The multifaceted and crucial role played by NGOs at the European Court of Human Rights

This guest post was written by Laura Van den Eynde, Doctoral Researcher at Université libre de Bruxelles. (*)

On 17 and 24 July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights decided three cases, one against Romania concerning the death of a mentally disabled and HIV-positive young Roma and two other cases against Poland concerning the detention and transfer of terrorist suspects who were subjected to torture.[1] Beyond the fact that the cases involve particularly shocking human rights violations and that the judgments are quite long, what else would they have in common? As will be demonstrated hereunder, these cases would not have been decided – or decided with that information at hand – if there hadn’t been civil society organizations caring to denounce and document the human rights violations at stake. Continue reading

HIV-based employment discrimination: the ECtHR takes a strong stance in I.B. v. Greece

The Strasbourg Court has recently delivered its first judgment on the topic of HIV-based employment discrimination. I.B. v. Greece (judgment in French!) concerns a man who is HIV-positive and who was fired from his job, because his employer wished to keep the company running smoothly. What happened was that a group of I.B.’s co-workers, finding out about his HIV diagnosis, had called for his dismissal because they were afraid of contagion.

Although much of the legal reasoning in this judgment is familiar (notably from the landmark case of Kiyutin v. Russia), this ruling is notable for the strong message the Court sends about the harms of HIV-based stigma and discrimination. In this post I will highlight what are to my mind the most noteworthy aspects of this judgment, namely that the Court applies a social model of disability and that it uses the concept of vulnerable groups to narrow the margin of appreciation. The drawback of this judgment, I conclude, is that it does not give much support to HIV-positive people requiring some form of accomodation from their employer. Continue reading

Kiyutin v. Russia: landmark case concerning the human rights of people living with HIV

Recently, the Court came down with a judgment that strongly condemns the stigmatization of people living with HIV. Kiyutin v. Russia is, as far as I was able to ascertain, the first case in which the Court rules on the merits of a claim of discrimination on the ground of a person’s HIV-positive status. Straight away, the Court has chosen to become a leader in the battle against stigma and discrimination of people with HIV. Continue reading