Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2017

Dear readers,

We, from Strasbourg Observers, would like to wish you all the best for 2018. Following our yearly tradition, the start of the new year is a good opportunity to invite you, our readers, to retrospectively assess the ECtHR’s work of the past year. For this purpose, we are hereby launching our poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2017. Continue reading

A Child-Centred Court of Human Rights? Strand Lobben v. Norway (30. Nov. 2017)

By Amy McEwan-Strand and Prof. Marit Skivenes, Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism (University of Bergen)

In a case of adoption without parental consent – Strand and Lobben v. Norway – the Fifth Section of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) did not find a violation of Article 8 of either the mother or the child. The outcome of this case may well be surprising to many, since the last few years have seen a massive uproar and negative media attention on child protection interventions internationally, with Norway having a prominent place in this spotlight. In 2015, the Norwegian child protection system received harsh criticism from the Czech president, and the Norwegian embassy in Lithuania even felt it necessary to engage public relation consultants to handle the pressure. The Norwegian word for child protection, “barnevern” is now a term associated with draconian interventions into the family sphere in certain European circuits. Continue reading

The Committee of Ministers goes nuclear: infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan in the case of Ilgar Mammadov

By Lize R. Glas, assistant professor of European law, Radboud University

For over seven years, the Committee of Ministers (Committee) has had at its disposal the ‘nuclear option’ of launching infringement proceedings against a state that refuses to execute a Strasbourg judgment. On 5 December 2017, it decided to go nuclear for the first time, in the case of Mammadov v. Azerbaijan. Continue reading

Merabishvili, Mammadov and Targeted Criminal Proceedings: Recent Developments under Article 18 ECHR

By Corina Heri, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam

On 28 November, the Grand Chamber issued a judgment in Merabishvili v. Georgia. Twelve days earlier, the Fifth Section issued its judgment in Ilgar Mammadov (No. 2) v. Azerbaijan. Both judgments concern, among other provisions of the ECHR, its often-overlooked Article 18, which prohibits States from restricting Convention rights for illegitimate purposes. The Court has increasingly displayed an awareness of the need to clarify and amend its Article 18 case-law, as shown by the wealth of separate opinions written on the matter,[1] and it took Merabishvili as an opportunity to do so. This post looks at the Article 18 issues raised in the two judgments, and fits these into the steady and necessary, although incomplete, evolution of the Article 18 case-law. Continue reading

Skullcap in the Courtroom: A rare case of mandatory accommodation of Islamic religious practice

In Hamidović v Bosnia and Herzegovina (5 December 2017), the Fourth Section of the Court found a violation of articles 9 and 14 ECHR on account of the punishment of a witness for wearing an Islamic skullcap in the courtroom. As almost all claims for accommodation of Islamic religious practice have failed before the Court, this is an important case. The Court reaffirms member states’ wide margin of appreciation in this field, yet this judgment makes clear that such a margin is nevertheless not unlimited. Continue reading

The European Court & Defamation of the Dead: searching for clarity

By Jonathan McCully (Media Legal Defence Initiative / Columbia Global Freedom of Expression)

On 28 November 2017, in MAC TV v. Slovakia, the European Court of Human Rights (European Court) found a violation of the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention where the Broadcasting Council of Slovakia had fined a television programme for showing a lack of respect to the dignity of the President of Poland following his death in a tragic plane accident. The case is one of the few where the European Court has considered the human rights implications of controversial stories following the death of an individual. However, it leaves much to be desired in terms of clarifying the status of “defamation of the dead” laws under the Convention. Continue reading

Same Same But Different: A heterosexual couple denied registered partnership by the ECtHR

By Claire Poppelwell-Scevak, FWO Research Fellow, Human Rights Centre (Ghent University)

On 26 October 2017 the European Court of Human Rights held in Ratzenböck and Seydl v Austria that Austria’s registered partnership law, which is only open to homosexual couples, did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights by denying this registered partnership to a heterosexual couple. The judgment given by the seven member – although there was a two judge dissenting opinion – bench can be seen as a warning to future same-sex marriage proponents that their claims will not be favourably assessed. Continue reading