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Home Human Rights Archive for category "European Convention on Human Rights"

A Danish Crusade for the Reform of the European Court of Human Rights

Published on November 14, 2017        Author: 

Tomorrow (15 November) Denmark will take over the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Europe (CoE). The CoE was established in 1949 and has since adopted numerous treaties, including the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Denmark is a CoE founding member and has traditionally been a strong supporter of human rights. Yet the Danish Government has announced that the chief priority of its chairmanship will be the reform of the European human rights system. This announcement may come as a surprise to the readership of this blog. This post therefore summarises the vicissitudes that have led to the Danish Government’s initiative, and provides some early reflections on its expected impact.

Why does Denmark want a reform?

Immigration has long been a dominant theme in Danish politics. In the late 1990s, the Danish People’s Party (DPP) began to denounce immigration, multiculturalism and Islam as alien to Danish society and values. Since 2001, the DPP has supported various minority coalition governments and gained extensive influence on Denmark’s immigration policy, which is now one of the most restrictive in Europe.

Critique of the ECHR is not new in Denmark, where much debate has focused on the influence of the Convention on the deportation of the foreign criminals. Read the rest of this entry…

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Is N.D. and N.T. v. Spain the new Hirsi?

Published on October 17, 2017        Author: 

On 3 October the Third Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, which concerns Spain’s pushback policy in Melilla. It found a violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens) and of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 4 of Protocol 4. This post focuses on the issues of jurisdiction and the prohibition of collective expulsions addressed in the judgment, as well as its policy implications. 

Facts

The facts of the case are straightforward: on 13 August 2014 a group of Sub-Saharan migrants, including the applicants, tried to enter Spain via the Melilla border crossing which consists of three consecutive barriers. They managed to climb to the top of the third barrier. When they climbed down with the help of the Spanish forces, they were immediately apprehended by members of the Spanish civil guard and returned to Morocco in the company of 75 to 80 other migrants who had attempted to enter Melilla on the same date. Their identities were not checked and they did not have an opportunity to explain their personal circumstances or to receive assistance from lawyers, interpreters or medical personnel.

Jurisdiction

Spain argued that the events occurred outside its jurisdiction because the applicants had not succeeded in getting past the barriers at the Melilla border crossing and therefore had not entered Spanish territory. The Court first recalled its general principles on jurisdiction (paras 49-51), referring in particular to Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, and specifying that when the State, through its agents, exercises control and authority over an individual, and thus jurisdiction, the State is under an obligation to secure the rights and freedoms that are relevant to the situation of that individual (para 51). Applying these principles to the facts of the case, the Court first observes that:

‘la ligne frontalière entre le Royaume du Maroc et les villes de Ceuta et de Melilla a été délimitée par les traités internationaux auxquels les Royaumes d’Espagne et du Maroc sont parties et qu’elle ne peut pas être modifiée à l’initiative de l’un de ces États pour les besoins d’une situation de fait concrète’ (para 53).

Yet in the next paragraph the Court explains that it is unnecessary to establish whether the border crossing between Morocco and Spain is located on Spanish territory because:

dès lors qu’il y a contrôle sur autrui, il s’agit dans ces cas d’un contrôle de jure exercé par l’État en question sur les individus concernés (Hirsi Jamaa, précité, § 77), c’est-à-dire d’un contrôle effectif des autorités de cet État, que celles-ci soient à l’intérieur du territoire de l’État ou sur ses frontières terrestres. De l’avis de la Cour, à partir du moment où les requérants étaient descendus des clôtures frontalières, ils se trouvaient sous le contrôle continu et exclusif, au moins de facto, des autorités espagnoles.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Offshore Processing and Complicity in Current EU Migration Policies (Part 2)

Published on October 11, 2017        Author:  and

In the first part of our blog post we reconstructed a complex web of migration policies that indicate a shift towards offshore processing of asylum claims in Niger and possibly Chad. In this second part, we seek to answer an obvious yet difficult legal question, namely who bears responsibility in scenarios of extraterritorial complicity such as this one? As described in part one, the new plan could not be implemented without the close cooperation of various actors: European Union (EU) institutions and Member States, third countries (Niger and/or Chad) and UN organisations (IOM and UNHCR).

