The Grand Chamber Judgment in Ilias and Ahmed v Hungary: Immigration Detention and how the Ground beneath our Feet Continues to Erode

By Dr. Vladislava Stoyanova (Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Lund University)

The ECtHR has been for a long time criticized for its approach to immigration detention that diverts from the generally applicable principles to deprivation of liberty in other contexts. As Cathryn Costello has observed in her article Immigration Detention: The Ground beneath our Feet, a major weakness in the Court’s approach has been the failure to scrutinize the necessity of immigration detention under Article 5(1)(f) of the ECHR. The Grand Chamber judgment in Ilias and Ahmed v Hungary delivered on 21 November 2019 has further eroded the protection extended to asylum-seekers under the Convention to the point that restrictions imposed upon asylum-seekers might not even be qualified as deprivation of liberty worthy of the protection of Article 5. The Grand Chamber overruled on this point the unanimously adopted Chamber judgment that found that the holding of asylum-seekers in the ‘transit zone’ between Hungary and Serbia actually amounts to deprivation of liberty. Continue reading

Osman Kavala v. Turkey: unravelling the Matryoshka dolls

By Emre Turkut (PhD Researcher at Ghent University and DAAD Visiting Fellow at the Hertie School in Berlin)

On 10 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court) delivered its much-awaited decision in the case of Osman Kavala v. Turkey, an application lodged by a human rights defender and philanthropist to challenge his arbitrary arrest and subsequent placement in pre-trial detention in relation to the Gezi Park events and the 15 July 2016 attempted coup. The application had been pending before Strasbourg since 8 June 2018. In line with its priority policy that has been previously implemented in the group of cases concerning detained journalists and academics in Turkey, the Court decided to grant priority to Osman Kavala’s case on 23 August 2018 and it was hence communicated to Turkey on 30 August 2018. In its judgment, the ECtHR found several violations (see below). Arguably, the finding of an Article 18 violation in conjunction with Article 5(1) (c), among other violations, is the most significant part of the judgment and yet comes as no surprise. Following the Court’s earlier ruling in Selahattin Demirtas v. Turkey, this makes it the second Article 18 case decided against Turkey, which adds to the steady evolution of the burgeoning case law (see, inter alia, the Grand Chamber’s Merabishvili v. Georgia). Continue reading

The discovery in flagrante delicto, the Kafkaesque fate of a Supreme judge and the Turkish Constitutional Court: The Alparslan Altan case in Strasbourg

By Emre Turkut, PhD researcher at Ghent University

On 16 April 2019, the Second Section Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR) delivered a long-awaited decision in the case of Alparslan Altan v. Turkey, an application lodged by a former judge serving on the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) to challenge his arbitrary placement in pre-trial detention in the aftermath of the 15 July 2016 attempted coup. The application was pending in Strasbourg since 16 January 2017. In its judgment, the ECtHR found that the applicant’s initial pre-trial detention was not lawful within the meaning of Article 5/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and was not based on reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence under Article 5/1 (c) ECHR. Continue reading

Resuscitating the Turkish Constitutional Court: The ECtHR’s Alpay and Altan Judgments

Written by Senem Gurol, PhD candidate at Ghent University

Introduction

After the failed coup d’etat in Turkey, critics have raised concerns about the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR or the Court) ability and willingness to provide an effective remedy for the human rights violations occurred. These concerns arose from the Strasbourg Court’s recent inadmissibility decisions in the cases of Zihni, Çatal, and Köksal, which resulted in the Court sending the applicants back to exhaust the disputedly available and effective domestic remedies. Conversely, in the judgments of Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, delivered on 20 March 2018, the ECtHR demonstrated a vigilant scrutiny over the protection of freedom of expression in Turkey which has deteriorated even further in recent years. These cases are also the first in which the Strasbourg Court has examined the validity of the derogation made on 21 July 2017 by Turkey under Article 15 of the Convention in relation to restrictions of other Convention rights, namely Articles 5 and 10. In this blogpost, I will focus on the ECtHR’s exercise of its subsidiarity role in the given cases and its impact on the functioning of the domestic remedies in Turkey. Continue reading

