C-266/05 P, Sison v Council

The Court last Thursday held that the Council enjoyed a broad discretion for the purpose of determining whether the disclosure of documents underlying a decision establishing restrictive measures with a view to combating terrorism could undermine the public interest. The Court's review therefore was limited to verifying whether the procedural rules and the duty to state reasons had been complied with, whether the facts had been accurately stated, and whether there had been a manifest error of assessment or a misuse of powers.

By judgment of 26 April 2005 in
Joined Cases T‑110/03, T‑150/03 and T‑405/03, the Court of First Instance dismissed an action of Mr Sison for the annulment of three Council decisions refusing him access to documents underlying the Council’s decision to include him on the list of persons subject to specific restrictive measures aimed at the combating of terrorism, as provided for in Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001.

By the present action the appellant sought the annulment of this judgment.

Parallel to this action, the appellant instituted proceedings under Article 230 EC for the partial annulment of Council Decision 2002/974, which retained his name on the list of persons whose assets were to be frozen pursuant to Regulation No 2580/2001.

In these proceedings he also sought a declaration of the invalidity of Regulation No 2580/2001 under Article 241 EC and compensation on the basis of Articles 235 and 288 EC. This case was registered under number
T‑47/03 and is currently pending before the CFI.

Mr Sison inter alia argued that, by ruling, that the Council enjoyed an unlimited discretion to refuse access to documents on the basis of the exceptions relating to the protection of the public interest provided for in Article 4(1)(a) of
Regulation No 1049/2001 and that the Court’s review of such discretion was limited to verifying whether the procedural rules and the duty to state reasons had been complied with, the facts had been accurately stated, and whether there had been a manifest error of assessment of the facts or a misuse of powers, the Court of First Instance unduly limited the scope of the full legal review incumbent upon it under Article 230 EC.

According to Mr Sison, Article 67(3) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of First Instance allowed that Court to base its review on the content of documents to which access had been refused, which also confirmed that the Court of First Instance was bound to carry out a full review of the legality of the institutions’ decisions in respect of public access to their documents.

The Court, however, held that that the scope of the review of legality incumbent on the Community Courts under Article 230 EC could vary according to the matters under consideration.


The Court of Justice stated that the Court of First Instance had correctly held that the Council must be recognised as enjoying a wide discretion for the purpose of determining whether the disclosure of documents could undermine the public interest,

The Court inter alia took into account that this case was concerned with an area which involved political, economic and social choices and in which the Council was called upon to undertake complex assessments.

The Court of First Instance had also correctly held that the Community Court’s review of the legality of such a decision must be limited to verifying whether the procedural rules and the duty to state reasons had been complied with, whether the facts had been accurately stated, and whether there had been a manifest error of assessment or a misuse of powers.

The Court also rejected the other agumenst of Mr Sison claiming inter alia that the Court of First Instance had infringed the presumption of innocence, the general principle guaranteeing the right to a fair trial and the right to an effective legal remedy as laid down in Article 13 of the ECHR. The Court hence dismissed the appeal.

Text of Judgment