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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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

Belgium violated the ECHR by extraditing a terrorist to the USA despite an interim measure by the Strasbourg Court: Trabelsi v. Belgium

The Trabelsi case is noteworthy for two reasons. Firstly, because of the blatant disregard by Belgium of the interim measure issued by the European Court of Human Rights. Secondly, because of the application of the reasoning from Vinter v. UK – in which the Court found that life without parole is incompatible with Article 3 ECHR – to the context of extradition proceedings. The Court finds that the applicant’s extradition by Belgium to the USA, where he ran the risk of being convicted to life without parole and despite an interim measure to the contrary, was in violation of Articles 3 and 34 ECHR. This blog post will first highlight the latter violation, before questioning the Court’s reasoning with respect to the former one.

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The multifaceted and crucial role played by NGOs at the European Court of Human Rights

This guest post was written by Laura Van den Eynde, Doctoral Researcher at Université libre de Bruxelles. (*)

On 17 and 24 July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights decided three cases, one against Romania concerning the death of a mentally disabled and HIV-positive young Roma and two other cases against Poland concerning the detention and transfer of terrorist suspects who were subjected to torture.[1] Beyond the fact that the cases involve particularly shocking human rights violations and that the judgments are quite long, what else would they have in common? As will be demonstrated hereunder, these cases would not have been decided – or decided with that information at hand – if there hadn’t been civil society organizations caring to denounce and document the human rights violations at stake. Continue reading

The European Court of Human Rights has spoken … again. Does Turkey listen?

This guest post was written by Dr Elena Katselli, Senior Lecturer in Law at Newcastle Law School

Thirteen years have elapsed since the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) judgment in Cyprus v Turkey in which the Court found Turkey responsible for 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its Protocols. The violations related to 1,485 Greek Cypriots who disappeared during the Turkish military invasion and occupation of Cyprus in 1974; the living conditions of enclaved Greek Cypriots living in the occupied area of Karpas since thereafter; and displacement.[1] Continue reading

Abdu v. Bulgaria – Yet another case of racist violence before the Court!

This guest post was written by Mathias Möschel, post-doctoral researcher at Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. (*)

Abdu v. Bulgaria deals with a fact pattern which the Court has seen many times over the past fifteen years: racist violence. Moreover, it involves a country which has also stood a number of times before the European judges for human rights violations involving either police violence (see e.g. Velikova v. Bulgaria and Ognyanova and Choban v. Bulgaria) or private violence against racial minorities (see e.g. Dimitrova and Others v. Bulgaria, Seidova and Others v. Bulgaria, and Yotova v. Bulgaria). Continue reading

And the question still remains: when is it allowed to use tear gas or pepper spray?

This post was written by Sophie Forrez. Sophie is a Ph.D. Researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. She works on a project on the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Belgian legal order in the early years of the Convention.

In two recent cases, Tali v. Estonia and Gramada v. Romania, the European Court of Human Rights dealt with the use of pepper spray and tear gas. In both cases, the Court found a violation of article 3 of the Convention. The first case concerns the use of pepper spray and the practice of strapping prisoners to a restraint bed in penal institutions. The second case deals with a police officer using tear gas and shooting the applicant in the thigh during an ordinary arrest of an individual who was on the run and took refuge in the applicant’s home. Although in both cases a violation was found, both judgments missed a perfect opportunity to create more clarity on the ground.

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