WHAT IS FAIR IN LAW & WAR? Discussing States’ conduct and compliance with human rights standards during military operations abroad in Hanan v. Germany

Aurélie Van Baelen, researcher at the Human Rights Centre (University of Ghent)

Introduction

On 16 February 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its long-awaited judgment in Hanan v. Germany (application no. 4871/16). The ruling presents another episode in the saga of cases regarding States’ conduct, and more specifically their compliance with international human rights law, during military operations abroad under the auspices of an international organisation. Facing no fewer than eight intervening governments, showing the importance of the case at hand for troop-contributing States, the ruling is – unsurprisingly – one of give and take.

As I will argue in this blog post, the judgment is remarkable for finding extraterritorial jurisdiction for the purposes of Article 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and for explicitly reconfirming a State’s duty to investigate civilian casualties in correspondence to human standards. The Court’s finding of a non-violation of the procedural limb of Article 2 ECHR however is unfortunate, but expected. The Court delivered a strategic judgment, in which it attempts to not dissuade States to engage in multilateral military operations, or to institute domestic investigations into deaths occurring during military operations abroad, on the one hand, and to protect fundamental rights on the other. A carefully constructed balance which, regrettably, has tilted in favour of the former, which for airstrike victims, is the umpteenth disappointment on their quest to justice.

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Damage control after Georgia v Russia (II) – holding states responsible for human rights violations during armed conflict

By Jessica Gavron and Philip Leach, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, London

Introduction

The European Court of Human Rights’ recent Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Georgia v Russia (II) has already been the subject of strong criticism, both from within the Human Rights Building and outside. For Judge Pinto de Albuquerque, the judgment represented a ‘pernicious progeny of Banković’. Judges Yudkivska, Wojtyczek and Chanturia aver that the majority have confirmed the Latin maxim silent enim leges inter arma (in times of war law falls silent). For Marko Milanovic, the decision is ‘exemplary only in its arbitrariness’. Helen Duffy points to the ‘potentially insidious policy implications’ of the judgment. Commenting on the Court’s deference to international humanitarian law (IHL), Isabella Risini notes that ‘judicial mechanisms for the enforcement of IHL are largely inexistent’. Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou suggests that ‘the Court is ready to give up on massive human rights violations because they are too difficult to deal with.’

Although there is so much in this judgment to be dissected, this post focuses on the single, critical question of how to determine jurisdiction in respect of extra-territorial armed conflict. We revisit and discuss relevant international jurisprudence, but in the limited space available, we do not of course claim to be comprehensive.

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Reaching the dead-end: M.N. and others and the question of humanitarian visas

By Moritz Baumgärtel

M.N. and others v. Belgium confronted the ECtHR with the question whether Article 3 of the ECHR places an obligation on State Parties to provide short-term humanitarian visas in their foreign embassies and consulates to potential asylum seekers. The Court, assembled in its Grand Chamber, found the case to be outside the jurisdiction of the Convention and thus inadmissible. While many will look at this outcome with disappointment, it is above all expected. This post provides an initial evaluation focusing on the strategic merits of the case, the issue of extra-territorial jurisdiction, and the broader question of legal pathways to asylum. The argument, in short, will be that this decision may offer a chance to come to the overdue realization that the creation of such pathways is a political question, the answer to which cannot currently be found in European human rights law. Continue reading

Ilașcu: from contested precedent to well-established case-law

By Linda Hamid, Research Fellow at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies – Institute for International Law, KU Leuven

On 15 October 2019, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgment in the case of Grama and Dîrul v. The Republic of Moldova and Russia, whereby it found a violation of Art. 1, Protocol No. 1 and Art. 13 to the/of the Convention by the Russian Federation only. More specifically, the Court held that the seizure of the applicants’ cars and the imposition of fines on them by the authorities of the ‘Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria’ (the MRT or Transdniestria) and the lack of an effective remedy for the applicants to assert their rights in the face of the actions of the MRT constituted a breach of said Convention provisions. Transdniestria is a breakaway region in Moldova that declared independence in 1991 but remains unrecognized by the international community. Continue reading