Our discussion focuses on issues of responsibility and jurisdiction arising when bringing a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against any of the Member States involved in the setting up and implementation of the offshoring mechanism. Read the rest of this entry…

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(Non-)Recognition of De Facto Regimes in Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights: Implications for Cases Involving Crimea and Eastern Ukraine

Published on October 9, 2017        Author: 

In an increasing number of cases, the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’, ‘the Court’) has been dealing with the question of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’, ‘Convention’) on territories which are outside the control of the state to which they belong. Such lack of control is either because of the occupation by a foreign state or because of the control by a separatist movement, as a rule, established and/or existing with the aid of a foreign state. One of the issues that arises in this context is the (non-)recognition of the regime that exercises control over such territory (the de facto regime).

This blog post looks at the Court’s existing approaches to the (non-)recognition of de facto regimes. It then discusses the implication of this approach for cases involving Eastern Ukraine and Crimea that may come before the Court and require it to deal with the question of (non-)recognition.

Existing approaches

The issue of (non-)recognition becomes particularly relevant when the Court is called on to assess proceedings conducted by the courts of a de facto regime in the light of the Convention. The Court has dealt with the issue of (non-)recognition when deciding on the exhaustion of domestic remedies at the admissibility stage, and on claims relating to freedom from arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial at the merits stage. Read the rest of this entry…

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Extradition: English Court refuses to extradite alleged génocidaires to Rwanda–will a domestic prosecution follow?

Published on October 2, 2017        Author: 

The Divisional Court of England and Wales has dismissed the appeal of the Government of Rwanda in the high-profile extradition proceedings against five alleged génocidaires in the case of Rwanda v Nteziryayo and ors. The men will not be extradited to Rwanda to stand trial for genocide and it now appears that, if they are to be tried at all, it must be in the UK.

The judgment of the Divisional Court affirmed the decision of District Judge Emma Arbuthnot on 22 December 2015 to discharge the extradition requests on two grounds: double jeopardy–one of the requested persons had been tried in a domestic ‘Gacaca’ court—and article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Judge accepted the evidence of the requested persons that there was a real risk they might suffer a flagrant breach of their rights to a fair trial if extradited to Rwanda.

The background to this latest decision reveals the evolving measures employed by the international community to promote justice and end impunity for international crimes. 

Following the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the UN Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which was intended to bring to trial those most responsible for the genocide and other serious violations of law perpetrated in Rwanda. Security Council Resolution 1824, passed on July 2008, called for the completion of the work of the ICTR by 2010. Read the rest of this entry…

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Barbulescu v Romania: Why There is no Room for Complacency When it Comes to Privacy Rights in the Workplace

Published on September 26, 2017        Author: 

For some privacy advocates, the decision earlier this month of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Barbulescu v Romania was another milestone in the pursuit of greater protection for employee privacy. Reversing a decision of the Fourth Section last year, the Court held that the monitoring of an employee’s Yahoo Messenger account breached his right to respect for private life in Article 8. While it would be churlish to contradict such claims, this is no time for complacency.

Mr. Barbulescu was a sales engineer working for a private company in Romania. The company in question prohibited the use of its equipment (including the internet) for personal use – a policy it robustly enforced with dismissals for transgressors – facts which Mr. Barbulescu was made aware of. At his employer’s request, Mr. Barbulescu opened a Yahoo Messenger Account in order to communicate with customers. He was subsequently told that this account had been monitored, revealing that it had been used for personal purposes. When Mr. Barbulescu denied this claim, he was presented with a transcript of the content of his messages. These included exchanges with his brother and his fiancé, some of which were of an intimate nature. Mr. Barbulescu was fired. He challenged his dismissal in the domestic courts alleging that it breached his right to private life. Those claims were dismissed and Mr. Barbulescu brought his case to Strasbourg. Read the rest of this entry…

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Challenging Gender Stereotyping before the ECtHR: Case of Carvalho Pinto v. Portugal

Published on September 21, 2017        Author: 

On 25 July 2017, the ECtHR delivered an important judgment on discrimination, condemning ageist and sexist assumptions made in the reasoning of the domestic court. In this post, I will share my observations about the novelty of the case and its contribution to the case-law of the ECtHR.

