The press and NGOs’ right of access to official documents under strict scrutiny of the European Court of Human Rights
By Dirk Voorhoof* and Rónán Ó Fathaigh**, Ghent University
In its judgment of 28 November 2013 in the case of Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria (OVESSG) the European Court of Human Rights has further clarified and expanded the scope of application of Article 10 of the Convention with regard to the right of access to public documents. The judgment is especially supportive for requests by journalists and NGOs to have access to official documents.
On Wednesday, our research team attended the Grand Chamber hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S.A.S. v. France, in which we submitted a third party intervention on behalf of the Ghent University Human Rights Centre. The case concerns the French law banning the face veil, a highly debated piece of legislation, which was also obvious from the amount of international press covering the hearing. I will first briefly discuss the content of our third-party intervention and then turn to a summary of the hearing which left a positive impression on us.
This guest post was written by Judit Geller* and Adam Weiss**
One month ago, the European Court condemned France under Article 8 for violating the rights of travellers (gens du voyage) by ordering their eviction (see the judgment here). The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) made written submissions as a third-party intervener four and a half years ago. Of the eleven countries where the ERRC is currently litigating Roma rights cases, France is the country where it has the greatest number of cases, and most of those concern housing. This piece discusses the judgment in relation to three key issues for Roma facing eviction: alternative accommodation, the failure to conduct a proportionality exercise, and the use of urgent procedures. Read more…
We would hereby like to inform our readers of a call for information, proposals and views on the longer-term future of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, recently launched by the Council of Europe:
The Council of Europe’s Committee of experts on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights (DH-GDR) is holding an open call for information, proposals and views on the issue of the longer-term reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.
This process follows on from the Brighton Declaration, adopted at a High-level conference in April 2012. It is intended to be open and inclusive, allowing questions to be raised and examined concerning all aspects of the Convention system and the Court.
The results of this work will eventually be included in a report of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), to be submitted by 15 April 2015 to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
The consultation process is open to everyone, subject to certain basic procedural requirements, set out in the submission form.
The deadline for submitting contributions is mid-day (12 p.m., French local time) on Monday 27 January 2014.
The name Mann Singh will probably ring a bell with those who are familiar with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. In Mann Singh v. France (ECHR, 13/11/2008/, no 4479/07), the Strasbourg Court was confronted with the question whether the French obligation to appear bareheaded on photographs on identity documents was compatible with the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. In the case discussed in this post, the same applicant is involved, however, this time he made a claim concerning the prohibition to wear a turban on the photograph on his passport (instead of his driver’s license) and more importantly, he brought his claim in front of the UN Human Rights Committee (hereafter HRC). The same applicant going with almost the same claim to different human rights bodies is quite an exceptional situation. Read more…
Failure to protect minor against stepfather filming her naked violates Article 8: Grand Chamber agrees with our third party intervention in Söderman v. Sweden
On 12 November, the Grand Chamber issued its judgment in the case of Söderman v. Sweden (formerly known as E.S. v. Sweden), finding that Sweden had failed to comply with its positive obligation to protect the applicant’s right to respect for private life (Article 8 ECHR). According to the Grand Chamber, neither a criminal remedy nor a civil remedy existed under Swedish law that could have enabled the applicant to obtain effective protection against the violation of her personal integrity.
The case concerns a fourteen year old girl who discovered that her stepfather had attempted to secretly film her naked – he had hidden a video camera in the laundry basket in the bathroom, directed towards the spot where she normally undressed. The stepfather was not convicted because under Swedish law this act did not qualify as sexual molestation or attempted child pornography, nor was there a general prohibition in Swedish law against filming an individual without his or her consent.
The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University organizes a seminar on the topic of Stereotyping as a Human Rights Issue. The seminar will take place in Ghent on 4 December 2013.
The purpose of this seminar is to explore the topic of stereotyping from a wide human rights perspective. We will address questions like: How do invidious stereotypes affect the enjoyment of human rights? How came the language of stereotyping to be included in human rights treaties such as CEDAW and CRPD? Does human rights law manage to capture the harms of stereotyping? How could human rights law be improved in this respect? What potential has a focus on stereotypes to develop a more robust notion of equality in human rights law?
This is the program: Read more…