Vasilescu v. Belgium: The Same Old Belgian Song of Structural Deplorable Prison Conditions

This guest post was written by Rebecca Deruiter. PhD Researcher at the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP), Ghent University [1]

In its recent ruling in Vasilescu v. Belgium, the European Court of Human Rights convicted the Belgian state of inhuman and degrading treatment violating Article 3, for the deplorable detention conditions during the applicant’s confinement. Since enhancements to certain Belgian detention facilities can be labelled as ‘too little too late’, this judgment reaffirms, yet again, the enduring criticism by national and international observers. This not only negatively affects prisoners but has also wider implications for cooperation between EU Member States in criminal matters constructed on the principle of mutual recognition. Once more the Court ruled against Belgium, but at what point will the Belgian state finally listen?

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Extra-territorial Jurisdiction & Flexible Human Rights Obligations: The Case of Jaloud v. the Netherlands

This guest post was written by Cedric De Koker, Phd Researcher, IRCP, Ghent University.

With its judgment in the case of Jaloud v. the Netherlands, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has added another chapter to its growing body of case law relating to the extra-territorial application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the context of military operations abroad. The case is interesting for two reasons: first, the Netherlands (and the United Kingdom as an intervening third party) resorted to the often used, but rarely successful strategy of disputing the extra-territorial applicability of the Convention (and thus the admissibility of the claims presented by the applicant). Therefore, the Court had to interpret Article 1 ECHR once again – arguably the most difficult provision of the Convention to apply – and pronounce on whether the events under review fell ‘within the jurisdiction’ of the Netherlands. Second, asked about the scope of the investigative duty under Article 2 ECHR, the Court had to determine whether states have some flexibility in fulfilling their human rights obligations when operating in extraordinary and difficult conditions, such as hostile environments resulting out of armed conflict or occupation, as was the case here. Both issues will be discussed below.

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Silencing the Voices of People with Disabilities: Recent Developments before the European Court of Human Rights

This guest post was written by Constantin Cojocariu, human rights lawyer[1]

Recently, I got involved in a case pending before the European Court of Human Rights – N. v. Romania – on behalf of a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who claimed that his detention for 14 years in high security psychiatric hospitals has been unlawful. I was surprised to notice that although he claimed breaches of Articles 5§1 and 6, the case had only been communicated under Article 8, and that the Court effectively requested the Romanian Government to place him under guardianship so that he may be represented in proceedings before it. Far from being exceptional, this case is part of a broader trend in disability cases, whereby the Court increasingly focuses on issues of process instead of offering substantive guidance, with the result that entrenched abuse and discrimination remain unchallenged. In this post, I examine critically several cases against Romania, mostly decided already, but also pending, including N. v. Romania, that in my view depart from well-established case law and which establish differential standards of scrutiny for persons with disabilities. Continue reading

Tarakhel v. Switzerland: Another Step in a Quiet (R)evolution?

This guest post was written by Nesa Zimmermann, Ph.D. candidate and teaching assistant at the University of Geneva, Switzerland (*)

The Court’s recent ruling in Tarakhel v. Switzerland became famous almost before it was delivered. The case has received strong media attention, and some claimed the judgment signified “the end of the Dublin system”. However, the importance of the Tarakhel judgement should not be overrated. For one thing, it remains yet to be seen to what extent the Court’s ruling can and will be applied to other cases. Besides, even though the case has been called a “principled decision in favour of vulnerable persons”, it consists, from a scholarly point of view, of a series of adjustments: a case contributing to the evolution of existing case law rather than a revolution on its own. Continue reading

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.

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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.

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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].

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