Facts and Judgment in short

The applicant, suffering from a gynaecological disease, underwent surgery during which her left pudendal nerve was injured as a result of medical malpractice. Following discharge from hospital, she began to experience intense pain and loss of sensation in the vagina, urinary incontinence, difficulty walking and sitting, and she could not have sexual relations. In the lawsuit she filed, the Lisbon Administrative Court awarded her a sum of compensation for pecuniary damage, covering inter alia the service of a maid for household tasks which she was unable to carry out, and non-pecuniary damages for the physical and mental suffering she experienced. However, at the appeal, the Supreme Administrative Court (Hereinafter: SAC) reduced the amounts awarded for both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages on account of three reasons set out as the following:

  1. The applicant’s complaints had only been aggravated following the surgery but they were not new;
  2. She probably only needed to take care of her husband, given the age of her children, and did not require a full-time maid; and
  3. The applicant, who had two children, was already 50 years old, an age when sex was not as important as in younger years and that its significance diminished with age.

In its judgment, the Strasbourg Court drew similarities between the applicant’s case and two other judgments concerning medical malpractice experienced by two men at the ages of 55 and 59, who became impotent and incontinent as a result of medical error in operations they underwent. The ECtHR observed that in those judgments, the SAC did not find the amounts awarded excessive, considering the “tremendous shock” or “strong mental shock” experienced by plaintiffs who would suffer irreversible consequences to their sex lives. Contrary to the applicant’s case, the SAC had taken into account neither the plaintiffs’ age nor whether they had any children in these similar cases.

In the decision the ECtHR stated that the general assumption relied on by the domestic court that sexuality was no longer important for a fifty-year-old woman derived from the traditional understanding of female sexuality, essentially linked to reproduction. The Court also noted the patriarchal understanding of the Supreme Court revealed by the assumption that the applicant was responsible to “take care of her husband”. The ECtHR found that the Supreme Court’s decision was not based on objective assessment of facts but on the wrongful gender stereotyping and eventually, by five votes to two, decided that there was a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) read together with Article 8 (right to respect for private life). Read the rest of this entry…

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Twenty Years of the ECHR in Ukraine

Published on September 18, 2017        Author:  and

Twenty years ago, in September 1997, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) entered into force for Ukraine. By ratifying the Convention, Ukraine recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While Ukraine had been a party to a number of the international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, long before the ECHR, joining the ECHR had a special significance. It symbolised a European choice of Ukraine, a final breakaway from the Soviet past, and (at least on paper) the acceptance of the European values of democracy and respect for human rights. Making the determination to join the Council of Europe (CoE) and its fundamental legal instruments, however, was easier than to maintain Ukraine’s international obligations in practice. In fact, there had been times when the CoE seriously considered to terminate the membership of Ukraine altogether (in 1999, for example, for the failure to abolish the death penalty).

This post will not cover all the intricacies of the complex (and at times turbulent) relationship between Ukraine and the CoE. We will start with a brief review of the statistics regarding the current situation, in particular the ECtHR case law concerning Ukraine. Then, we will focus on the reasons why Ukraine is still one of the laggard states in terms of the numbers of applications and violations to the ECtHR. Further, we will discuss Read the rest of this entry…

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The Kosovo Specialist Chambers’ Rules of Procedure and Evidence

Published on August 17, 2017        Author: 

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) are the latest addition to a multi-layered and broad spectrum of international institutions dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of international crimes. In March 2017, the Judges of the KSC adopted the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE), which are now finally available on the Tribunal’s website. In the following, I will provide a first analysis of the RPE and evaluate them against existing procedural laws of International(ized) Criminal Tribunals (ICTs). It goes without saying that, in the face of the sheer number of rules (211), this analysis can only be cursory.

