magnify
Home Human Rights Archive for category "Right To Privacy/Family Life" (Page 5)

Interference-Based Jurisdiction Over Violations of the Right to Privacy

Published on November 21, 2013        Author: 

Carly NystCarly Nyst is Head of International Advocacy at Privacy International, a London-based human rights organisation.

The recent revelations of global surveillance practices have prompted a fundamental re-examination of the role and responsibility of States with respect to cross-border surveillance. The patchwork of secret spying programmes and intelligence-sharing agreements implemented by parties to the Five Eyes arrangement (the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) constitutes an integrated global surveillance arrangement that covers the majority of the world’s communications.

At the heart of this arrangement are carefully constructed legal frameworks that provide differing levels of protections for internal versus external communications, or those relating to nationals versus non-nationals. These frameworks attempt to circumvent national constitutional or human rights protections governing interferences with the right to privacy of communications that, States purport, apply only to nationals or those within their territorial jurisdiction.

In doing so, the States not only defeat the spirit and purpose of international human rights instruments; they are in direct violation of their obligations under such instruments. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Surveillance Without Borders? The Unlawfulness of the NSA-Panopticon, Part I

Published on November 1, 2013        Author: 

imagesCAWC9CTM

Introduction: The draft GA resolution on privacy on the Internet

At the end of October 2013, a draft General Assembly resolution calling for the right to privacy on the Internet was sponsored by Brazil and Germany. (photo: a panopticon, credit)

The draft resolution reaffirms the human right to privacy. It calls upon states to take measures to put an end to violations of these rights (operative para. 4 b), calls upon states to review their procedures, practices and legislation concerning the extra-territorial surveillance of private communications (para. 4 b) and calls upon states to establish independent oversight mechanisms capable of ensuring the transparency and accountability of state surveillance of communications (para. 4 d).

Although the draft resolution does not mention the United States or the National Security Agency (NSA), it is indirectly reacting against the NSA’s recent espionage and surveillance activities conducted in a number of European states, including France, Italy, and Spain. This two-part post will focus on surveillance of German officials including the chancellor Angela Merkel and of ordinary persons in Germany by way of example. Spying on government officials concerns general international law, which will be the focus of Part I of this post. Part II will focus on the bugging of the communication of private persons, which implicates human rights law.

Breach of international law vis-à-vis the surveilled states

The interception of communication by government officials, agents, and authorities seems to constitute espionage. However, there are no specific international law norms that would contain or regulate espionage.

Spying has been more common (and more acceptable under international law) during war and under the international rules of armed conflict. If the United States seek to justify their surveillance activities by pointing to the “global war on terror” or, to use the term employed by former US legal adviser Harold Koh, “armed conflict with Al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces”, the US would first have to show that there is indeed, in Germany, an armed conflict of this type. This seems difficult to demonstrate because the geographic and substantive nexus to the battlefield is lacking. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

In Defence of a More Sophisticated and Nuanced Approach To Abortion: A Response to Gregor Puppinck

Rumyana Grozdanova, Alice Panepinto and Konstantina Tzouvala are PhD Candidates at Durham University Law School, UK.

The primary purpose of this response is to re-evaluate the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) on abortion, which we found to be misrepresented in Mr Puppinck’s recent EJIL: Talk! piece. Even though the Court has admittedly not recognised a general right to abortion, it has systematically been pressing more conservative Member-States to respect their own legislation and relax the absolute prohibition of abortion under certain circumstances. While the Court may have been too shy in its push for expanded protection of women’s reproductive rights instead of having a more muscular approach, the trend is visible and is gaining momentum.  In this context, it is vital to appreciate the rulings of both domestic courts and the ECtHR on this issue in their entirety in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the current legal concerns and potential future solutions. The international human rights project seeks to provide fundamental freedoms and rights for each and all of us. Mr Puppinck’s attitude towards the ‘free will of women’ combined with his (mis)representation of abortion is not particularly constructive and his legal analysis is not sufficiently nuanced.

In the late 2012 P. and S. v. Poland case, the Court stated that Poland’s failure to protect a 14-year-old rape victim from harassment, due to her decision to have an abortion (available under Polish law in the circumstances), and the fact that legal proceedings were initiated against her for “illicit sexual relations”, amounted to violations of Art. 3 regarding inhuman and degrading treatment; of her right to privacy and family life (Article 8), to liberty and security (Art. 5 par. 1). Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Abortion on Demand and the European Convention on Human Rights

Published on February 23, 2013        Author: 

Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), Expert at the Council of Europe. This article synthesises a section of a study on “Abortion and the European Convention on Human Rights” that will be published in the coming weeks.

The European Court of Human Rights (the Court) has issued several judgments on abortion, especially in recent years since the fundamental ruling of the Grand Chamber in A. B. and C. v. Ireland of 2010. In those cases, the Court found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) in specific situations where the life or the health of the pregnant woman was endangered, or when the pregnancy was the consequence of a rape. The purpose of this article is firstly to identify the rationale of the Court on the matter of abortion, and secondly to observe how it applies to the vast majority of abortions practiced, i.e. “abortion on demand”, also called on request:  abortions that are not justified by a matter of health, life or rape, but by the free will of the woman.

