European Court Rules in Favor of Austrian NGO

2 December 2013

The European Court of Human Rights held Nov. 28 that an Austrian government body’s refusal to grant an Austrian nongovernmental organization access to official documents was unjustified.

The majority ruling came in the case of Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria (application no. 39534/07).

The court held, by a majority, that the government authority had not given sufficient reasons to justify its refusal to grant the association access to the requested documents.

The NGO was researching the impact of transfers of ownership of agricultural and forest land on society.

The government body argued that it needed to protect of the rights of others and confidential information. The applicant association argued that these interests could have been protected by anonymizing the copies of the decision.

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