Strasbourg Observers

The Best and Worst ECtHR judgments of 2019 are…

March 02, 2020

Dear readers,

About a month ago, we presented you with a shortlist of candidates for the awards of best and worst ECtHR judgments of 2019 (see our previous blog post). We would like to thank everybody who participated in the vote. It is our pleasure to announce the results of the poll today.

In the category of best judgment, the winner is… Szurovecz v. Hungary!

Szurovecz v. Hungary: 51.37%

Volodina v. Russia: 36.25%

Kavala v. Turkey: 7.43%

The recent Grand Chamber judgment in N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, overturning the Chamber judgment which won the award for best judgment of 2017, showed that winning in this category can be a poisoned chalice. Fortunately for this year’s laureate, the same cannot happen this year since, on 24 February, the Grand Chamber panel rejected the Government’s request to refer Szurovecz v. Hungary to the Grand Chamber. In this case, the Fourth Section found that the refusal to grant a journalist access to an asylum-seeker reception centre violated Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression). The results of the vote indicate the support of our readership for a robust protection of journalistic first-hand observation. It is only by reporting on vulnerable people like asylum seekers that the press can adequately fulfil its role as public watchdog, which is all the more important against the backdrop of the anti-immigration spectre currently haunting Europe.

 In the category of worst judgment, the winner is… Abdyusheva and Others v. Russia!

Abdyusheva and Others v. Russia: 68.53%

Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary: 16.45%

Zhdanov and Others v. Russia: 6.87%

The Court does not often have to deal with questions regarding the treatment of people suffering from drug addiction. In Abduysheva and Others v. Russia, it was however confronted with the denial of the authorities to provide the applicants with access to methadone and buprenorphine for treating their opioid dependence syndrome. The Court did not find a violation of Article 8 (the right to respect for private life), mainly because it considered that the State should enjoy a wide margin of appreciation in public health matters. By thus reducing the case to a mere policy question, the Court demonstrated little concern for the needs of people suffering from opioid dependence syndrome, despite strong evidence that opioid replacement therapy results in less pain, longer abstinence from opioids and longer lives for patients than merely abstinence-based programs. By electing the Abdyusheva judgment, our readership has given a clear signal that the Court should more ambitious in attempting to foster more humane treatment practices at the domestic level.

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