Through its various rulings, the Court explicitly declared that abortion is not a right under the Convention: there is no right to have an abortion (Silva Monteiro Martins Ribeiro v. Portugal) or to practice it (Jean-Jacques Amy v. Belgium). The prohibition per se of abortion by a State does not violate the Convention, (Silva Monteiro Martins Ribeiro v. Portugal see also the case of the first two applicants who unsuccessfully complained of the prohibition of abortion on demand in A. B. and C. v. Ireland), but States can allow it for the sake of competing rights guaranteed by the Convention, i.e. the life and the health of the pregnant woman. In other words, it can be said that the Court tolerates an abortion if it is justified by a proportionate motive protected by the Convention. Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

European Court Decides Nada v. Switzerland

Published on September 14, 2012        Author: 

As announced, the Grand Chamber’s judgment in Nada v. Switzerland, no. 10593/08 is available here. I can’t blog about it more extensively as I’m in Valencia right now for the ESIL conference, but the gist of the judgment is as a follows:

1) The applicant wins, on relatively narrow grounds under Article 8, and more broadly under Article 13 of the Convention. When examining Article 8, the Court engages in its assessment of the relationship between the ECHR and state obligations under the UN Charter, specifically UNSC resolution, and the effect of the supremacy clause in Article 103 of the Charter.

2) In that regard, the Court quite correctly finds that while the applicant’s listing by the Sanctions Committee of the UNSC was attributable to the UN, the implementation of the sanctions by Switzerland was attributable to Swtizerland itself (para. 121). The Court then finds (para. 122) that:

The measures in issue were therefore taken in the exercise by Switzerland of its “jurisdiction” within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention. The impugned acts and omissions are thus capable of engaging the respondent State’s responsibility under the Convention. It also follows that the Court has jurisdiction ratione personae to entertain the present application.

Note that the Court here skirts the non-obvious question of the ECHR’s extraterritorial application (a point that as far as I am aware was not argued by the respondent government). That the implementation of the travel ban imposed against the applicant and Switzerland’s decision to deny him access to Swiss territory in order to leave the 1.6 sq km Italian enclave of Campione were undoubtedly attributable to Switzerland does not ipso facto entail that the applicant had rights vis-a-vis Switzerland under the Convention; the former is an issue of attribution of conduct, the latter of the threshold criterion for the existence of a legal obligation. The Court does not explain under what theory exactly the applicant had rights against Switzerland even though he does not live in Switzerland proper, nor how its position is to be squared with its prior case law on the matter (cf. Bankovic in particular, Al-Skeini notwithstanding).

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

Incest in the European Court

Published on April 15, 2012        Author: 

A couple of days ago the European Court of Human Rights decided a strange case, Stübing v Germany (no. 43547/08), judgment. An adult brother and sister engaged in consensual sexual intercourse, a punishable criminal offense in Germany and about a half of other European countries. The brother, applicant in this case, got a prison sentence. The other half of European countries do not criminalize adult incest. The issue before the Court was whether such a criminalization was consistent with the right to private and family life in Article 8 ECHR. The Court said that it was. For analysis, see this excellent post by Daniel Sokol on the UK Human Rights Blog.

What’s so fascinating about this case is that it is ultimately hard to pinpoint the moral, and hence legal justification for punishing adult incest, other than for the ‘yuck’ factor, i.e. a basically emotional response to the violation of a taboo. And this raises the specter of the justification for pure morals legislation generally, as e.g. with regard to the Naked Rambler, about whom I’ve written a few weeks ago. In other words, while the basis for most modern theories of morality or ethics, be they Kantian or utilitarian or what have you, is that morality is essentially a rational process that can be subjected to analysis through human reason, cases like these point to morality as an intuitive, emotional response in human beings. As a legal matter, the question is whether the simple fact that the community finds a particular practice to be incredbily disgusting is in and of itself enough to punish that practice through the mechanisms of the state. If, in other words, it is not okay for a state to criminalize homosexual intercourse merely because the majority of the population finds  the practice to be disgusting (or found it such then) – see Dudgeon v. UK – how could it be okay to punish consensual adult incest merely because we find it to be disgusting?

In that regard, the European Court’s non-response to this question was quite predictable:

Read the rest of this entry…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
 

The Law Lords’ Final Judgments

Published on July 31, 2009        Author: 

Yesterday the House of Lords delivered its last judgments as the final court of appeal in England and Wales. For many, many, many years (as with all thing English), the House of Lords had a dual function, sitting as both a part of the legislature and the judiciary. From 1 October this year, the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will be sitting on Parliament Square, comprised of twelve current Lords of Appeal in the Ordinary.

Among the various domestic high courts, the Law Lords were probably without peer in their application of international law, particularly human rights law. It is thus fitting that they went out with a bang, rather than a whimper. Among their final judgments is Purdy v. DPP, where their Lordships unanimously held that the Director of Public Prosecutions (who as in other common law system has a discretion, rather than an ex officio duty to prosecute), had to publish a clear statement of policy as to when and under what circumstances he would prosecute persons assisting their terminally ill loved ones in going to a clinic in Switzerland to obtain euthanasia. Their Lordships based their decision on the legal predictability requirement under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In parting, one could only say that if some of the other European states (you know who they are) had a judicial system that was even only half as effective as is the English judiciary, and the House of Lords in particular, in the protection of individual rights under the Human Rights Act (and make no mistake about it, the HRA was truly a moment of fundamental constitutional change in the UK, requiring an enormous amount of adjustment and good will from the judiciary), then the case load of the Strasbourg Court would not be as unmanageable, nor would there be all the Protocol 14s, 14bis and other restrictions on the right of individual petition, which are ultimately only stop-gap measures that lead to nowhere. Nor would, for that matter, the Court itself be the bloated, bureaucratic, basically almost entirely Registry-run institution that it is today. (As the readers might have guessed, I have a truly Kafkian horror story or two to tell in regard of a client that I’ve represented, but I’ll refrain from doing so to avoid the stereotype of a complaining loser).

Anyway, as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email