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

Big brother may continue watching you

By Judith Vermeulen (PhD Candidate, Law & Technology Research Group, Ghent University)

On 13 September 2018, more than five years after Edward Snowden revealed the existence of electronic (mass) surveillance programmes run by the intelligence services of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) found two UK data collection regimes – one of which will not be discussed here[1] – to violate Article 8 of the ECHR.[2] A third one, being part of the information sharing arrangements between these so-called “Five Eyes” countries was, on the contrary, considered to involve a justified interference with the right to respect for private life

While the long-awaited Big Brother Watch and Others v. UK judgment, which joined three actions, signifies another victory for civil liberties and privacy advocating non-profit organisations and activists – no less than 16 being the applicants in this case – some serious matters of concern remain. Continue reading

Savva Terentyev v. Russia: criminal conviction for inciting hatred against the police violated a blogger’s freedom of expression

By Dirk Voorhoof (Human Rights Centre, Ghent University and Legal Human Academy)

In Savva Terentyev v. Russia the ECtHR has applied a very high level of free speech-protection for aggressively insulting and hostile comments about police officers, published on a weblog. The ECtHR observes that some of the wording in the blog post was offensive, insulting and virulent, but it found that the (emotional and sarcastic) comments as a whole could not be seen as inciting to hatred or violence. In contrast with the findings by the Russian authorities, the ECtHR is of the opinion that Terentyev’s blog did not pose “a clear and imminent danger” and could not be seen as stirring up “base emotions or embedded prejudices” attempting to incite hatred or violence against Russian police officers. Continue reading

Inhumane and degrading treatment in the workplace: a first for the European Court of Human Rights?

This guest post was written by Cathérine Van de Graaf, a PhD student at Ghent University.

In its recent judgment of Hovhannisyan v. Armenia, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the State authorities failed to conduct a proper investigation into a civil servant’s allegations of ill-treatment by her superiors during an argument over her appraisal report. The main issue at hand was the lack of an independent and effective investigation into the applicant’s claim that she was ill-treated by her superior at work. Continue reading

The Assembly’s appeasement towards Russia

By Lize R. Glas, assistant professor of European Law, Radboud University

Slightly less than a year ago, I wrote a blog titled ‘The Assembly’s row with Russia and its repercussions for the Convention system’ on Strasbourg Observers. In that blog, I described that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Assembly) decided, in April 2014, to suspend the voting rights of the Russian delegation in reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The Assembly prolonged this sanction in 2015 and decided to suspend other rights of the delegation as well, such as the right to become a rapporteur. In response, Russia did not submit the credentials of the Russian delegation to the Assembly, meaning that this delegation could not contribute to the Assembly’s work. A former Russian Assembly member explained that Russia would only return if the Assembly would reverse its decisions. Russian has also responded by withholding its payments to the Council of Europe (CoE) in 2017 and 2018.

The title of the current blog is markedly different from that of my previous blog, because the Assembly will vote on a resolution that may make it possible for Russia to regain its rights, without giving in to the Assembly’s requests. This vote will take place on 9 October 2018. The current blog explains why and how this resolution has come into being and whether the resolution is a sign of the Assembly’s appeasement towards Russia. Continue reading

Pussy Riot, the right to protest and to criticise the President, and the Patriarch: Mariya Alekhina and Others v. Russia

By Dirk Voorhoof, Human Rights Centre, Ghent University and Legal Human Academy

In its judgment of 17 July 2018 the ECtHR has found various violations of the rights of the members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. The ECtHR found violations under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security) and 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c) ECHR (right to fair trial), in relation to the conditions of their transportation and detention in the courthouse, their pre-trial detention, the treatment during the court hearings (being exposed to public view in a glass dock surrounded by armed police), and restrictions to legal assistance. Most importantly the ECtHR found the criminal prosecution and prison sentence of the Pussy Riot members a breach of their freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR. It also found that their right to freedom of expression has been violated on account of declaring the Pussy Riot video material available on the Internet as extremist and banning it. This blog focusses on the applicants’ rights under Article 10 ECHR. Continue reading

Human Rights Centre submits a third party intervention in “Conchita Wurst case”

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University[1] has recently submitted a third party intervention in the case of Minasyan and Others v. Armenia, which raises important issues concerning the protection of LGBTIQ+ persons against hate speech. In our third party intervention, we invite the Court to clarify Convention standards regarding the positive obligation for the State to combat hate speech based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Before summarizing the main arguments developed in our third party intervention, I will first provide a brief overview of the facts of the case. Continue reading