Gender equality and religious freedom in politics; Dutch SGP case declared inadmissible

The ECtHR has brought a turbulent Dutch legal saga to a close. In the highly interesting Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij v. the Netherlands, the Court has declared the complaint by the Dutch political party ‘SGP’ inadmissible. The SGP is, in the words of the Court, “a confessional political party firmly rooted in historical Dutch Reformed Protestantism” (par. 4). The party does not allow women to stand for election, as it believes that God teaches that men and women have different roles in life. It believes that “man is the head of the woman” and “participation of women in both representative and administrative political organs” is “incompatible with woman’s calling” (par. 9). After a prolonged debate and legal struggle in the domestic courts, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that, on the ground of Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (‘CEDAW’), the State is obliged to ensure that political parties allow women to exercise their right to stand for election. The SGP complained to the Strasbourg Court that this ruling of the Supreme Court infringed Articles 9 (right to freedom of religion), Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) and Article 11 (right to assembly) of the ECHR.

Frankly, what I expected to find was a terse decision, basically referring to the State’s margin of appreciation. I was wrong. The reasoning is brief, but includes three steps that combine to make this a memorable ruling. I will discuss these steps below. By the way, this case has provoked a lot of controversy in the Netherlands over the past years (most of it is in Dutch, but see this article in the Human Rights Quarterly). With this post, I cannot do justice to the whole debate; I just aim to give you my first impressions of the decision. Continue reading

The ‘significant disadvantage’ in a ‘20 million case’

In a recent case the Court used the ‘significant disadvantage’ criterion to declare a complaint inadmissible. In Liga Portuguesa de Futebol Profissional v. Portugal the Court made a clear distinction between the human rights issue at stake and the case at large (which concerned 20 million euros). Continue reading

Ambit and Scope of Article 8 in Citizenship Cases

In a recent judgment in the case of Genovese v. Malta the Court gave very few words when determining the scope and ambit of Article 8. The Court managed to exclude a right, find no violation and determine the scope in the same sentence, and, in contrary to previous citizenship cases, did not give one word more to justify its decision. Continue reading

How significant is the ‘significant disadvantage” of the new admissibility criterion (Part II)?

It has been claimed[1] and it is also my understanding that human rights protect important aspects of a human life. The views on what are the important aspects may vary. The drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights put in their views; inspired by the rights in the Declaration, the European Convention was composed, and States made an agreement that those are the aspects that should be protected by legally binding human rights. And finally, the Court does its job to interpret the rights and thus we find spheres in each right that are protected by the respective right. These spheres are often determined as rights within the existing broader rights of the Convention. Does the Court think about the general importance of the spheres in human life when developing the scope of rights? To my mind, it could be at least stronger on applying the importance criterion. Let’s take a look at a recent case decided by the Court – Golemanova v. Bulgaria. Continue reading

How significant is the ‘significant disadvantage’ of the new admissibility criterion (Part I)?

In its decisions in the cases of Holub v. the Czech Republic and Bratři Zátkové, a.s. v. the Czech Republic the Court has unanimously declared the applications inadmissible. The Court used the new admissibility criterion to determine that. Continue reading

Gypsy Way of Life “By Birth” or “By Choice”

This post is co-authored by Lourdes Peroni and Alexandra Timmer

In an inadmissibility decision that might have gone unnoticed by many, the Court has recently ruled in an interesting case, Horie v UK. The case involves a “New Age Traveler” who complained of an impediment on her ability to pursue a nomadic way of life. The case’s issue was a rather technical legal one – the question was whether a quia timet order which prevented a group of travelers to occupy any land by the Forestry Commission in the Dorset-region was justified – but en passant the Court makes some potentially important remarks about what sort of lifestyle deserves recognition. The purpose of this post is to flag this case and briefly discuss the disquieting remarks the Court makes about what kind of cultural minority-groups deserve protection and which groups don’t. Continue reading

‘De minimis non curat praetor’ principle in the Court’s practice

The Court has recently issued an inadmissibility decision in the case of Korolev v. Russia invoking the new admissibility criterion, introduced with the entry into force of Protocol No.14 to the Convention on 1 June 2010.

The new admissibility criterion provides that applications are inadmissible where “the applicant has not suffered a significant disadvantage, unless respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto requires an examination of the application on the merits and provided that no case may be rejected on this ground which has not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal(Article 35 paragraph 3 (b)). The purpose of the new admissibility criterion is, in the long run, to enable more rapid disposal of unmeritorious cases so as to allow the Court to concentrate on its central mission of providing legal protection of human rights at the European level.[1] More recently, the High Contracting Parties invited the Court to give full effect to the new admissibility criterion and to consider other possibilities of applying the principle de minimis non curat praetor – not to be concerned with petty cases.[2]

Continue reading