Medžlis Islamske Zajednice Brčko v Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Simple Speech Case Made Unbelievably Complex?

By Stijn Smet, Melbourne Law School. Stijn is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ARC Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law and co-editor with Eva Brems of the new volume When Human Rights Clash at the European Court of Human Rights: Conflict or Harmony? (OUP, 2017)

Imagine, if you will, two scenarios. The first involves four NGOs writing a private letter to the highest authorities of a Bosnian city. “According to our information”, the NGOs state in the letter, the newly appointed Serbian director of a public radio station has displayed a problematic attitude towards Muslims and Bosniacs. Her past actions, the NGOs claim, “absolutely disqualify” her from being director of a multi-ethnic radio station. The NGOs further press upon the authorities the “hope that you will react appropriately”. It turns out, however, that the factual allegations made in the NGOs’ letter are all incorrect or (grossly) exaggerated.

Now picture the second scenario: the very same letter is published in three daily newspapers.

Both scenarios seem rather different. It would make sense, then, to apply distinct free speech standards to both. They might even call for opposite solutions. Not so, says the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR in Medžlis Islamske Zajednice Brčko and Others v Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a complex judgment marked by contorted reasoning, the Court equates NGOs to the press. The Court also suggests that it ultimately does not matter all that much whether wrong factual allegations are made in private letters or disseminated publicly. Continue reading

The Köksal case before the Strasbourg Court: a pattern of violations or a mere aberration?

By Emre Turkut, PhD researcher at Ghent University

The European Court of Human Rights’ recent decision in the case of Köksal v. Turkey has sparked once again a fierce debate concerning the so-called availability of domestic remedies in Turkey in the aftermath of the 15 July 2016 attempted coup. The case concerns a teacher’s dismissal by emergency Decree No. 672, along with 50,875 other public servants who were regarded as having membership of or an affiliation, link or connection with terrorist organizations or structures, formations or groups determined by the National Security Council to engage in activities against the national security of the Turkish State. Continue reading

Judges at odds over Court’s authority to order remedies

By Dr Alice Donald, Senior Lecturer and Anne-Katrin Speck, Research Associate  School of Law, Middlesex University, London

How far can – and should – the European Court of Human Rights recommend, or even compel, states to take certain measures after the finding of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights? This question is increasingly debated as the Court, driven by states’ failure to implement judgments, has moved away from its formerly strictly limited, declaratory approach to remedial measures by sometimes indicating specific non-monetary individual measures or general measures.

This debate has come into sharp focus with the judgment in Moreira Ferreira (No. 2) v. Portugal, issued by the Grand Chamber on 11 July 2017, Continue reading

Belkacemi and Oussar v Belgium and Dakir v Belgium: the Court again addresses the full-face veil, but it does not move away from its restrictive approach

By Marcella Ferri, ​Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law – ASERI, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan (Italy), and Adjunct Professor of Institutions of Comparative and European Law – module of European Law – University of Bergamo, Bergamo (Italy)

On 11 July 2017, the European Court of Human Rights delivered two similar judgments in the Belkacemi and Oussar v. Belgium and Dakir v. Belgium cases, both concerning the Belgian burqa ban. On 1 June 2011, the Belgian Chamber of Representatives approved a Law criminalising the wearing in public spaces of clothing which partially or totally covers the face. Before the adoption of this Law, the wearing of full-face veils was prohibited by several municipal bans, imposing administrative fines, which have been kept in place by the national ban.  Continue reading

Publication of a picture of a 3-year-old, representing him as an orphan, violates article 8 ECHR

By Ingrida Milkaite, Ghent University

The case of Bogomolova v. Russia concerns the use of an unauthorised photograph of a minor’s face on the front page of a booklet promoting adoption and help for orphans. It proves that the publication of pictures of children without parental consent may have a significant social impact on the family and may violate article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), protecting the right to private and family life. Continue reading

ECtHR finds Russia’s gay propaganda law discriminatory in strong-worded judgment

By Pieter Cannoot, PhD researcher, Human Rights Centre (Ghent University) and Claire Poppelwell-Scevak, FWO Research Fellow, Human Rights Centre (Ghent University)

On 20 June 2017, the European Court of Human Rights issued a particularly strong-worded judgment in the case of Bayev and Others v. Russia. The Court not only found Russia’s legislative prohibition of the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ among minors to be a violation of Article 10 and Articles 10 j. 14 ECHR, but also did so in a well-reasoned, straightforward judgment that easily set aside every argument by the Russian Government. The boldness of the judgment for the protection of LGB rights heavily contrasts with the dissenting opinion of Judge Dedov, whose inexcusable assimilation of homosexual persons with child abusers is a black mark on the Strasbourg Court. Continue reading

No journalism exception for massive exposure of personal taxation data

By Dirk Voorhoof, Ghent University, Human Rights Centre.

 After long proceedings at national level, after a preliminary ruling by the EU Court of Justice on 16 December 2008 (Case C-73/07), and after the European Court of Human Rights Chamber judgment of 21 July 2015, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR on 27 June 2017 finally found no violation of the right to freedom of expression and information in Satakunnan Markkinapörssi Oy and Satamedia Oy v. Finland. In essence the case concerns the mass collection, processing and publication of personal taxation data which were publicly accessible in Finland. The combination of a narrow interpretation of (public interest) journalism with a wide margin of appreciation for the domestic authorities led to the finding of a non-violation of Article 10 ECHR. Continue reading