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.

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.

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Symposium ‘(How) Should the European Court of Human Rights Resolve Conflicts between Human Rights’

I am very pleased to announce the Symposium ‘(How) Should the European Court of Human Rights Resolve Conflicts between Human Rights’, which will be organised by the Human Rights Centre in Ghent on 16 October 2014.

The event will bring together an outstanding roster of European scholars and experts in the field: Samantha Besson, Sébastien Van Drooghenbroeck, Stijn Smet, Maleiha Malik, Christopher McCrudden, Leto Cariolou, Dirk Voorhoof, Eva Brems, Lorenzo Zucca, Javier Martínez-Torrón and Ian Leigh.

We are particularly proud to announce the presence of a number of (former) ECtHR Judges, who will act as commentators at the event: President Dean Spielmann, current Judges Ineta Ziemele and Paul Lemmens; and former Judges Françoise Tulkens and Lech Garlicki.

The Symposium will kick off with a general panel, on which three speakers will present their general approaches to the resolution of conflicts between human rights in the ECHR context. The remaining panels will each address a specific ECtHR case, namely Eweida v. UK (in the application of Ms. Ladele), Axel Springer v. GermanyEvans v. UK and Fernández Martínez v. Spain. Speakers on the specific panels will be joined in pairs and will present their respective views on how to tackle the conflict inherent in the respective cases.

The Judges commentators will evaluate the speakers’ arguments and proposals in light of the ECtHR case law.

Attendance of the Symposium is free. More information on the event, including a detailed programme, can be found here.

To register, please send an e-mail to Stijn Smet on hrcevent[at]ugent.be.

Fernández Martínez v. Spain: The Grand Chamber Putting the Brakes on the ‘Ministerial Exception’ for Europe?

Recently, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its eagerly awaited judgment in Fernández Martínez v. Spain. The case concerned the refusal to renew the contract of a teacher of Catholic religion and ethics in a public secondary school, because he had allegedly caused a “scandal” when his situation of ‘married priest’ and his membership of the Movement for Optional Celibacy of priests became public knowledge. By a narrow 9-8 split decision, the Grand Chamber ruled that the applicant’s right to private life had not been violated.

Before the judgment came out, I was fairly confident that it would affirm what I have termed the ‘ministerial exception for Europe’ in an earlier post. Now that the judgment is out, I am forced to come to the opposite conclusion. Instead of confirming the reasoning of the Third Section, the Grand Chamber in Fernández Martínez appears to hark back to the reasoning in earlier cases, such as Obst v. Germany and Schüth v. Germany.

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Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2013 – The Winners!

Now that a little over a month has passed since the opening of the polls and over 250 votes have been cast, it is time to announce the winners – and ‘winners’ – in the categories of best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2013!

In the category of best judgment, celebrating the best the ECtHR had to offer in 2013, Vallianatos and Others v. Greece takes the prize with 22.5% of the vote, just ahead of Horváth and Kiss v. Hungary (17%) and Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom (13.5%). In Vallianatos, the Grand Chamber of the Court took an incremental step towards full equality for LGBT by ruling that Contracting States that introduce a system of registered partnerships have to open that system up to same-sex couples, since barring them entails unjustified discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In the category of worst judgment, indicating that there is always room for improvement, the ‘winner’ is even clearer. By far the worst ECtHR judgment of 2013, according to the votes received, was Delfi AS v. Estonia. Delfi received an impressive 37% of the vote, double that of the second placed Animal Defenders International v. the United Kingdom (18.5%), with Bouyid v. Belgium landing a solid third place with 15% of the vote. Fortunately, this is one of those wonderful cases in which we are able to report that bad news is followed by good news, since the ‘winner’ in the category of worst judgment – Delfi - has recently been referred to the Grand Chamber, offering the Court a chance to redeem itself!

Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2013

Following the success of last year’s poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2012, we are hereby inviting all our readers to vote for the new edition: the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2013. The poll is intended as a celebration of the best the ECtHR had to offer in 2013, but also as a reminder that it sometimes failed to effectively protect the Convention’s human rights.

To guide the process, we have taken the liberty of proposing a preliminary selection of candidates in each category (listed in reverse alphabetical order). However, feel free to indicate your preferred – or despised – alternative judgment by selecting the option “Other”. We will have access to the names of the judgments entered and will regularly post an update on the votes for “Other” in the comments section.

And now, here are the nominees in the categories of best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2013:

 

 

 

A brief summary of the nominated judgments follows below. A link to a blog post on each judgment is also offered, providing further insights into the reasons for its nomination.

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Human Rights Centre Supports Request for Referral to the Grand Chamber in Delfi AS v. Estonia

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University has expressed its support for the request for referral to the Grand Chamber in the freedom of expression case of Delfi AS v. Estonia. The Human Rights Centre has submitted its considerations in a joint letter to the European Court of Human Rights, signed by an impressive list of 69 media organisations, internet companies, human rights groups and academic institutions.

As indicated in the joint letter to the Court

The [Delfi] case involves the liability of an online news portal for third-party defamatory comments posted by readers on the portal’s website, below a news item. A unanimous chamber of the First Section found no violation of Article 10, even though the news piece itself was found to be balanced and contained no offensive language. The portal acted quickly to remove the defamatory comments as soon as it received a complaint from the affected person, the manager of a large private company.

A few excerpts from the letter to the Court are reproduced below. The full text of the letter can be found here. The full text of the referral request is available here. Finally, a critical post on the Chamber judgment in Delfi AS v. Estoina – written for Strasbourg Observers by Professor Dirk Voorhoof – can be found here.

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