Yeshtla v. the Netherlands: a missed opportunity to reflect on the discriminatory effects of States’ social policy choices

By Fulvia Staiano, Adjunct Professor of International Law and European Union Law (Giustino Fortunato University)

On 15 January 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered an inadmissibility decision on the case of Emabet Yeshtla v. the Netherlands. In this case, the ECtHR was asked to determine whether the withdrawal of the applicant’s housing benefits (motivated by the fact that she cohabited with an unlawfully resident son) had breached her right to respect for private and family life under Art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), alone and in conjunction with the prohibition of discrimination under Art. 14 ECHR. This case raised interesting questions on the potential impact of social assistance and welfare policies on recipients’ family life, as well as on the discriminatory effects of domestic norms that use social benefits as a tool to discourage irregular residence. Regrettably, the ECtHR dismissed this case without a thorough consideration of such questions. Continue reading

Judgment of Burlya and Others v. Ukraine: Local authorities held accountable for violating Convention rights of Roma residents in pogrom

By Tess Heirwegh, PhD researcher at the Human Rights Centre, Ghent University

This blog post will focus on the recent case of Burlya and Others v. Ukraine to highlight the negative role that local authorities may play in human rights realisation and why it is essential that the Court held them explicitly accountable for it. In this judgment of 6 November 2018, the Strasbourg Court dealt with the complaints of 19 Ukrainian nationals of Roma ethnicity following a pogrom by village residents against their houses. First, the Court held that this attack had undoubtedly been motivated by anti-Roma sentiment. Second, it stated that the applicants who had been forced to flee their homes due to this attack had suffered degrading treatment. One important factor for this finding was the local authorities’ attitude during the events, namely the appearance of their official endorsement for the attack, as well as the ineffective investigation into the crime. Therefore, the Court found a violation of both the substantive and procedural aspect of Article 3, taken in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR. Moreover, these findings were sufficient for the Court to rule that Article 8, taken in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR, had been violated as well. Continue reading

Of firearms and weak women: sex discrimination in Hülya Ebru Demirel v. Turkey

Dr. Alexandra Timmer was one of the co-founders of this blog in 2010. She is assistant professor human rights law at Utrecht University, and acting specialist coordinator gender equality of the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination.

Hülya Ebru Demirel v. Turkey is a case concerning sex discrimination in employment. A state-run regional electricity company refused to appoint the applicant because she was a woman, and the ECtHR duly found a violation of Article 14 ECHR. The judgment is largely a redux of Emel Boyraz v. Turkey (December 2014), which was based on similar facts. Demirel and Boyraz are interesting to discuss, as there are very few ECtHR cases concerning sex discrimination in employment. Unfortunately, as this blogpost will argue, the Court failed to address the structural hurdles that the applicants, because they are women, faced in the labor market. The State relied on obvious gender stereotypes, but the Court’s reasoning does not enter into that.  Continue reading

Skullcap in the Courtroom: A rare case of mandatory accommodation of Islamic religious practice

In Hamidović v Bosnia and Herzegovina (5 December 2017), the Fourth Section of the Court found a violation of articles 9 and 14 ECHR on account of the punishment of a witness for wearing an Islamic skullcap in the courtroom. As almost all claims for accommodation of Islamic religious practice have failed before the Court, this is an important case. The Court reaffirms member states’ wide margin of appreciation in this field, yet this judgment makes clear that such a margin is nevertheless not unlimited. Continue reading

Same Same But Different: A heterosexual couple denied registered partnership by the ECtHR

By Claire Poppelwell-Scevak, FWO Research Fellow, Human Rights Centre (Ghent University)

On 26 October 2017 the European Court of Human Rights held in Ratzenböck and Seydl v Austria that Austria’s registered partnership law, which is only open to homosexual couples, did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights by denying this registered partnership to a heterosexual couple. The judgment given by the seven member – although there was a two judge dissenting opinion – bench can be seen as a warning to future same-sex marriage proponents that their claims will not be favourably assessed. Continue reading

Strasbourg fails to protect the rights of people living in or at risk of poverty: the disappointing Grand Chamber judgment in Garib v the Netherlands

By Valeska David and Sarah Ganty, PhD researchers at Ghent University and Université Libre de Bruxelles

On November 6th the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in Garib v. the Netherlands (Application n° 43494/09). It thereby confirmed the Chamber’s finding that refusing a housing permit to a single mother living on social welfare on account of legislation imposing minimum income requirements to reside in a number of hotspot areas of Rotterdam, did not violate her freedom to choose her residence (Article 2 of Protocol 4 ECHR). While the applicant and our third party intervention invited the Grand Chamber to examine the case also under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) read in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol 4 ECHR, the Grand Chamber declined to do so. Five judges, rightly so, annexed three highly critical dissenting opinions. As we shall show in this post, this is a deeply disappointing judgment in terms of both reasoning and outcome.

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Difference in Treatment on the Ground of Sex Arising from Penal Policy Issues: Alexandru Enache v. Romania

By Beril Onder, PhD researcher at Ghent University and University of Strasbourg

On 3 October 2017 the Fourth Section of the Court delivered the judgment in Alexandru Enache v. Romania. The case concerned a discrimination complaint under Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention, regarding a special measure granting women stay of execution of their prison sentences if they were pregnant or had a child under the age of one.[1] The issue concerned the difference in treatment between men and women arising from the penal policy, like the recent Grand Chamber judgment Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v. Russia, as the applicant was refused this stay of execution based solely on his gender. The Court, in both judgments, left a wide margin of appreciation to the State Parties, and supported its conclusion by referring to the international instruments addressing the needs of women for the protection of pregnancy and motherhood. However, both judgments can be considered problematic for different reasons from a perspective of gender stereotypes. Corina Heri, in her comment, already discussed the problems related to gender stereotypes in Khamtokhu and Aksenchik. The following comments will focus on the judgment in Alexandru Enache v. Romania. Continue reading