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October 13, 2005
LONDON, U.K., October 13, 2005 - International law firm Covington & Burling announced the successful conclusion of its defense of Transparency International, a non-governmental organization fighting corruption, in connection with a libel claim brought by Slobodan Milosevic in the Berlin Regional court.
Milosevic sued Transparency International under German libel law following the publication of its 2004 Global Corruption Report on political corruption. The report listed 10 of the most corrupt political leaders. Milosevic was placed at number 5 as he has allegedly embezzled US$1 billion. Covington successfully defended the claim, arguing that Transparency International's free speech rights protected the publication because the organization pursued a legitimate interest and complied with its duty of care when researching the report. The court accepted that the report was based on information sourced from the Associated Press, which Milosevic had never disputed. Since Associated Press was a credible source, due care had been taken in compiling the report. The court further held that, even if Transparency International had done more than merely report the Associated Press information, Milosevic failed to give any specifications as to his denial of Transparency International's statement that he was approximately the fifth most corrupt political leader in the last twenty years. Therefore, the court assumed that the amounts mentioned in the Associated Press information on which Transparency International relied "came close to the truth".
"This judgment is a victory for freedom of speech and a blow for corruption", said Dr. Georg Berrisch, a German litigation partner in Covington's Brussels office, who defended Transparency International together with associate Dr. Markus Burianski. Partner Kurt Wimmer in Covington's Washington, D.C. office provided additional support.