Human Rights Centre submits third party intervention in case concerning LGBT rights activism

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University[1] has submitted a third party intervention in the cases of Nikolay Alekseyev and Movement for Marriage Equality v. Russia and Nikolay Alekseyev and Others v. Russia. The case concerns the refusal by the Russian authorities to register two LGBT rights organisations because they were considered extremist organisations on account of the allegedly immoral character of their activities. The full text of the third party intervention can be found here, the main arguments are summarized hereunder.

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Aldeguer Tomás v. Spain: a missed opportunity for the Court to provide guidance concerning the legal recognition of same-sex relationships

Last year, the Court issued the judgment of Oliari and Others v. Italy, described on this blog as “a stepping stone towards full legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Europe.”  In this judgment the Court recognized that Article 8 ECHR encompasses a positive obligation on States to put in place a legal framework providing for the legal recognition and protection of same-sex relationships. The Court in particular emphasised that such legal framework must at least provide for the “core rights relevant to a couple in a stable and committed relationship” – as opposed to supposedly “supplementary” rights, such as for example the question whether such legal framework should allow same-sex couples to marry, a question which the Court in its Schalk and Kopf judgment considered to fall within the State’s margin of appreciation. The Court however failed to provide any guidance on what should be understood under those enigmatic “core rights”.

In the recent case of Aldeguer Tomás v. Spain, the Court however fails to build upon the Oliari judgment in order to provide more guidance in the area of the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. The case concerns the inability of the surviving partner of a same-sex relationship to receive a survivor’s pension. Continue reading

Strasbourg Court fails to acknowledge discrimination and stigmatization of persons living in poverty

In the recent case of Garib v. the Netherlands, the Court considered that a policy imposing minimum income conditions on persons wishing to settle in a number of inner-city areas of the city of Rotterdam did not violate the freedom to choose one’s residence as guaranteed by Article 2 Protocol No. 4. In doing so, the Court over-relies on the margin of appreciation doctrine and fails to acknowledge the discriminatory and stigmatizing effects of such policy faced by persons living in poverty. Continue reading

Don’t open the floodgates: fines and Article 1 Protocol 1

In the recent case of Konstantin Stefanov, the Strasbourg Court examined the acceptability of a fine (the equivalent of EUR 260) imposed on a lawyer, appointed ex officio by a domestic court, for declining to represent a defendant from the viewpoint of Article 1 Protocol 1. The Court did not find a violation of this provision, taking into account the wide margin of appreciation allowed to the State in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the justice system, the fact that a remedy to challenge the fine had been available to the applicant and because the Court considered the amount of the fine “neither prohibitive, nor oppressive or otherwise disproportionate”. This blog post is not concerned with the outcome of the case, but rather with the remarkable fact of the Court considering it self-evident that the imposition of a fine interferes with the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

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New publication: Poverty and the ECHR

I’m happy to announce the publication of my article “Strengthening the Protection of Human Rights of Persons Living in Poverty under the ECHR” in the September edition of Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights. In my article, which could hardly be any more topical than in today’s austerity-struck Europe, I address questions such as: what is the European Court of Human Rights’ record in protecting the human rights of persons living in poverty? What are the limitations of its current approach? What kind of legal approaches could assist the Court in better grasping the nature of poverty as capability deprivation? And how could this, ultimately, result in a stronger protection of the human rights of persons living in poverty?

This is the abstract:

In recent years, the European Court of Human Rights has developed a significant jurisprudence which illustrates the added value of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the field of poverty. Building on the findings of Amartya Sen’s “capability approach”, the article examines the extent to which the Court has grasped the nature of poverty as “capability deprivation”. It is argued that, due to polycentric concerns and a reluctance to overcome the negative / positive obligations and civil and political / social and economic rights dichotomies, the Court has only, to a limited extent, done so. Subsequently, three approaches are examined that could allow it to better take into account the findings of the “capability approach” and that could allow for enhanced protection of the human rights of persons living in poverty under the ECHR: endorsing a more complex perspective on the responsibility of the state; analysing poverty as a failure to provide substantive equality; and recognising the vulnerability of persons living in poverty.

Dubská and Krejzová v. Czech Republic: a ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ right to give birth at home?

By Laurens Lavrysen

In the case of Dubská and Krejzová v. Czech Republic, the Strasbourg Court had to pronounce itself on the regulation of home birth under Czech law. While on the one hand Czech law allowed for home births, on the other hand it prohibited midwives from assisting them. In its judgment of 11 December, the Court found no violation of the right to respect for private life (Article 8), mainly based on the increased risks to the lives and health of newborn and mother vis-à-vis a hospital birth in case of complications. The Court thereby endorsed the paradoxical Czech legal framework under which relatively safe home births with the assistance of a midwife are prohibited on health grounds, whereas unsafe home births without such assistance are allowed. It is argued that by constructing the case as one involving a narrow conception of ‘interference’, the Court failed to look at the broader picture of what it means to effectively secure a human right. Such a more holistic understanding requires an appreciation of both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ aspects of Article 8 at stake in the present case.

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New publication: Less Restrictive Means & the Strasbourg Court

First of all, a Happy New Year to you all, dear readers! As far as we are concerned, 2015 couldn’t have started better. We’re proud to announce the publication of the article “‘Don’t use a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut’: Less Restrictive Means in the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights”, written by prof. Eva Brems and I. The article is concerned with the emerging practice by the European Court of Human Rights to use more and more explicit lines of legal reasoning placing the examination of less restrictive means at the centre of its proportionality analysis. What is the theory behind this concept? How does it work in practice? Is there really a less restrictive means revolution going on in Strasbourg? For the answer to all these questions and more, you can access the article on the website of Human Rights Law Review.

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