The Best and Worst ECtHR judgments of 2016 are…

Dear readers,

We are happy to announce the results of our poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2016. For an overview of the shortlist of candidates, including a motivation for selecting them, see our previous blog post published on the occasion of the opening of the polls.

In light of the recent Oscars ceremony fiasco, we have made sure to double-check all votes. In the category of best judgment, the winner is… Continue reading

Protest as you like it: time, place & manner restrictions under scrutiny in Lashmankin v. Russia

Guest post by Daniel Simons, Legal Officer for Freedom of Assembly, Expression and Information, Open Society Justice Initiative (New York)

The unanimous Chamber judgment in Lashmankin and Others v. Russia, rendered on February 7th, is an important new star in the Article 11 firmament. It clarifies the law peaceful assemblies in a number of respects, in particular the degree to which authorities may impose time, place and manner restrictions on individual protests, or place blanket bans on demonstrations in specific locations.

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Selmani and Ors v. FYROM: influential judgment on press galleries and parliamentary reporting

Guest post by Jonathan McCully, Legal officer at the Media Legal Defence Initiative, which supported the case, and Editor of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression

On 9 February 2017, the European Court of Human Rights handed down an important judgment in Selmani and Ors v. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Application No. 67259/14), a case that considers the forcible removal of journalists from a parliamentary press gallery. The Court’s finding that the removal was a violation of the right to freedom of expression is a valuable pronouncement in a global context where a number of states have used similar measures to suppress reporting on parliamentary affairs.

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The Unbreakable Vow: Marital Captivity in Strasbourg

By Corina Heri, Visiting Scholar at Ghent University           

It has been the ECtHR’s constant case-law that Article 12 ECHR, while enshrining the right to marry an opposite-sex spouse, does not protect a right to divorce. The fact that the Court has resolutely held on to that idea despite the modern-day legalization of divorce in the Council of Europe Member States has been brought to the fore once again with the Fourth Section’s judgment in Babiarz v. Poland, issued on 10 January 2017. That case, brought under Articles 8 and 12 ECHR, concerned the applicant’s inability to obtain a divorce from his wife without her consent, as a result of which he could not marry the mother of his child. In short, Polish law gave higher priority to the legal fiction of an ongoing relationship between the spouses than to the de facto relationship between the applicant and his new partner, which had been ongoing for 11 years at the time of the Court’s judgment. The majority, in its judgment, found no violation of the ECHR. The present post will summarize the salient arguments made by the two dissenters, Judge Sajó and Judge Pinto de Albuquerque, and add some critiques of its own.

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J. and Others v. Austria and the Strengthening of States’ Obligation to Identify Victims of Human Trafficking

Guest post by Dr. Vladislava Stoyanova, Lecturer and Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Law, Lund University, Sweden (*)

J. and Others v. Austria delivered by the Strasbourg Court on 17 January 2017 adds to the slowly developing body of case law under Article 4 of the ECHR (the right not to be subjected to slavery, servitude and forced labour). For an overview of relevant judgments see my previous post here.[1] Although the Court did not find that Austria was in breach of its procedural obligation under Article 4 (the obligation to investigate), I would like to draw attention to some important pronouncements in the judgments that might hold essential potential in relation to the obligation upon states to identify victims of human trafficking. I would like to also draw attention to the poor engagement by the Court with the definitional challenges raised by Article 4, a deficiency that can be traced back to Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia.[2]

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Improving neighborhoods by preventing welfare recipients to take up residence: The Grand Chamber hearing in Garib v. the Netherlands

By Valeska David

On 25 January 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard oral pleadings in Garib v. the Netherlands. The case concerns the refusal of a housing permit to a single mother living on social welfare on account of legislation imposing minimum income requirements on persons wishing to reside in a number of inner-city areas of Rotterdam. The Chamber judgment issued on 23 February 2016, which was discussed in a previous blogpost, held that there was no violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (right to choose one’s residence). As the case was referred to the Grand Chamber, the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University and the Equality Law Clinic of the Université Libre de Bruxelles submitted a joint third party intervention. In this post, I shall briefly recount the issues addressed in our intervention to subsequently provide an overview of the questions discussed during the hearing before the Grand Chamber.

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Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2016

The Strasbourg Observers are launching the annual poll for best and worst European Court of Human Rights judgment, 2016 edition!

This year, the pre-selection of nominees was particularly challenging. A diverse batch of 28 (!) judgments received nominations from our blogging team at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Ultimately, our internal voting process led to the ten below nominees, across both categories.

It is now up to you, our readers, to elect the winner (best judgment) and loser (worst judgment) of 2016! The results will be announced next month.

Attentive readers will note that quite a large number of our nominees address asylum and migration issues. This not only reflects the ‘reality’ of today’s political and judicial scene in Europe. It also signals, in the category of best judgment, that we are impressed by how the European Court of Human Rights has remained, in the nominated cases, an independent stronghold against the populist tide that threatens to sweep migrants, asylum seekers and refugees away from Europe.

To refresh your memory on the nominated judgments – or introduce you to them – we have included brief summaries below the polls (please click ‘Continue reading’).

[the order of judgments in both polls is automatically randomized on each page visit]

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