From ‘enfant terrible’ to the European Court of Human Rights: the case of Bamouhammad against Belgium

By Rebecca Deruiter, PhD Researcher at the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP), Ghent University[1]

In recent years, the case of Farid Bamouhammed has been covered frequently by Belgian media, characterizing him as notoriously unmanageable and resulting in the widespread used nickname of Farid ‘Le Fou’. After numerous judicial proceedings, by both Farid Bamouhammed and the Belgian State at the national level, the ECtHR convicted the Belgian State of violating Articles 3 and 13 ECHR. The applicant argued that the combined effect of numerous transfers and continuously living under a security regime amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, resulting in a deterioration of his mental health. The applicant further argued that he was denied of an effective remedy to defend his complaints.

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The missing voice of pregnant women: third party interventions in the Dubska and Krejzova case

By Fleur van Leeuwen, LL.M. Ph.D., Dutch human rights researcher, based in Istanbul Turkey.

On 29 September 2015 the international organisation Human Rights in Childbirth received a letter from the deputy registrar of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court). They were informed that the President of the Grand Chamber had decided to refuse their request to intervene as a third party in the Court’s proceedings in the case of Dubska and Krejzova v. the Czech Republic[1] – a case regarding a de facto home birth ban currently at the Grand Chamber[2] – as he considered ‘that the intervention requested (was) not necessary in the ‘interests of the proper administration of justice’. Human Rights in Childbirth, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that aims to advance the rights of women in childbirth, was not the only organisation that was refused intervention; the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and human rights experts Dr. Alicia Yamin (Harvard University) and Prof. Paul Hunt (Essex University, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health) were some of the others that were denied leave. On the other hand, the International Study Group of the World Association of Perinatal Medicine (whose brief was written by home birth opponent Dr. Chervenak), the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO),[3] the Czech Ombudsperson: Ms Anna Sabotova, the Czech Union of Midwives (one of the official Czech midwifery organisations), the Croat-, and the Slovak governments were granted leave to intervene. The legal representatives of the applicants in the case were taken aback when they received the letter from the deputy registrar informing them of the accepted and refused amicus curiae briefs: was this not a very arbitrary selection?

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Human Rights Centre Intervenes with UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai in Freedom of Assembly Cases

By Stijn Smet

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University has submitted a joint third party intervention with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, in the ECtHR cases of Mahammad Majidli v. Azerbaijan (no. 3) and three other applications. All four cases concern the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Azerbaijan. The applicants were arrested, detained and criminally convicted for their participation in unauthorised assemblies in the centre of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The demonstrations took place in 2010-2011. They were part of a wave of protests calling for increased democracy, inspired by the so-called ‘Arab spring’.

For the Human Rights Centre, the team that worked on the third party intervention consisted of four students[1] of the Human Rights Law Clinic of Ghent University’s Faculty of Law and their supervisor, Dr. Stijn Smet. In this post, we provide a summary of the arguments presented to the Court in the third party intervention.

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Grand Chamber challenges male-oriented view on keeping silence over mistress and lovechild in pivotal privacy case

By Dirk Voorhoof *

gsdfgdfgThe Grand Chamber’s judgment delivered on 10 November 2015 in Couderc and Hachette Filipacchi Associés v. France elaborates on the appropriate standard for privacy and the media under European human rights law. In essence, the Court discussed the public-interest value of a disputed article published in the magazine Paris Match, revealing aspects of the private life of a public person exercising an important political function. This blog, written on 11 November, Women’s Day in Belgium, focusses in particular on women’s right to tell the story of a relationship as a matter of personal identity.

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Don’t open the floodgates: fines and Article 1 Protocol 1

In the recent case of Konstantin Stefanov, the Strasbourg Court examined the acceptability of a fine (the equivalent of EUR 260) imposed on a lawyer, appointed ex officio by a domestic court, for declining to represent a defendant from the viewpoint of Article 1 Protocol 1. The Court did not find a violation of this provision, taking into account the wide margin of appreciation allowed to the State in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the justice system, the fact that a remedy to challenge the fine had been available to the applicant and because the Court considered the amount of the fine “neither prohibitive, nor oppressive or otherwise disproportionate”. This blog post is not concerned with the outcome of the case, but rather with the remarkable fact of the Court considering it self-evident that the imposition of a fine interferes with the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

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Journalist must comply with police order to disperse while covering demonstration

By Dirk Voorhoof *


Recently, the Council of Europe Task Force for Freedom of Expression and Media published a book under the title “Journalism at risk. Threats, challenges and perspectives”. Since a Grand Chamber judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 20 October 2015, a new threat for journalistic freedom has obviously emerged, that is the risk for journalists to be detained, prosecuted and convicted for disobeying a police order while covering a public demonstration. At least, that is the consequence of the judgment in the case of Pentikäinen v. Finland.

The Grand Chamber concludes that the interference with a press photographer’s right to freedom of expression and newsgathering because of disobeying a police order to leave the scene of a demonstration that had turned into a riot, can be said to have been “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Article 10 of the Convention. At an earlier stage in this procedure the Chamber of the fourth section, with five votes to two, had come to the same conclusion (see our blogs in March 2014, here and here).

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Protestor’s arrest and conviction for disobeying a police order violated Article 11

By Ronan Ó Fathaigh

The European Court’s First Section has unanimously held that a protestor’s arrest and conviction for failing to obey a police order violated his Article 11 right to freedom of assembly, despite the demonstration being unlawful. The First Section’s opinion in Mammadov v. Azerbaijan tackled the difficult issue of how police officers are supposed to respond to unlawful demonstrations, and whether protestors who participate in such demonstrations, but remain peaceful, may still be arrested.

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