Convicted killers lose ‘right to be forgotten’ case

Two German men, convicted of murder in 1993, who attempted to have their convictions removed from media archives, have had their case rejected by the European Court of Human Rights. Unlike most so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ cases which are brought under data protection law, the two men argued the case under human rights law – arguing that the reports were interfering with their right to private and family life under Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court rejected their argument. In balancing their right to privacy against the media’s right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to be informed, their privacy rights had to give way. The court found that the reports continued to contribute to a debate of general interest which had not been diminished by the passage of time and noted that the two men had put matters into the media themselves when seeking to have their case re-opened.

This is an unsurprising decision on the facts – the convictions were for the murder of a famous actor and were not spent under German law. Right to be forgotten cases are generally brought against search engines like Google, asking them to remove the links to an article as opposed to removing or amending the article itself. This decision favoured freedom of expression and the public’s right to be informed about past events.