The biggest achievement of the Judges certainly is that they translated the institutional uniqueness of the KSC – an internationalized tribunal with a Constitutional Chamber (‘Specialist Chamber of the Constitutional Court’) and the European Union as the primary sponsor – into the rules. This especially becomes apparent through the incorporation of an interpretation rule (Rule 4) into the RPE, which refers – inter alia – to ‘the framework as set out in Article 3 [KSC-Law]’. This Article 3 (its length makes it impractical to reproduce it here) is not only a modern version of Article 21 of the ICC-Statute. It also determines that the KSC shall adjudicate and function in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the Constitution of Kosovo. This is remarkable in many regards: the preference to refer to the ECHR rather than ‘internationally recognized human rights’ (Article 21(3) ICC-Statute) has the potential of strengthening the rights of the defendant. The vagueness of the term ‘internationally recognized human rights’ has led to the assumption that it denotes something less than universal acceptance. The European human rights jurisprudence, by contrast, is one of the most developed and most discussed in secondary source material (Young, ICLQ 60 (2011), 204). Moreover, through its Article 22, the Constitution of Kosovo gives the ECHR constitutional value. Of course, one could think that this does not make any practical difference, since the ECHR is mentioned as a source of the KSC anyway. However, recall that Kosovo is not a party to the ECHR and therefore not internationally liable for its implementation. The reference to the ECHR in Kosovo’s Constitution makes these human rights justiciable because both the accused and the victim are entitled to make referrals to the Constitutional Chamber in relation to alleged violations by the KSC of their human rights guaranteed by the Constitution (Article 113(7) Kosovo Constitution). Thus, in questions of the KSC’s activity and subject-matter jurisdiction, it is the Constitutional Chamber – not an appellate body – that serves as the final authority for the interpretation of the Constitution (Article 49 KSC-Law). This turns the rights enshrined in the ECHR into basic rights and contributes to a constitutionalization.

Of course, the strengthened judicial review at the KSC through the establishment of a Constitutional Chamber comes at a price, and it does not take much to predict a governance problem. More concretely, as praiseworthy as a constitutionalized ECHR may be in theory, in practice it will not make it any easier for the Judges to face the daily task of running an ICT. Take, for instance, the first Constitutional Chamber judgment about the constitutionality of the KSC RPE, Rule 19 in particular: in the version that was first referred to the Constitutional Chamber on 27 March 2017, Rule 19 contained a paragraph 3 where a hearing could continue for no more than five working days in the presence of just two instead of three Judges, in case one Judge was absent due to circumstances such as illness. Such a rule has great practical importance and is modelled after Rule 16(A) of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) RPE and Rule 15bis ICTY RPE. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Chamber declared Rule 19(3) KSC RPE unconstitutional, because Article 25(1) KSC-Law prescribes that the Trial Panels, Court of Appeal Panels and Supreme Court Panels are comprised of ‘three’ Judges, and the KSC-Law is silent on whether hearings may be conducted before a ‘Panel’ of two Judges (Specialist Chamber of the Constitutional Court, para. 39). Read the rest of this entry…

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Charlie Gard: An Ethical Analysis of a Legal non-Problem

Published on August 9, 2017        Author: 

For those with an internet connection and an interest in current affairs, the story of Charlie Gard been hard to avoid recently. A decent précis is available here; but it’s worth rehearsing.

Shortly after his birth, Charlie’s health began to deteriorate, and he was diagnosed with a terminal and incurable mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. By March 2017, Charlie needed artificial ventilation, and doctors at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH) applied to the High Court for confirmation that removing that ventilation would be lawful, having judged that it was not in his best interests. This was contested by his parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates; the High Court ruled in favour of GOSH. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. During all this time, Charlie remained ventilated.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Francis said that his decision was subject to revision should new evidence emerge favouring continued treatment; in July, Charlie’s parents returned to the High Court, claiming that Charlie might benefit from an experimental treatment being offered by Professor Michio Hirano of Columbia University. However, as proceedings advanced, it became clear that Hirano’s proposed treatment had never been used on patients like Charlie, that he had neither seen Charlie nor read his notes when he offered the treatment, and that he had a financial interest in that treatment. The position statement issued by GOSH on the 24th July barely hides the hospital’s legal team’s exasperation. On the 24th July, Charlie’s parents dropped their request for continued treatment. The details of Charlie’s palliative care were still disputed; his parents wanted it to be provided at home, with ventilation maintained for a few days. The High Court ruled against this on the 27th July. Charlie was moved to a hospice; his ventilator was removed, and he died on the 28th July, a few days before his first birthday. Read the rest of this entry…

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