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

March 4, 2014

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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Vulnerability and Economic Abuse in Domestic Violence Reasoning: T.M. and C.M. v. Moldova

February 26, 2014

T.M. and C.M. v. Moldova is one of the latest instances of domestic authorities’ passivity in protecting women against domestic violence. At the root of this passivity was a failure to understand the seriousness and extent of the problem and its discriminatory effect on women. This was reflected in misconceptions about both the nature of domestic violence and the reality of many of its victims. In dealing with this failure, the Court issues a strong judgment: (i) it reinvigorates the definition of domestic violence by renewing attention to non-physical forms, notably economic abuse and (ii) it refines the links between domestic violence victims’ vulnerability and the content of State positive obligations. Read more…

Sargsyan v Azerbaijan: Hot issues in frozen conflicts

February 20, 2014

This post was written by Stuart Wallace, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Nottingham. His research addresses the application of the ECHR to domestic and extra-territorial military operations. You can follow him on Twitter @echrhawk.

The ECtHR recently held its Grand Chamber hearing in the case of Sargsyan v Azerbaijan. The webcast of the hearing is available here and worth watching (if for no other reason than the farcical map parade during the Azerbaijani government’s submissions). The applicant in the case (now deceased and succeeded by family members) was a former resident of the village of Gulistan in the disputed region Nagorno-Karabakh. The region was predominantly inhabited by ethnic Armenians, but part of Azerbaijani territory. In the late 80s, the region’s inhabitants sought to secede from Azerbaijan and to make the region part of Armenian territory. The ensuing dispute escalated over time, especially following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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Nel nome del padre (in the name of the father): the Court on the transmission of the father’s surname (Cusan and Fazzo v. Italy)

February 18, 2014

This guest post was written by Yaiza Janssens, PhD researcher and teaching/research assistant at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Yaiza works on a project on the regulation of sexism in Belgian Law.

Cusan and Fazzo v. Italy concerned a challenge to transmission of the father’s surname to his children. The applicants in this case are an Italian married couple who – by mutual agreement – wanted to enter their daughter on the civil register under her mother’s family name, Cusan. The Italian authorities dismissed their request and the child was registered under her father’s name, Fazzo.

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Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2013

February 12, 2014

Following the success of last year’s poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2012, we are hereby inviting all our readers to vote for the new edition: the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2013. The poll is intended as a celebration of the best the ECtHR had to offer in 2013, but also as a reminder that it sometimes failed to effectively protect the Convention’s human rights.

To guide the process, we have taken the liberty of proposing a preliminary selection of candidates in each category (listed in reverse alphabetical order). However, feel free to indicate your preferred – or despised – alternative judgment by selecting the option “Other”. We will have access to the names of the judgments entered and will regularly post an update on the votes for “Other” in the comments section.

And now, here are the nominees in the categories of best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2013:




A brief summary of the nominated judgments follows below. A link to a blog post on each judgment is also offered, providing further insights into the reasons for its nomination.

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Shitting in ‘closed’ overall not ‘degrading’ according to Strasbourg Court

February 10, 2014

If you look up the word ‘degrading’ in the dictionary, chances are that you find a picture there of a person who cannot help shitting him- or herself. In the case of Lindström and Mässeli v. Finland, the Strasbourg Court however did not consider that state authorities necessarily inflict ‘degrading treatment’ when they are responsible for bringing a prisoner in such a situation. The case concerns prisoners who were put in ‘closed’ overalls they were unable to remove, which resulted in them shitting themselves because the prison guards did not bring them in time to a toilet. According to the Court, this did not amount to a violation of Article 3 ECHR. The Court did find a violation of Article 8, but as will be argued below, since the protection offered by this provision is lower, it cannot be a genuine alternative for the applicability of Article 3.

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In the Footsteps of Jakóbski v. Poland but Adding Obstacles to the Road: Vartic v. Romania

February 6, 2014

When it comes to the accommodation of religious dietary requirements of detainees, it is clear that the European Court of Human Rights is adopting an inclusive approach. The case of Jakóbski v. Poland (2010) was considered a landmark case in this sense and the recent case of Vartic v. Romania proves that this assumption was correct. What distinguishes Vartic from Jakobski is the fact that the Court was confronted with the significant disadvantage criterion, which was introduced by protocol 14.

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