Announcement: Event on Whistleblowing in Europe

We are proud to announce – on very short notice – an exciting event on whistleblowing in Europe, organized in Ghent by our Human Rights Centre colleagues Dirk Voorhoof and Flutura Kusari. The event links in neatly with Dirk Voorhoof’s recent post on this blog on the ECtHR judgment of Matúz v. Hungary. Below, you can find a short description of the event. For more information, including the programme and instructions regarding registration (free, but mandatory), please visit the Human Rights Centre’s website here.

The Human Rights Centre and the Centre for Journalism Studies of Ghent University are organising an event entitled “Whistleblowing in Europe: The Case of EULEX and Maria Bamieh.” The event will take place on Tuesday 2 December 2014 at 7 pm in Auditorium NB1, Law Faculty, Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Ghent.

Background: The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is the biggest international mission of the EU, with more than 1,600 staff members and an annual budget of more than 100 million Euros. In her function of public prosecutor for EULEX, Maria Bamieh filed several internal official requests to start an investigation against two of her colleagues suspected of taking bribes to shut down criminal cases. However, no actions were taken by EULEX. Instead, in October 2014 Ms. Bamieh was suspended for “leaking” documents to a local newspaper in Kosovo and a formal investigation was launched against her. Ms. Bamieh  is coming to Ghent University to tell her story as a whistleblower.

At the event, Ms. Maria Bamieh will give a keynote lecture: ‘A whistleblower’s story from Kosovo: a new challenge for Europe’. The lecture will be preceded by introductions by Professor Dirk Voorhoof and Ms. Flutura Kusari.

Whistleblower Protection for Journalist Who Alarmed Public Opinion about Censorship on TV

by Dirk Voorhoof (UGent)

A recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights once more illustrates the need for strict scrutiny by the Strasbourg Court in order to keep up the standards of media freedom and the right of freedom of expression and information in European pluralistic democracies. In the judgment of Matúz v. Hungary the European Court confirms the importance of whistleblower protection, in casu for a journalist who alarmed public opinion about censorship within the public broadcasting organisation in Hungary.

Continue reading

The Dangerous Implications of the “Naked Rambler” Case: On FEMEN Activists and Throwing Paint on Atatürk Statues

By Stijn Smet

On 28 October 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the numerous convictions of Mr. Stephen Peter Gough – better known as “the naked rambler” – for insisting on appearing naked in public at all times, did not violate Mr. Gough’s freedom of expression.

Quite a bit of ink has already been dedicated to Mr. Gough’s case and to explaining why the ECtHR judgment warrants criticism. Particularly worth highlighting are the insightful contributions by Hugh Tomlinson over at Inforrm’s Blog and Marko Milanovic on EJIL: Talk!. Here, I will not regurgitate their poignant critiques. Instead, I set out to question a few specifically troubling passages in the Court’s judgment by indicating the dangerous implications they could have for other, analogous situations.

But first, as tradition dictates, I will briefly summarise the facts of the case and highlight the relevant passages of the Court’s judgment.

Continue reading

Imposing Costs on Newspaper in Successful Source-Protection Case Did Not Violate Article 10

By Ronan Ó Fathaigh

In the summer of 2009, the Irish supreme court issued a landmark opinion, overturning an order issued against a newspaper to answer questions about a leaked document it had received from an anonymous source. However, four months later, the same supreme court ruled that the newspaper was required to pay the legal costs of the government-created body that had sought the order, because the newspaper had destroyed its copy of the leaked document before the legal action had commenced. In a surprising majority opinion, the Fifth Section of the European Court has now ruled in Keena v Ireland, that the imposition of costs on the newspaper, even though its action was successful, was not a violation of Article 10.

Continue reading

Conviction of journalist for reporting about sex abuses in a Christian rehabilitation centre violated Article 10 ECHR

By Flutura Kusari * and Dirk Voorhoof **

In Erla Hlynsdottir v. Iceland (no. 2), an Icelandic journalist had been convicted for defamation after reporting that the director of a Christian rehabilitation centre and his wife had been involved in sex games with patients of the centre. The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 10 of European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that the national courts did not pertinently balance the right to freedom of expression with the right to reputation. According to the Court “the most careful scrutiny” is called for when the measures taken by national authorities are capable of discouraging the participation of the press in debates over matters of legitimate public concern. The Court also refers to “the essential function the press fulfils in a democratic society” as a central factor for its determination in the present case.

Continue reading

Blanket ban on the right of military personnel to form and join a trade union violates Article 11 ECHR

This guest post was written by Isabelle Van Hiel, PhD Researcher and Teaching Assistant at the social law section of the Department of Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law of the Law Faculty of Ghent University.

In two recent cases of 2 October 2014 the ECtHR had to decide on the freedom of association of military personnel. Although the Court already examined cases involving trade union freedom within the police and the civil service, it was the first time that the Court considered the specific situation of the armed forces.

In Matelly v. France (application no. 10609/10), an officer in the French gendarmerie which forms in France a part of the military, was forced to resign from an association named Forum gendarmes et citoyens. The forum was considered by the Director General of the National Gendarmerie as a trade-union-like occupational group, which was prohibited under Article L. 4121-4 of the Defence Code. In ADEFDROMIL v. France (application no. 32191/09) the Association de Défense des Droits des Militaires (ADEFDROMIL), a professional organisation for servicemen, complained about its denial of access to justice, as it was considered to be in breach of the same provisions of Article L. 4121-4 of the Defence Code. This article L. 4121-4 declares the existence of occupational organisations for military personnel as well as the membership of such organisations incompatible with the prescriptions of the military discipline[1].

Continue reading

Religious signs in public schools: Belgian Council of State shows judicial bravery

Co-authored by Yousra Benfquih* and Saïla Ouald Chaib**

As in many other countries in Europe, the wearing of religious signs has been the topic of heated debate in Belgium. This has been the case for public servants, teachers, employees in private firms and the wearing of religious signs by pupils in school. It is the latter issue that was the subject of two recent judgments of the Belgian Council of State (Conseil d’Etat, Belgium’s highest administrative court), judgments that might prove to mark a watershed in the Belgian discourse on headscarf bans, freedom of religion and the right to education of pupils. (The judgments are in Dutch and can be found here and here)[1] The judgments are furthermore interesting because of their inclusive comprehension of neutrality through systematic reference to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. This post will start by briefly shedding light on the structure of the Belgian education system and the implementation of a ban on religious signs in Flanders. We will subsequently highlight the crucial parts of the judgments of the Council of State (hereafter ‘the Council’) and conclude with some reflections.

Continue reading