Osmanoğlu and Kocabaş v. Switzerland: A Swiss perspective

By Fabienne Bretscher, PhD Student at the University of Zurich, Visiting Researcher at the Erasmus School of Law Rotterdam

In a recent judgment, the ECtHR found that the refusal to grant Muslim students exemption from mandatory swimming classes in Swiss public schools did not amount to a violation of the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 9 ECHR. In its decision, the ECtHR emphasised the important role of public schools in the process of social integration into local customs and way of life. After giving an overview of the facts of the case as well as the ECtHR’s judgment, the present post sheds some light on the background of the issue of Muslim students’ participation in mandatory swimming classes in Switzerland and argues that, with its decision, the ECtHR is (again) reinforcing and legitimising intolerance against Muslims. Continue reading

European Court of Justice keeps the door to religious discrimination in the private workplace opened. The European Court of Human Rights could close it.

By Saïla Ouald-Chaib and Valeska David

On 14 March 2017, the European Court of Justice issued two judgments, in the cases of Achbita and Bougnaoui concerning the manifestation of beliefs in the private workplace. From the perspective of inclusion and human rights law, the judgments are very disappointing. They basically legitimize and even provide a recipe for discrimination of employees on the basis of their religious or other convictions. Continue reading

Pihl v. Sweden: non-profit blog operator is not liable for defamatory users’ comments in case of prompt removal upon notice

by Dirk Voorhoof

In its decision of 9 March 2017 in Rolf Anders Daniel Pihl v. Sweden, the ECtHR has clarified the limited liability of operators of websites or online platforms containing defamatory user-generated content. The Court’s decision is also to be situated in the current discussion on how to  prevent or react on  “fake news”, and the policy to involve online platforms in terms of liability for posting such messages. Although the Court’s ruling expresses concerns about imposing liability on internet intermediaries that would amount to requiring excessive and impractical forethought capable of undermining the right to impart information via internet, the decision in Pihl v. Sweden itself guarantees only minimal protection for the rights of internet intermediaries and users’ rights.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Court’s Difficult Choice in Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v. Russia

Is it permissible for States to categorically exempt women, juveniles and the elderly from being sentenced to life in prison? How should the Court handle the threat that States will ‘level down’ protection after it finds that a given measure is discriminatory? Those were the questions facing the Court’s Grand Chamber as it reached its judgment in Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v. Russia, issued on January 24th. The case concerned the alleged discrimination inherent in the fact that life imprisonment in the respondent State can only be imposed on men between the ages of 18 and 65. The Grand Chamber was divided, and ultimately found no violation of the Convention in the case. When reading the judgment and separate opinions, it emerges that the Court failed to find that gender discrimination had taken place for a very specific reason: doing so would have brought about the (re-)introduction of life imprisonment for the excepted groups. Continue reading

The Best and Worst ECtHR judgments of 2016 are…

Dear readers,

We are happy to announce the results of our poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2016. For an overview of the shortlist of candidates, including a motivation for selecting them, see our previous blog post published on the occasion of the opening of the polls.

In light of the recent Oscars ceremony fiasco, we have made sure to double-check all votes. In the category of best judgment, the winner is… Continue reading

Protest as you like it: time, place & manner restrictions under scrutiny in Lashmankin v. Russia

Guest post by Daniel Simons, Legal Officer for Freedom of Assembly, Expression and Information, Open Society Justice Initiative (New York)

The unanimous Chamber judgment in Lashmankin and Others v. Russia, rendered on February 7th, is an important new star in the Article 11 firmament. It clarifies the law peaceful assemblies in a number of respects, in particular the degree to which authorities may impose time, place and manner restrictions on individual protests, or place blanket bans on demonstrations in specific locations.

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Selmani and Ors v. FYROM: influential judgment on press galleries and parliamentary reporting

Guest post by Jonathan McCully, Legal officer at the Media Legal Defence Initiative, which supported the case, and Editor of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression

On 9 February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights handed down an important judgment in Selmani and Ors v. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Application No. 67259/14), a case that considers the forcible removal of journalists from a parliamentary press gallery. The Court’s finding that the removal was a violation of the right to freedom of expression is a valuable pronouncement in a global context where a number of states have used similar measures to suppress reporting on parliamentary affairs.

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