The New Trial: Kafkaesque Punishment for Cooperation with the ECtHR

By Prof Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool), Editor-in-Chief of the European Convention on Human Rights Law Review

It has been discussed on various levels that weak enforcement of the ECtHR judgments is a major drawback of the whole system. The lack of political will of the governments of the Contracting Parties to the Convention to engage with the ECtHR and the Committee of Ministers is often deemed to be one of the key reasons for slow enforcement of judgments and limited impact of the ECtHR on the standards of human rights protection in Europe. One of the ways to ensure quick embeddedness of the Convention is to resort to friendly settlements where the state accepts the responsibility for an obvious violation and pays appropriate compensation. The Committee of Ministers supervises execution of these friendly settlements although not always to the maximum effect. Recently the Court has introduced a new mandatory period during the procedure in Strasbourg during which the parties should consider a friendly settlement. Apparently, Ukraine is the only Contracting Party to the Convention which opted out of this procedure for the reasons discussed below. Friendly settlement is a very useful tool especially in cases of repetitive routine violations. This blogpost will try to convey two key messages. First, that national politics can put a halt on effective implementation on human rights even through preventing friendly settlements. The ability of national politics to affect human rights is hardly an original point but the story that is happening now in Ukraine gave this point a new twist. Second, that the Council of Europe has responsibility to react when the reputation of the Court, its judges and decisions are undermined. Continue reading

Burmych v. Ukraine two years later: What about restoral?

By Lize R. Glas, Assistant Professor of European law, Radboud University, the Netherlands

When the Court took the unprecedented decision to strike 12,143 repetitive cases out of its list in  Burmych and Others v. Ukraine on 12 October 2017, it added that it may reassess the situation within two years and restore the cases. As this date is approaching, this blog addresses the question whether the Court will and should restore these cases. For this purpose, I will outline what has happened in the execution process since Burmych, explain what restoration involves and discuss whether the principled and pragmatic reasons for striking out Burmych still apply and convince. This blog begins with a brief summary of the judgment and the events leading up to it. Continue reading

How many judgments does one need to enforce a judgment? The first ever infringement proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights.

By Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool)

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its first ever judgment in an infringement procedure request (under Article 46-4 ECHR) in the case of Mammadov v Azerbaijan. The applicant in this case was an opposition leader from Azerbaijan who was put in prison contrary to Articles 5-1c and 18 ECHR. The Court confirmed that acquittal of the applicant was the only individual measure capable to remedy this violation. In so doing, the Court has effectively made the only decision that was politically plausible, namely it agreed with the Committee of Ministers that the judgment in the first Mammadov case was not executed properly. I have argued that this was the only possible solution in my previous blog post on the issue. The Court made it clear that the Committee of Ministers has quite broad competencies in interpreting the judgments of the ECtHR. Başak Çalı has written a good blog post analysing the substance of this decision. So, to avoid repetition I am going to focus on a few points which I found important not only for this judgment in particular but also for the future of the procedure pursuant to Article 46-4 ECHR if the Committee of Ministers ever requests a new judgment. Continue reading

What future for settlements and undertakings in international human rights resolution?

By Nino Jomarjidze and Philip Leach

Resolving problems through settlements and by eliciting undertakings from governments has become a significant feature of the Strasbourg landscape. At the European Court of Human Rights (the Court), the use of friendly settlements (agreed confidentially between the parties) has been on the increase. So too, for ‘unilateral declarations’ (UD) which are utilised by the Court to resolve cases on terms put forward by the government, and which are deemed acceptable by the Court, even in the absence of agreement from the applicant. In 2018, more than 3,000 cases were resolved either by settlement or by UD, a 34% increase from the previous year. Within that figure, the number of priority cases resolved in this way more than doubled in the same period. Indeed, in 2019 the ECtHR is trialling a new non-contentious phase in its proceedings, which means that when a government is notified of a case, the parties will have an initial 12 week friendly settlement phase, followed by a 12 week contentious phase. More than that, the Court registry will itself usually make a friendly settlement proposal setting out suggested terms.

Such alternative forms of dispute resolution have been relatively under-explored and deserve further scrutiny. A common feature of both friendly settlements and UDs is that governments will provide undertakings to take remedial steps, which become binding under international law. Their significant potential is reflected in the fact that such undertakings can go further than the ECtHR itself would go in its judgments. But whose job is it to assess whether an undertaking has been met, and what happens when governments do not comply? The Committee of Ministers (CM) has a supervision role vis-à-vis friendly settlements, but will rarely monitor UDs – only when they are incorporated into a judgment of the Court, rather than a decision. Continue reading

ECtHR or CEDAW: Spoilt for Choice in Moldova?

By Irina Crivet (PhD Candidate, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey)

The proliferation of international and regional human rights bodies has given the victims of human rights violations the chance to pick and choose where they can send their complaints. Whilst these choices are limited by geographical locations of individuals and the states’ acceptance of right to individual petition before multiple bodies, today some individuals and their lawyers have more than one choice. Moldova is one such country. Individuals can submit applications either before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) – or before  quasi-judicial human rights bodies of the United Nations, the UN Treaty Bodies (UNTBs).

This blog post examines the effects of this proliferation for Moldovan victims of domestic violence who can take cases both before the ECtHR and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW or the Committee). In doing so, I first examine the ECtHR case law regarding domestic violence in Moldova and the status of views adopted by UNTBs against Moldova. Continue reading

Is the European Court of Human Rights capable of changing legal systems? Judgment in Aliyev v Azerbaijan.

By Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool)

In spring 2014, shocking news came from Azerbaijan. Leading human rights defenders including Mr Intigam Aliyev were arrested and charged with various financial crimes. It was clear that these charges were just a cover-up for the silencing of vocal critics of the government and for the destruction of an effective human rights defence in the country. It is not surprising that those arrested and charged brought their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court). In September 2018, more than two years after Mr Aliyev was in fact released, the Court has delivered its judgment in his case. There are plenty of reasons to praise this judgment; the Court unanimously found plenty of violations of the Convention including violations of Articles 3, 5, 8 and 18. Under Article 18, the Court found that the true purpose of the arrest was not punishment for the crimes committed by the applicant but retaliation for being a human rights defender. As it is often the case, this judgment came slightly too late because the applicant has already been released from prison but it helpfully reinforces a line of judgments showing that Azerbaijani authorities use criminal law to silence its opponents. This blogpost will however focus on a more problematic aspect of this judgment, namely the Court’s attempts to improve the legal system in Azerbaijan by defining general measures that must be implemented to effectuate this judgment. Continue reading

Implementation of ECtHR judgments – What do the latest statistics tell us?

By Lucy Moxham, Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law

In April 2018, the Committee of Ministers (the regional body responsible for supervising the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights) published its 11th Annual Report. The Committee’s Annual Report 2017 is available in full here. This post highlights some of the headline statistics in the Report and what they tell us about the overall state of play with respect to the implementation of the Court’s judgments. A closer look reveals several areas for concern behind some of the positive statistics. Continue reading