Third Party Interventions before the ECtHR: A Rough Guide

This guest post was written by Paul Harvey, a UK lawyer in the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. This article is an edited version of a paper given at the European University Institute, Florence on 28 January 2015. The views expressed are personal. Comments are welcome at paulgharvey[at]gmail.com.

What constitutes an effective third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights? Before answering that, it is necessary to make three preliminary points on what distinguishes the practice of the Strasbourg Court on third party interventions from other courts.

First, the Court has always had a comparatively liberal policy as regards granting leave to third party interveners. Second, since the third party interventions of Amnesty International and the German Government in Soering v. the United Kingdom in 1989, there have been well over a hundred significant interventions in Court’s cases. The Court has generally been well served by these interventions, though for reasons I shall come to, in some cases it has been less well served in recent years. Third, a survey of those interventions shows a striking range in both the types of interveners and the types of cases in which they have intervened. There have been broadly six types. Continue reading

Another episode in the Strasbourg saga on the Dublin System to determine the State Responsible for Asylum Applications

This guest post was written by Salvo Nicolosi, Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University’s Human Rights Centre.

The recent decision in A.M.E. v. The Netherlands, issued by the European Court of Human Rights last 13 January 2015 and notified in writing on 5 February 2015, offers another occasion to assess through a human rights perspective the working of the Dublin system for determining which State is responsible for deciding an asylum seeker’s application for international protection.

Based on Dublin II Regulation 343/2003 (now replaced by Dublin III Regulation 604/2013) such system has represented the core of a thriving case law of the Strasbourg Court, including the case under discussion. The analysis will be therefore enhanced by discussing the findings in other two key cases to which the Strasbourg made explicit reference in A.M.E. v. The Netherlands, namely the recent Tarakhel v. Switzerland and M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece. Continue reading

The Fourth Section’s Curious Take on Article 10 in Petropavlovskis v. Latvia: Two Comments

This guest post was written by Corina Heri, Ph.D. researcher at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, and visiting researcher at the Human Rights Centre, Ghent University[1]

In its recent judgment in Petropavlovskis v. Latvia, the European Court of Human Rights considered whether the domestic authorities’ refusal to naturalize a government-critical activist constituted a punitive measure in violation of that individual’s rights to freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR) and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11 ECHR). The present post will comment on two aspects of the Court’s reasoning regarding Article 10 ECHR. In evaluating the applicability of that provision, the Chamber focused on whether the applicant has a right to acquire Latvian nationality and whether he was prevented from voicing his opinions. These emphases of the judgment mean that the matter at the heart of the case, namely whether the applicant was penalized for expressing his opinions, was not addressed.

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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