European Court of Human Rights clears Portuguese justice in Maddie McCann case

Written By Lara Silva

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has cleared the Portuguese justice of a complaint made by the parents of Madeleine McCann on Tuesday. The court found that Portugal had given the parents of the missing toddler a fair hearing in their libel battle against Goncalo Amaral, a former policeman.

Goncalo Amaral suggested in his book “Truth of the Lie” that the parents were involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in 2007 after working on the investigation. 

Kate and Gerry McCann sued Goncalo Amaral for libel which they initially won in 2015. Amaral was ordered to pay damages, but two years later, the ruling was reversed by Portugal’s highest court.

The McCanns then appealed to the ECHR, arguing that many of their rights had not been respected in Portugal, including their right to a fair trial, right to private family life, and right to freedom of expression. 

Concerning their right to private family life, the court said that “by using social communication mediums, the applicants wanted to use all possible mediums to find their daughter.”

The court argued that by doing so, they “ended up acquiring a public reputation and entered the public sphere” and that they “inevitably exposed themselves” to scrutiny for their actions. 

The ECHR also argued that Goncalo Amaral’s book was in “the interest of public debate” and that the public “had a legitimate interest in being informed” about the disappearance of Maddie McCann.

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Moreover, “The court believes that the declarations in question constitute value judgments based on a sufficient factual base. In fact, the elements in which Goncalo Amaral based his argumentation were gathered during the investigation and disclosed to the public”, said the court.

Regarding the right to be presumed innocent, the ECHR said that the book was released before the parents were descarded as being involved with the incident by the Portuguese Public Ministery. 

Kate and Gerry McCann’s lawyer, Ricardo Correia Afonso, said that they will not be appealing the decision but that they are “disappointed,” reports Reuters.

“The focus is now rightly on the search for Madeleine and her abductor(s). We are grateful for the ongoing work by the British, German, and Portuguese police”, said the lawyer in a statement. 

Known as Maddie, Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2017 from Praia da Luz, Algarve, at 3 years old. The British toddler went missing from her family’s holiday rental apartment while her parents had dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.

In April of 2022, German child abuser Christian Brueckner, 44, was made an official suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann by the Portuguese authorities. The investigation is being conducted with the help of the British and German authorities. 

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