Minelli v. Switzerland

European Court of Human Rights
25 March 1983


The applicant, Mr. Minelli, was accused of defamation. The case went to the court, however, it was unable to deliver its judgment in the time limits prescribed by law and the proceedings were discontinued. Finding that if the proceedings had not been terminated on account of limitation Mr. Minelli most likely would have been convicted, he was ordered to pay the court costs.


Mr. Minelli complained that by ordering him to pay the costs of the proceedings, the national courts have violated his right to fair trial.

Court's ruling

The Court noted that a decision on the apportionment of costs is a normal part of criminal proceedings for defamation in Switzerland. In this connection, it was of little importance that the decision was adopted after the ruling on the merits or that its text appears in a separate document. The Court stated that what is important is that Mr. Minelli was still considered as charged with a criminal offence at that point. The Court emphasized that the presumption of innocence will be violated if there is a judicial decision concerning him, which reflects an opinion that the accused is guilty without him being previously found guilty according to law and without having had an opportunity to defend himself.  This may be so even in the absence of any formal finding; it suffices that there is some reasoning suggesting that the court regards the accused as guilty. In the particular case the Court found that judging from the decision of appointment of costs, the national court was satisfied of the guilt of Mr. Minelli, however, he was not allowed to exercise his rights of defence. Thus the Court found that the decision of Swiss court was incompatible with respect for the presumption of innocence in violation of right to fair trial of Mr. Minelli.

Learn more

Last updated 12/01/2024