Don’t open the floodgates: fines and Article 1 Protocol 1

In the recent case of Konstantin Stefanov, the Strasbourg Court examined the acceptability of a fine (the equivalent of EUR 260) imposed on a lawyer, appointed ex officio by a domestic court, for declining to represent a defendant from the viewpoint of Article 1 Protocol 1. The Court did not find a violation of this provision, taking into account the wide margin of appreciation allowed to the State in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the justice system, the fact that a remedy to challenge the fine had been available to the applicant and because the Court considered the amount of the fine “neither prohibitive, nor oppressive or otherwise disproportionate”. This blog post is not concerned with the outcome of the case, but rather with the remarkable fact of the Court considering it self-evident that the imposition of a fine interferes with the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

Continue reading

New publication: Poverty and the ECHR

I’m happy to announce the publication of my article “Strengthening the Protection of Human Rights of Persons Living in Poverty under the ECHR” in the September edition of Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights. In my article, which could hardly be any more topical than in today’s austerity-struck Europe, I address questions such as: what is the European Court of Human Rights’ record in protecting the human rights of persons living in poverty? What are the limitations of its current approach? What kind of legal approaches could assist the Court in better grasping the nature of poverty as capability deprivation? And how could this, ultimately, result in a stronger protection of the human rights of persons living in poverty?

This is the abstract:

In recent years, the European Court of Human Rights has developed a significant jurisprudence which illustrates the added value of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the field of poverty. Building on the findings of Amartya Sen’s “capability approach”, the article examines the extent to which the Court has grasped the nature of poverty as “capability deprivation”. It is argued that, due to polycentric concerns and a reluctance to overcome the negative / positive obligations and civil and political / social and economic rights dichotomies, the Court has only, to a limited extent, done so. Subsequently, three approaches are examined that could allow it to better take into account the findings of the “capability approach” and that could allow for enhanced protection of the human rights of persons living in poverty under the ECHR: endorsing a more complex perspective on the responsibility of the state; analysing poverty as a failure to provide substantive equality; and recognising the vulnerability of persons living in poverty.

Research methodology for case law analysis: An appeal for openness

By Saïla Ouald Chaib

The enrolment as a PhD student does not come with a handbook. Consequently, you are somewhat forced from the start to reflect not only about the research subject, but also on the methodology you will use. In my case indeed, I spent some time not only doing research on the substantive part of my dissertation topic, but also doing research on doing research. My dissertation focused on the right to freedom of religion in the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg Court and case law analysis occupied therefore a central position in my work. Very soon I was confronted with a lot of questions. Do I first dive into the literature on the subject or do I first analyse the case law? Which cases should I read and how many? How should I approach the case law? This blogpost does not intend to draw a roadmap of how to conduct case law analysis. In fact, there is no such thing as one case-law analysis method. Instead, I want to share one of the ways I analysed the case-law and how methodologies from outside the legal sciences inspired me in the process. Continue reading

Appointment of the Court’s Registrar: Towards More Transparency

This guest post was written by Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Surrey.

The Council of Europe has recently announced a vacant position for Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights. For the last ten years, Erik Fribergh has been Registrar of the Court. Before that, he worked as a Deputy Registrar and Section Registrar of the Court. His successful career in the Court lasted for more than 30 years and he clearly represents the institutional memory of the Court. His life in the Court highlights the crucial importance of the Registry of the Court and the position of Registrar for the functioning of the ECtHR. This short comment aims to highlight some preliminary observations on the importance of the position of Registrar and the legitimacy of the process of his or her appointment.

Continue reading

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]

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

The Results Are In: Poll on Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2014

With an impressive 1,000 votes cast, the time has come to announce the winners and losers of this year’s poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2014.

We will not let the audience linger in anxious anticipation, but will get straight down to the nitty-gritty. Here are the results:

Best Judgment – Top 3

  1. Matúz v. Hungary (47%).
  2. Tarakhel v. Switzerland (29%).
  3. Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania (15%).

Worst Judgment – Top 3

  1. S.A.S. v. France (40%).
  2. Senchishak v. Finland (36%).
  3. M.E. v. Sweden and Pentikäinen v. Finland (6%).

Festive congratulations to the winner, sincere commiserations to the loser.

A few – speculative – words follow on why the winner might have won, and why the loser might have lost.

Continue reading

Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2014

In keeping with our annual tradition, we hereby kindly invite all our readers to cast their vote for the best and worst European Court of Human Rights judgment of the previous year, i.e. of 2014.

2014 was a year of many highs for the ECtHR, but unfortunately also of a few lows (both liberally defined as such by the Strasbourg Observers team). The good and the bad are reflected in our nominations below.

Underneath the polls, we have provided links to the texts of the nominated judgments and our blog posts on them.

Should you not find your pick off the litter on our shortlists, you can always surprise everyone by introducing a novel contender – potentially saddling us with a dark horse – by selecting “other” and filling in your preference (we will periodically provide an overview of the votes for “other” judgments in the comments section).

As always, we will announce the winners and ‘winners’ (roughly) a month from now.

Let the voting commence!


Links to the nominated judgments and our posts


Al Nashiri v. Poland / Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Polandpost and post.

Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romaniapost.

Matúz v. Hungarypost.

O’Keeffe v. Irelandpost.

Tarakhel v. Switzerland post.


Senchishak v. Finlandpost.

S.A.S. v. France post, post and post.

Pentikäinen v. Finlandpost.

M.E. v. Swedenpost.

Biao v. Denmarkpost.