference with an individual's right under Article 8. Moreover, the law must be sufficiently clear in its terms to give individuals an adequate indication as to the circumstances in which and the conditions on which public authorities are entitled to resort to such covert measures (§ 26).
b) Foreseeability of the law. The law must be predictable, that is, the one to which it applies, should reasonably understand the meaning and, in particular, understand that the law is applied to it. Foreseeability implies the precision of a rule that would allow an individual to act accordingly.
In the case Elbert v. Latvia 2 the applicant submitted that the removal of her husband’s tissue without her consent had constituted interference with her private life. The Court stated the requirement for the impugned measure to have some basis in domestic law, which should be compatible with the rule of law; this, in turn, means that the domestic law must be formulated with sufficient precision and must afford adequate legal protection against arbitrariness. Accordingly, the domestic law must indicate with sufficient clarity the scope of discretion conferred on the competent authorities and the manner of its exercise (§ 104).
Thus, despite the possibility of limitation of the right to private and family life, home and correspondence, provided for in paragraph 2 of Article 8 of the Convention, every state intervention in these rights must strictly comply first and foremost with national legislation, and thereafter may be subjected to compliance European standards of human rights in the spirit of the Convention.
1. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 04.11.1950, published in the official publication "International Treaties", 1998, Chisinau, vol. 1, p. 341
2. The case of Elbert v. Latvia (application No. 61243/08) Decision of 13 January 2015 [Electronic resource] URL: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-159135 (reference date: 14/09/2018)
3. Protection of the right to private and family life, correspondence and residence of the home [Electronic resource] URL: http://legeaz.net/dictionar-juridic/viata-privata-familiala-corespondenta-domiciliu-CeDo (reference date: 14/09/2018)
4. The case of Broniowski v. Poland (application No. 31443/96) judgment of 22 June 2004 [Electronic resource] URL: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-61828 (reference date: 14/09/2018)
5. The Case S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom (application No. 30562/04, 30566/04) judgment of 4 December 2008 [Electronic resource] URL: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i = 001-122082 (reference date: 14/09/2018)
6. The case of Khan v. United Kingdom (application No. 35394/97) judgment of 12 May 2000 [Electronic resource] URL: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-58841 (reference date: 14/09/2018)
Scientific supervisor: Olga Dorul, PhD, Department of international and european law at Moldavian State University