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ECtHR, XX and XX v. Ireland, No 34720/97
  • 2000
  • Ireland
Membership in a terrorist organisation
Legal bases
European Convention on Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
Freedom of Expression Right to a fair trial Proportionality Public order

On October 1999 an explosion occurred at a British army checkpoint in which five British soldiers and one civilian were killed. The police suspected the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The applicants were arrested and detained by the police following a suspicion on their involvement in the explosion and their membership of the IRA. The suspects were informed of their right to remain silent and everything they would say could be used against them during the proceedings. However, they were subsequently requested under section 52 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 to provide details regarding their movements at the time of the offences. Both suspects claimed their right to remain silence and complained that section 52 of the Act violated their right to silence, their right against self-incrimination and the presumption of innocence. The suspects argued that the Act violated Articles 6§1 and 6§2 of the ECHR (or “the Convention”) on the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.

Legal grounds

Section 52 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 (Irish law); Articles 6§1 and 6§2 of the ECHR.


The Court held that the Irish Government did violate Articles 6§1 and 6§2 of the Convention. The security and public order concerns, as invoked by the Irish Government, could not justify a provision, which extinguishes the very essence of the applicants’ rights to silence and against self-incrimination guaranteed by Article 6§1 of the Convention. In addition, given the close link with the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Article 6§2, there had been a violation of that provision.