Human Rights Centre submits third party intervention in a case concerning ethnic profiling by law enforcement officers

By Sien Devriendt and Tess Heirwegh, PhD researchers, Human Rights Centre (Ghent University)

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University[1] has submitted a third party intervention in the case of Zeshan Muhammad against Spain. The case concerns the use of ethnic profiling by law enforcement officers. The applicant, a Pakistani citizen, was stopped for a police identity check solely on the basis of his skin colour. When Mr. Muhammad asked to explain the reasons for the identity check, the police officer answered “because you are black”. He initiated state liability proceedings, but his complaints have been dismissed at first instance as well as on appeal. Furthermore, he lodged an amparo appeal with the Constitutional Court, but to no avail. The applicant holds that there has been a violation of his right not to be discriminated against on grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin (Article 14 or, alternatively, Article 1 Protocol 12 jo. Article 8 of the Convention). Moreover, he complains under Article 8 of the Convention that the State failed to take all reasonable steps to uncover any possible racist motives behind the incident. Finally, he states that there has been violation of his right to a fair hearing (Article 6 § 1 of the Convention). In this post, we highlight our key arguments. The full text of the third party intervention can be found here. Continue reading

Human Rights Centre submits third party intervention in case concerning legal gender recognition

By Pieter Cannoot, PhD researcher, Human Rights Centre (Ghent University)

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University[1] has submitted a third party intervention in the case of R.L. and P.O. v. Russia. The case concerns the refusal by the Russian authorities to legally recognise the gender identity of the applicants, who are two transmen. According to the authorities, both applicants did not comply with the condition of sex reassignment surgery. The applicants complain that the requirement to undergo various medical procedures for legal gender recognition violates Article 8 of the Convention. Moreover, R.L. also complains under Article 14 jo. Article 8 of the Convention that the State failed to protect him from discrimination and transphobia by refusing to provide him with identification papers reflecting is male gender identity. The full text of the third party intervention can be found here; the main arguments are summarized hereunder. Continue reading

The missing voice of pregnant women: third party interventions in the Dubska and Krejzova case

By Fleur van Leeuwen, LL.M. Ph.D., Dutch human rights researcher, based in Istanbul Turkey.

On 29 September 2015 the international organisation Human Rights in Childbirth received a letter from the deputy registrar of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court). They were informed that the President of the Grand Chamber had decided to refuse their request to intervene as a third party in the Court’s proceedings in the case of Dubska and Krejzova v. the Czech Republic[1] – a case regarding a de facto home birth ban currently at the Grand Chamber[2] – as he considered ‘that the intervention requested (was) not necessary in the ‘interests of the proper administration of justice’. Human Rights in Childbirth, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that aims to advance the rights of women in childbirth, was not the only organisation that was refused intervention; the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and human rights experts Dr. Alicia Yamin (Harvard University) and Prof. Paul Hunt (Essex University, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health) were some of the others that were denied leave. On the other hand, the International Study Group of the World Association of Perinatal Medicine (whose brief was written by home birth opponent Dr. Chervenak), the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO),[3] the Czech Ombudsperson: Ms Anna Sabotova, the Czech Union of Midwives (one of the official Czech midwifery organisations), the Croat-, and the Slovak governments were granted leave to intervene. The legal representatives of the applicants in the case were taken aback when they received the letter from the deputy registrar informing them of the accepted and refused amicus curiae briefs: was this not a very arbitrary selection?

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Human Rights Centre Intervenes with UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai in Freedom of Assembly Cases

By Stijn Smet

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University has submitted a joint third party intervention with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, in the ECtHR cases of Mahammad Majidli v. Azerbaijan (no. 3) and three other applications. All four cases concern the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Azerbaijan. The applicants were arrested, detained and criminally convicted for their participation in unauthorised assemblies in the centre of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The demonstrations took place in 2010-2011. They were part of a wave of protests calling for increased democracy, inspired by the so-called ‘Arab spring’.

For the Human Rights Centre, the team that worked on the third party intervention consisted of four students[1] of the Human Rights Law Clinic of Ghent University’s Faculty of Law and their supervisor, Dr. Stijn Smet. In this post, we provide a summary of the arguments presented to the Court in the third party intervention.

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Grand Chamber Hearing in Paposhvili v. Belgium: The End of N. v. the UK?

Few judgments have sparked more criticism than N. v. the United Kingdom. The high Article 3 threshold set in the case of a seriously ill woman expelled to Uganda where she died shortly after her return has been criticized both inside and outside the Court. Following what some considered a missed opportunity in S.J. v. Belgium last March,[1] the Grand Chamber now has a renewed chance to revisit the N. approach in Paposhvili v. Belgium. In a third-party intervention in the case, the Human Rights Center at Ghent University invited the Grand Chamber to reconsider the unduly restrictive approach adopted in N. In this post, I highlight the main points we made in our intervention as well as some of the parties’ Article 3 oral arguments during last week’s hearing.

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S.A.S. v. France: A short summary of an interesting hearing

On Wednesday, our research team attended the Grand Chamber hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S.A.S. v. France, in which we submitted a third party intervention on behalf of the Ghent University Human Rights Centre. The case concerns the French law banning the face veil, a highly debated piece of legislation, which was also obvious from the amount of international press covering the hearing. I will first briefly discuss the content of our third-party intervention and then turn to a summary of the hearing which left a positive impression on us.

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New Publication: “Doing Minority Justice Through Procedural Fairness: Face Veil Bans in Europe”

Eva Brems and I are happy to announce the publication of our article entitled “Doing Minority Justice Through Procedural Fairness: Face Veil Bans in Europe” in the Journal of Muslims in Europe. In this article we examine the bans on face veils (better known as ‘Burqa bans’) from a procedural justice perspective. This piece also gave us an excellent opportunity to reflect on how the European Court of Human Rights might deal with this matter of face veil bans in a procedurally just way.[1] One case in which the Court will have to face the issue of a face veil ban is in the case of S.A.S. v. France. The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University submitted a third party intervention in this case last year, in which we  advocated inter alia for a procedural justice approach.

The full reference of the article is Saïla Ouald Chaib and Eva Brems, “Doing Minority Justice Through Procedural Fairness: Face Veil Bans in Europe”, Journal of Muslims in Europe 2 (2013), 1-26. Please find the abstract bellow.

The French and Belgian bans on face veils in public places have been subjected to strong substantive human rights critiques. This article takes a complementary approach, examining the bans from the perspective of procedural fairness.
Indeed, the French and Belgian bans are extreme examples of legislative
processes taking place above the heads of the people concerned, neglecting
the ban’s possible human rights impact. After exploring what the social
psychology notion of procedural fairness entails for the judiciary and the
legislator, especially in a multicultural context, this article details procedural fairness shortcomings with respect to the face veil ban in France and Belgium. Subsequently, the article sets out how the European Court of Human Rights might compensate for these shortcomings.


[1] For a general exploration of the concept of procedural justice in the context of the jurisprudence of the ECtHR, see also the recent publication by Eva Brems and Laurens Lavrysen: https://strasbourgobservers.com/2013/02/12/procedural-justice-in-human-rights-adjudication-the-european-court-of-human-rights/