By Anne-Katrin Speck,[*] PhD Researcher within the ERC-funded project DISSECT: Evidence in International Human Rights Adjudication at Ghent University
Timing can be a peculiar thing sometimes. On 10 September 2020, a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the case of B.G. and Others v France,[†] finding that the accommodation conditions endured for several months by an asylum-seeking family in a tent camp in France had not amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment. At the very same time, news channels were showing flames raging in Moria, Europe’s largest refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesvos. A horrific fire had broken out there the day before, and would leave many thousands of refugees without shelter and access to basic services. The handing down of the judgment and the Lesvos fire are assuredly unrelated events. Yet, their coincidence is a stark reminder that the living conditions in camps for people fleeing their country are as grave a concern as ever.
But how bad is too bad? When are the living conditions in a camp so harsh as to attain a level of severity that is impermissible under the Convention? Who ought to prove this, and how can they? This post focuses on these evidentiary questions. We shall see that the Court’s treatment of evidence in B.G. and Others may prove to be the camel’s nose. According to this purported Arab proverb, once you allow a camel to stick its nose under your tent, the camel is bound to end up inside. Thus, a seemingly minor decision will have much wider, undesirable consequences. Much in the same manner, the Court’s approach to evidentiary issues in B.G. and Others, while unlikely to receive much attention, may have serious repercussions.Continue reading