Cengiz and Others v. Turkey: a tentative victory for freedom of expression online

By Marina van Riel, Resident Fellow, Open Society Justice Initiative, New York (*)

On 1 December 2015, the European Court of Human Rights released a judgment in the case of Cengiz and Others v. Turkey. The main question put before the Court was whether the blocking of the popular video-sharing website YouTube constituted a violation of users’ Convention rights. Having first established the victim status of the applicants, the Court went on to find a violation of their right to receive and impart information under Article 10 ECHR.

Continue reading

Face veils in Strasbourg (bis): the Belgian cases

By Eva Brems

In the Grand Chamber judgment of SAS v France (2014) the European Court of Human Rights held that France’s ban on face covering in public could be justified under article 9 ECHR as a proportionate measure for the aim of guaranteeing ‘le vivre ensemble’ (living together). Given the storm of protest that this judgment raised among human rights scholars and activists, it may be of interest to note that the second section of the Court recently communicated two applications against the Belgian face covering ban. Indeed, about one year after France adopted its ban, Belgium did the same. Belgium and France are the only two countries that have adopted a general ban on face covering in public (local or regional bans exist in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Switzerland). In Belgium, the nationwide ban was preceded by municipal bans, that continue to be enforced alongside the criminal ban.

While it is unlikely that the Court would overrule a recent and unanimous Grand Chamber judgment, it is not excluded that it might take this opportunity to explain and possibly nuance some of the statements it made in SAS.

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University submitted a third party intervention in one of the Belgian cases.

Continue reading

Case of Roman Zakharov v. Russia: The Strasbourg follow up to the Luxembourg Court’s Schrems judgment

By Paul De Hert and Pedro Cristobal Bocos (Vrije Universiteit Brussels)

The judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Roman Zakharov v. Russia last December 4, 2015 is part of the growing concern that some international human rights protection bodies have developed in the area of digital rights. This has been reflected at the European level with the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union that cancels the Safe Harbor decision – Maximillian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner – and the European Parliament resolution of 29 October on the mass surveillance of European citizens that recognizes, among other things, the important role played by Edward Snowden. The case comes also amid the growing concern of the United Nations (UN) on the matter that has resulted in resolution 68/167 of the General Assembly, in the reports and remarks of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), for example in September 2013 and in February 2014, and in the creation in July 2015 of a special rapporteur on the right to privacy.

Continue reading

The Problem with Insularity: On the Court’s View of Anti-Abortion Campaigning in Annen v. Germany

By Corina Heri

On 26 November 2015, the ECtHR published the Fifth Section’s judgment in Annen v. Germany. The majority in that case found a violation of the applicant’s freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR by an injunction that prohibited him from distributing anti-abortion leaflets outside a day clinic and from publishing the names and address of two doctors on his website. The following will argue that the female perspective was entirely missing from the majority’s judgment, in three main regards.

Continue reading

It is time for the European Court to step into the business and human rights debate: A comment on Özel & Others v. Turkey

By Lieselot Verdonck, doctoral researcher at the Human Rights Centre (Ghent University) and fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (Belgium).

Özel & Others v. Turkey neatly fits into established case law of the European Court regarding human rights violations in which companies are involved. This is precisely the reason why the judgment may disappoint business and human rights scholars. In times of vigorous and divisive debates, the Court should shed a light on, instead of ignoring, the “business aspect” of the human rights violation.

Continue reading

“Do you hear the people sing?”: Kudrevičius v. Lithuania and the problematic expansion of principles that mute assemblies

By Ella Rutter and Jasmine Rayée, students of the Human Rights Law Clinic at the Faculty of Law of Ghent University.

On 15 October 2015, in the case of Kudrevičius and Others v. Lithuania, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its first Grand Chamber judgment on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The case concerned the administration of criminal sanctions, by the State of Lithuania to the applicants, for participation in peaceful protests involving roadblocks. The ECtHR held unanimously that there was no violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In this critical examination of the judgement, we argue that the general application of the principles defined in Kudrevičius would diminish the protective standard under Article 11 ECHR.

Continue reading

Ebrahimian v France: headscarf ban upheld for entire public sector

By Eva Brems

On 26 November, the Court added a new chapter to its ‘headscarf’ jurisprudence, upholding the non-renewal of a contract in a public hospital on the ground of the applicant’s refusal to take off her headscarf.

The case in brief

15 years ago, in December 2000, the applicant, who had been working for 15 months with a temporary contract as a social assistant in the psychiatric wing of a public hospital in the Paris area, was informed that her contract would not be renewed. This was a disciplinary measure as a result of her refusing to stop wearing an Islamic headscarf, which had given rise to complaints from both patients and colleagues. Continue reading