A Casualty of Formalism: The Application of the Six-Month Rule in Kamenica and Others v. Serbia

By Corina Heri, PhD candidate at the University of Zürich / Visiting Scholar at Ghent University

On 27 October 2016, the Court published the Third Section’s decision in Kamenica and Others v. Serbia. That case concerns the alleged ill-treatment of 67 persons who fled Bosnia and Herzegovina during the conflict that broke out there in 1992 and who were subsequently interned in a Serbian detention camp. The Third Section applied the six-month rule to the case, finding that it had been brought out of time. Its decision raises questions about the strictness of the six-month rule and the application of a statute of limitations to grievous alleged violations of Article 3 ECHR. Granted, the application of a rigid time limit for bringing applications to Strasbourg fosters certainty and ensures that the proceedings before the Court take place within a useful time frame. However, decisions such as this one indicate that, in certain types of cases – here, a particularly grievous one that stood to be investigated in a post-conflict scenario – the Court’s emphasis of a strict time limit can seem decidedly formalistic.

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The saga continues … Legal standing for NGOs when de facto representing mentally disabled dying in institutions

By Helena De Vylder

Once again, in the decision in Bulgarian Helsinki Committee v Bulgaria, the ECtHR had the opportunity to rule on the legal standing of an NGO when de facto representing two mentally disabled adolescents, who died in an institution. The ECtHR applied the criteria it established in Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Vincent Campeanu v Romania and confirmed in Helsinki Committee on behalf of Ionel Garcea v Romania. The Court found that the applicant organisation in Bulgarian Helsinki Committee does not meet the requirement that it must formally be involved in the domestic proceedings having all the rights parties in criminal proceedings enjoy. Unfortunately, the Court does not attach more importance to the ultimate goal of granting legal standing to de facto representatives. In Campeanu, it held that this was in order to prevent allegations of a serious nature from being examined at the international level, with the risk that the respondent state might escape accountability under the Convention.

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(In)justice and admissibility: No standing for their representative, but effective protection for disappeared victims?

By Helena De Vylder

In the inadmissibility decision delivered on 26 April 2016 in the case of N. v. Russia and M. v. Russia, the Court rejects the petition for lack of standing of the applicants’ representative. The victims were unable to formally appoint their representative by signing a ‘power of attorney-document’, since they disappeared, allegedly as the result of a forced extradition to Uzbekistan. The Court considered that their representative could not lodge applications to the Court in their name, in the absence of a duly signed power of attorney to represent them, not just in the domestic proceedings, but also before the ECtHR. According to the Court, the vulnerable applicants did not risk being deprived of effective protection, since it was open to their immediate family to complain. The fact that the direct family members all reside in Uzbekistan, and were formerly questioned by the authorities there, were not considered to prevent the family members from applying. It will consequently never be examined whether the applicants’ abduction and transfer to their home state of Uzbekistan violate the prohibition of torture (article 3 ECHR).

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Farewell to Marckx and all that or how I received ‘the letter’ (from the registry of the European Court of Human Rights)

This guest post was written by Dr. Başak Çalı, Director, Center for Global Public Law and Assoc. Prof. of International Law, Koç University Law School, Istanbul.

It is not common to receive a letter from the registry of the European Court of Human Rights. At least, for me it’s not. I was excited to receive mine. I was excited to open it. Unfortunately, this excitement quickly turned into sadness and disappointment. My hero had let me down. My hero had let down thousands of women of Turkish nationality.

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Helsinki Committee of Armenia v Armenia: when the subsidiarity-requirement and the exhaustion of domestic remedies do not go hand in hand

By Helena De Vylder

The ECtHR’s recent Helsinki Committee of Armenia v Armenia judgment deals with the refusal of local authorities to grant permission for the holding of a mourning march. However, the letter refusing the march was only received by the applicant organisation after the proposed date for the event. Since no domestic remedies could give the applicant the opportunity to overturn the decision prior to the proposed date, the ECtHR held that domestic remedies could not effectively remedy the situation and did not need to be exhausted. This blog post explores what form of redress would be considered effective, under the circumstances, and exposes the tension with the subsidiarity principle.

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Extra-territorial Jurisdiction & Flexible Human Rights Obligations: The Case of Jaloud v. the Netherlands

This guest post was written by Cedric De Koker, Phd Researcher, IRCP, Ghent University.

With its judgment in the case of Jaloud v. the Netherlands, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has added another chapter to its growing body of case law relating to the extra-territorial application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the context of military operations abroad. The case is interesting for two reasons: first, the Netherlands (and the United Kingdom as an intervening third party) resorted to the often used, but rarely successful strategy of disputing the extra-territorial applicability of the Convention (and thus the admissibility of the claims presented by the applicant). Therefore, the Court had to interpret Article 1 ECHR once again – arguably the most difficult provision of the Convention to apply – and pronounce on whether the events under review fell ‘within the jurisdiction’ of the Netherlands. Second, asked about the scope of the investigative duty under Article 2 ECHR, the Court had to determine whether states have some flexibility in fulfilling their human rights obligations when operating in extraordinary and difficult conditions, such as hostile environments resulting out of armed conflict or occupation, as was the case here. Both issues will be discussed below.

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Mocanu v. Romania: do large-scale human rights violations justify only a mild admissibility test?

This guest post was written by Helena De Vylder, Ph.D. researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Her research focuses on admissibility criteria in regional human rights systems.

Mocanu and others v Romania fits in a series of cases in which the Strasbourg Court needed to deal with grave and large-scale human rights violations, happening before the entry into force of the Convention. The events happening before the entry into force are undoubtedly not subject to the temporal jurisdiction of the Convention. The admissibility of complaints concerning the investigative measures and proceedings after the coming into force in the contrast has been accepted by recent case law (and here). Mocanu further refines this case law by dealing with particular circumstances.

In this case, the Court had to deal with the investigation and the length of proceedings which followed the violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in Bucharest in June 1990. During the crackdown, Ms Mocanu’s husband – the first applicant’s husband – was killed by gunfire and Mr Stoica – the second applicant – was arrested and ill-treated by the police. The criminal proceedings are still pending in respect of the first applicant. The relevant investigation in respect of the second applicant was terminated by a final judgment in 2011. The applicants claim the proceedings did not live up to the standards put forward by the procedural aspect of article 2 and 3.

In contrast to the merits, the admissibility of the case is less straightforward. The admissibility issues relate to the jurisdiction ratione temporis and the exhaustion of domestic remedies. Continue reading