The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University organizes a seminar on the topic of Stereotyping as a Human Rights Issue. The seminar will take place in Ghent on 4 December 2013.
The purpose of this seminar is to explore the topic of stereotyping from a wide human rights perspective. We will address questions like: How do invidious stereotypes affect the enjoyment of human rights? How came the language of stereotyping to be included in human rights treaties such as CEDAW and CRPD? Does human rights law manage to capture the harms of stereotyping? How could human rights law be improved in this respect? What potential has a focus on stereotypes to develop a more robust notion of equality in human rights law?
This is the program: Read more…
On 8 October 2013, the European Court of Human Rights released its judgment in the case of Ricci v. Italy. The case concerned a broadcast by the satirical television programme Striscia la notizia (on Canale 5), which aired an intercepted episode of another television programme, normally broadcast on the public network RAI. The applicant in Ricci is the producer of the programme. In its judgment, the Court ruled that the domestic authorities – which had sentenced the applicant to four months imprisonment – had imposed a disproportionate sanction on her. However, the Court also ruled that the applicant had acted in contravention of the ethics of journalism by disseminating confidential communications and that, therefore, her condemnation as such did not violate art. 10 ECHR. It was only because of the imposition of an excessive – criminal – sanction that her freedom of expression had been violated. The Court’s judgment is particularly interesting, because it continues the recent trend of chastising applicants for the means they have chosen to exercise their freedom of expression, thereby seemingly imposing a less restrictive alternative requirement upon them.
Qualification of news portal as publisher of users’ comment may have far-reaching consequences for online freedom of expression: Delfi AS v. Estonia
This guest post was written by Dirk Voorhoof*
The European Court’s judgment of 10 October 2013 in Delfi AS v. Estonia has caused a lot of controversy in the world of online media, news portals, internet-groups and freedom of expression websites. Especially the criticism by Article 19, Index on Censorship and The Guardian (amongst others, also here, here, here and here) initiated a robust debate. The judgment has been qualified as a “serious blow to freedom of expression online”, ignoring the relevant international standards on the limited liability of host-providers. The Court’s judgment dealing with a crucial issue of freedom of expression on the internet has promptly been integrated in the updated fact sheet of the European Court’s case law on New Technologies. But at the same time it has been very negatively welcomed as it should “worry all websites allowing users to comment below online articles” and “send a shiver of fear down any website operator’s spine”. Also at the Internet Governance Forum held in Bali (Indonesia, 21-25 October 2013) the judgment’s possible impact on pre-monitoring user generated content and on the erosion of the limited liability of internet intermediaries was vigorously debated. What’s all the fuss about?
The Strasbourg Court has recently delivered its first judgment on the topic of HIV-based employment discrimination. I.B. v. Greece (judgment in French!) concerns a man who is HIV-positive and who was fired from his job, because his employer wished to keep the company running smoothly. What happened was that a group of I.B.’s co-workers, finding out about his HIV diagnosis, had called for his dismissal because they were afraid of contagion.
Although much of the legal reasoning in this judgment is familiar (notably from the landmark case of Kiyutin v. Russia), this ruling is notable for the strong message the Court sends about the harms of HIV-based stigma and discrimination. In this post I will highlight what are to my mind the most noteworthy aspects of this judgment, namely that the Court applies a social model of disability and that it uses the concept of vulnerable groups to narrow the margin of appreciation. The drawback of this judgment, I conclude, is that it does not give much support to HIV-positive people requiring some form of accomodation from their employer. Read more…
Guest post on Epistatu v. Romania: a missed opportunity for clarification on (young) prisoners’ education
This guest post was written by Yousra Benfquih*
In the case of Epistatu v. Romania of 24 September 2013 before the European Court of Human Rights, the applicant, Mr. Cristian Epistatu, a Romanian national and final-year high-school student born in 1990, was sentenced to five and a half years’ imprisonment by a judgment of 12 March 2009 of the Bucharest County Court. Whilst the ECtHR decided that the detention conditions caused the applicant suffering attaining the threshold of degrading treatment proscribed by Article 3 ECHR, the latter’s complaint under Article 6 ECHR concerning the fairness of his criminal proceedings was declared manifestly ill-founded. More important, and subject-matter of the present guest post, was the applicant’s complaint that his right to education as guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR had been breached. He argued that this was the case as he was forced to abandon his last year of high-school in order to serve his prison sentence and the Romanian prison authorities did not allow him to complete his high-school education in prison. At the time of his incarceration, the applicant had completed eleven years of education and was enrolled in the twelfth year at a high-school. As his requests to the wardens of the different prisons he had been detained in to be allowed to complete his last year of high-school had been refused, the applicant held that the domestic authorities had failed to take any action to enable him to finish his studies.
Newspaper Editor Criminally Liable for Senator’s Op-Ed, But Prison Sentence Violated Article 10: Belpietro v. Italy
This guest post was written by Ronan Ó Fathaigh* and Dirk Voorhoof**
Nine years ago, in its landmark Cumpănă and Mazăre v. Romania judgment, a unanimous Grand Chamber laid down a rare absolute rule that prison sentences for defamation are never justified under Article 10 where the defamatory statements concern a matter of public interest. This rule against prison sentences included pardoned, suspended, or conditional sentences, effectively removing from European legislatures and courts the ability to impose such sentences. Last week, the Second Section of the Court correctly applied Cumpănă and Mazăre, holding in Belpietro v. Italy that a suspended four-month prison sentence given to a newspaper editor for criminal defamation violated Article 10. Somewhat more controversially, however, the Court also held that in principle, imposing criminal liability on a newspaper editor for publishing a defamatory article written by an Italian senator raised no issue under Article 10.
I am very pleased to announce the publication of my article ‘Conflicts between Absolute Rights: A Reply to Steven Greer’ in the latest issue of Human Rights Law Review.
The article can be found here.
This is the abstract:
Can absolute rights conflict? Is it permissible to torture a person to save others from torture? And what can judges learn from trolleys? In this article, presented as a reply to an article by Steven Greer, I investigate the above questions in the context of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Drawing on Gäfgen v Germany, I construct a hypothetical case of conflicting absolute rights, which cannot be resolved by the existing strands of legal reasoning in the case law of the Court. Instead, I argue, recourse must be had to moral reasoning. In discussing one of moral philosophy’s deepest conundrums—the Trolley Problem—I rely on the distinction between negative and positive obligations and between direct and indirect agency to unravel the dilemma. Translating the moral argument into legal reasoning, I conclude that in cases of conflicts between absolute rights, negative obligations principally trump positive obligations.