J.V. v. Flemish Government

Case 2005-016F, 19 January 2005
Download Judgment: English French Flemish
Country: Belgium
Region: Europe
Year: 2005
Court: Constitutional Court of Belgium [Cour constitutionnelle]
Health Topics: Controlled substances, Health information
Human Rights: Right to privacy
Tags: Confidentiality, Disclosure, Drug abuse, Drug use, Non-disclosure, Notification, People who use drugs, Performance-enhancing drugs, Secrecy, Substance abuse

J.V. filed an action in the Belgian Constitutional Court to annul article 40.6, line 2, of the Flemish Parliament’s Act of 1991 on the practice of sport with respect to health imperatives. He stated that the impugned provision that required the publication of details on a government website such as the name, date of birth and suspension period of athletes violated the right to privacy and family life under Article 22 of the Belgian Constitution.

J.V. was suspended for life from cycling competitions for using a banned anabolic agent. J.V. argued that Article 40.6 did not achieve any legitimate objective and was manifestly disproportionate to the objective in mind. He compared this provision to public pillory. In support of his argument, J.V made a reference to the opinion of the Commission for Protection of Privacy, which held that publication on a public website was excessive.

The Flemish Government argued that publishing suspended athletes’ personal information on a public website was necessary to ensure that the information was readily available and that sports organizations should be up to date with respect to disciplinary measures sanctioned against athletes. The Government also argued that the purpose of the legislation was to combat the practice of doping, which is an urgent social necessity.

The Court held that the publication of the information on a public website was a violation of the right to privacy and family life under article 22 of the Constitution. It held that the provision went beyond the objective of the Act i.e. combatting doping and could not be justified as a legitimate purpose. The government’s purpose could be achieved by official communication through sports federations, which the act also required. The Court further held that the accessible nature of the publication would be a disproportionate invasion of privacy because the release of information could be used for other purposes by anyone.

The Court ordered that the words “on the website which the government created for this purpose and” be removed from the Act.

“Publier des données personnelles d’une manière aussi générale constitue une ingérence dans le droit au respect de la vie privée garanti par l’article 22 de la Constitution et par les dispositions conventionnelles susmentionnées.

Pour qu’une telle ingérence soit admissible, il est requis qu’elle soit nécessaire en vue d’atteindre un but légitime déterminé, ce qui implique notamment qu’un lien raisonnable de proportionnalité doive exister entre les conséquences de la mesure pour la personne concernée et les intérêts de la collectivité.” (Para B.5.1)

[Publishing personal information in so general a manner constitutes an interference with the right to respect of privacy guaranteed by article 22 of the Constitution and by the above-mentioned conventional provisions.

For such interference to be permissible, it must be necessary to achieve a specific legitimate purpose, which implies in particular that there must be a reasonable proportionality between the consequences of the measure for the person concerned and the interests of the community.] 

“En ce qu’il s’avère, d’une part, que la publication entreprise n’est pas nécessaire pour atteindre l’objectif légitime poursuivi par le législateur décrétal, puisque cet objectif peut également être réalisé d’une manière moins dommageable pour les intéressés et, d’autre part, que les effets de la mesure sont disproportionnés par rapport à cet objectif, la disposition attaquée est contraire à l’article 22 de la Constitution et aux dispositions conventionnelles qui ont une portée analogue.” (Para B.6.2)

 [As it turns out, firstly, that the publication is not necessary to attain the legitimate objective of the legislature, since the objective could equally be realized in a manner less damaging to the interests and, secondly, that the effects of the measure are disproportionate with regards to that objective, the impugned provision is contrary to article 22 of the Constitution and to the analogous provisions of Conventions.]

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