OLAF /07/15 Brussels, 29 November 2007
Reacting to several media requests received and to declarations made by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) issues this statement following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights concerning a case brought by Mr Hans-Martin Tillack against the Kingdom of Belgium.
The ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (case nr. 20477/05, 27 November 2007) concerns a procedure brought by Mr Tillack against the Kingdom of Belgium and not against OLAF.
Mr Tillack had indeed also brought a case against OLAF (formally: against the European Commission), namely before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg (case T-193/04). The proceedings dealt precisely with the question of whether it was legal that OLAF transmitted case related information to the judicial authorities in two Member States (Belgium and Germany). Mr Tillack’s complaint was dismissed by the European Court of First Instance on 4 October 2006. Mr Tillack abstained from lodging an appeal against this judgement, thus closing litigation with the European Commission and OLAF. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) participated in this litigation as an intervener.
In its ruling, the Court in Luxembourg stated that "It is clear from the provisions of Regulation No 1073/1999, in particular from the 13th recital in the preamble and Article 9, that findings of OLAF set out in a final report do not lead automatically to the initiation of judicial or disciplinary proceedings, since the competent authorities are free to decide what action to take pursuant to a final report". It further explains: "The possible initiation of legal proceedings following the forwarding of information by OLAF, and the subsequent legal acts, are the sole and entire responsibility of the national authorities."
Franz-Hermann Brüner, OLAF Director General, states the following: "We live in a legal system and we have to respect the rule of law and the decisions of the judiciary. Where there are two clear judgements, for two different situations, it is important to understand which judgement applies to which situation. One cannot simply pick the judgement which one likes most and apply it out of context." And he continued: "The legal situation is clear. There is no point in endless speculative debates. Now we would like to get on with our job as foreseen by the law and to dedicate our communication resources to work with those hundreds of journalists from all over the world who contact us every year on anti-fraud and anti-corruption topics".
Reaction towards the International Federation of Journalists
On 27 November 2007 the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) issued a press release in which Mr Aidan White, IFJ/EFJ General Secretary, stated: "Now we want to know who ordered the police to be called in and why have the Belgian police taken so long to come up with a report. (…) It's time for OLAF to tell the full story." In reaction to this, Mr Franz-Hermann Brüner, OLAF Director General, states the following: "I have the greatest respect for the IFJ and the values that it represents in Europe and worldwide but I have difficulties in understanding these requests. As far as OLAF is concerned, the IFJ already knows the answers, because these were set out in great detail during the legal proceedings before the European Court of Justice in which the IFJ took full part as an intervener."
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