Justice from the Perspective of an Applicant: meeting Ms Neulinger

Simona Florescu, PhD fellow, Leiden Law School, the Child Law Department

In September I had the opportunity to meet the applicant in the Grand Chamber case Neulinger and Shuruk v Switzerland.[1] We had a lengthy 4 hours conversation about the ins and outs of her personal situation, the circumstances that led her to taking her son away from Israel to Switzerland and her experience with the European Court of Human Rights. Hence, in this contribution, I would like to share that experience and highlight some aspects which may be potentially interesting for the readership of this blog.

But first a brief reminder of the circumstances of the case. Continue reading

E.S. v. Austria: Freedom of Expression versus Religious Feelings, the Sequel

By Stijn Smet, Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law at Hasselt University

In a recent judgment that has made headlines around the world, the ECtHR rules – not for the first time – that Austria can legitimately curb free speech to protect the religious feelings of believers. That the believers in E.S. v. Austria happened to be Muslims surely added to the international attention given to the judgment, especially the opportunistic outrage in certain outlets on the other side of the Atlantic.[1]

When I first read E.S. v. Austria, I was dumbfounded; struck by how contrived and nonsensical some of the ECtHR’s reasoning is. Then, when I read some scholarly comments on the judgment, I was puzzled; struck by how surprised some commentators were about other aspects of the Court’s reasoning. In my reading of E.S. v. Austria, the Court does not say much (or anything at all) it has not said before. Still, it’s remarkable how fervently the Court clings to a line of reasoning many had hoped to see abandoned by now. At the end of this comment, I will venture a guess as to why the Court found no violation of freedom of expression in E.S. v. Austria. Until then, I will explain why I was dumbfounded by the Court’s reasoning and puzzled by some of the commentary thereon. Continue reading

Basra v. Belgium: a structural problem struck from the list

By Marjan Claes (NANSEN), Charlotte Coenen (NANSEN), Ellen Desmet (UGent), Sylvie Saroléa (UCL)

On 13 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights struck the application of Basra v. Belgium out of its list. Mr. Basra argued not having benefited from an effective remedy in the sense of article 13 ECHR, with respect to his arguable claim of being subjected to treatment prohibited by Article 3 ECHR in case of return to Pakistan.

After efforts to reach a friendly settlement had failed, the Belgian Government made a unilateral declaration in order to solve the issue, and invited the Court to struck the case from the list. The Court took up this invitation on the basis of Article 37 (1) (c) ECHR, which allows the Court to strike out an application where, for any reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue its examination.

During this procedure, a third party intervention was submitted to the Court by NANSEN – the Belgian Refugee Council, EDEM (Equipe droits européens et migrations) from the UCLouvain, the Equality Law Clinic of the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Continue reading

Prosecution of a publisher for ‘denigration’ of Turkey violated Article 10

This blog post was written by Ronan Ó Fathaigh

On 4 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a unanimous judgment on Turkey’s controversial Article 301 insult law, and for the first time applied Article 46 of the European Convention, holding that amending the insult law would “constitute an appropriate form of execution” of the Court’s judgment. The Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 5) judgment is notable not only for its application of Article 46, but also given that it is the fifth set of criminal proceedings the Court has considered against an Istanbul-based publisher over the publication of various books and periodicals (see  Fatih Taş v. Turkey, Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 2), Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 3), and Fatih Taş v. Turkey (No. 4)). In all five judgments, including four in the past year alone, the Court has found violations of Article 10’s guarantee of freedom of expression, or Article 6 over the length of the criminal proceedings.   Continue reading

Is the European Court of Human Rights capable of changing legal systems? Judgment in Aliyev v Azerbaijan.

By Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool)

In spring 2014, shocking news came from Azerbaijan. Leading human rights defenders including Mr Intigam Aliyev were arrested and charged with various financial crimes. It was clear that these charges were just a cover-up for the silencing of vocal critics of the government and for the destruction of an effective human rights defence in the country. It is not surprising that those arrested and charged brought their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court). In September 2018, more than two years after Mr Aliyev was in fact released, the Court has delivered its judgment in his case. There are plenty of reasons to praise this judgment; the Court unanimously found plenty of violations of the Convention including violations of Articles 3, 5, 8 and 18. Under Article 18, the Court found that the true purpose of the arrest was not punishment for the crimes committed by the applicant but retaliation for being a human rights defender. As it is often the case, this judgment came slightly too late because the applicant has already been released from prison but it helpfully reinforces a line of judgments showing that Azerbaijani authorities use criminal law to silence its opponents. This blogpost will however focus on a more problematic aspect of this judgment, namely the Court’s attempts to improve the legal system in Azerbaijan by defining general measures that must be implemented to effectuate this judgment. Continue reading

Comparing the Proposed EU Directive on Protection of Whistleblowers with the Principles of the European Court of Human Rights

By Vigjilenca Abazi (fellow at Yale Law School) and Flutura Kusari (legal advisor at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)

In April 2018, the European Commission put forward a much-anticipated ‘package of measures’ to strengthen whistleblower protection in the European Union. This includes a proposal for a Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law, which offers minimum standards of harmonization on whistleblower protection in certain fields of EU competences. After years of pro-whistleblowing campaigns by civil society and efforts by the European Parliament (EP) to induce the Commission to propose legislation, whilst the latter continuously rejected such calls, the mere fact that the Commission proposed a binding legal act is viewed as a significant progress. Whether the proposed Directive will be approved remains to be seen as it currently undergoes a lengthy process of review by the Council and the EP under the ordinary legislative procedure. Continue reading

S.V. v. Italy: on temporality and transgender persons

By Pieter Cannoot, PhD Researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University

On 11 October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 8 ECHR in a case involving a transsexual woman called S.V. The application concerned the Italian authorities’ refusal to authorise S.V. officially changing her first name on the grounds that no judicial ruling had confirmed the successful completion of sex reassignment therapy, even though she had been socially and physically transitioning for several years. According to the Court, this waiting period had resulted in feelings of vulnerability, humiliation and anxiety, which amounted to a disproportionate interference with S.V.’s right to respect for private life. Continue reading