Systematic detention of asylum seekers at the border: on the need for an individualised necessity test

By Ruben Wissing, lawyer at UNHCR and academic assistant migration law at Ghent University

In the Thimothawes judgement of 4 April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights acquits the Belgian State of the charge of having breached the right to liberty under article 5 §1 of the ECHR by systematically detaining asylum seekers at its external border at the national airport, as long as a (prima facia) vulnerability assessment has been undertaken, the duration of the detention remains reasonable and detention conditions are adequate.  Two dissenting judges however do not consider this sufficient to ensure that the detention is not arbitrary. Continue reading

The Grand Chamber’s ruling in Khlaifia and Others v Italy: one step forward, one step back?

Guest post by Denise Venturi, PhD Student in International Law, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy) and KU Leuven (Belgium)

On 15 December 2016 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) gave its much awaited ruling in the case Khlaifia and Others v Italy. The judgement follows a 2015 decision of the Second Section of the ECtHR that, in particular, found Italy – for the third time after Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy and Sharifi and Others v Italy and Greece – in breach of Article 4 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Chamber judgement was warmly welcomed by human rights advocators – and, besides, featured also in the Top Three of this blog’s poll for Best ECtHR Judgement for 2015 – as it upheld considerably the protection of migrants’ fundamental rights amidst the so called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe.

It is questionable, however, whether the subsequent Grand Chamber’s ruling has been able to keep up the expectations raised by the first pronouncement of the Strasbourg Court. Due to the wealth of issues considered, it is not possible to conduct an in-depth examination of the Grand Chamber’s decision. Thus, this blog post is primarily aimed at providing only a concise analysis by focusing on the differences between the approach adopted by Strasbourg Court in the two judgements delivered in the Khalifia case.

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The potential of a vulnerability-based approach: some additional reflections following O.M. v Hungary

Guest post by Denise Venturi, PhD Student in International Law, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy) and KU Leuven (Belgium)

As has recently been noted in this blog, the case of O.M. v Hungary adds another tile to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) mosaic on vulnerability. The present blog post seeks to start from these premises and dig further into the Court’s reasoning, to reflect on the extent to which vulnerability can be operationalised and meaningfully used in the legal reasoning and when, instead, it risks to remain confined only to a synonym for specific situations deserving attention.

As the readers of this blog may know, O.M. v Hungary concerned the detention to which a gay asylum seeker from Iran was subject while his asylum request was processed and before being granted refugee status. The detention was ordered because, allegedly, Mr. O.M. had not been able to clarify his identity and nationality; had entered irregularly; had not had any resources to live on in Hungary and there was a risk he could frustrate the procedure if left at large. The applicant claimed before the ECtHR that his detention had been unjustified with respect to Article 5(1)(b) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and that no individual assessment had been carried out. Notably, the applicant’s sexual orientation had not been taken into consideration, although Mr. O.M. reported to fear harassment in detention because of this circumstance.

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Too little, too late? The ECtHR’s pilot judgment on the Belgian internment policy

Guest post by Els Schipaanboord, LL.M. – PhD Researcher at the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy, Ghent University

On 6 September 2016, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Belgium once more, after 22 previous convictions, for its internment policy. This safety measure, under the Belgian law referred to as ‘internering’, aims to protect the society against ‘dangerous’ mentally ill offenders who cannot be held accountable for the offence they have committed, due to their illness. This time, however, the verdict granted Belgium the questionable honor of a pilot judgement. Applying the ‘pilot procedure’, the Court classifies Belgium’s internment policy as systematically and structurally dysfunctional and imposes an obligation upon it to address these problems within a limited amount of time. The Court gave Belgium a deadline of two years.

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Buzadji v. the Republic of Moldova: a welcome development in pre-trial detention case law

Guest post by Catherine Van de Heyning (Dr. LL.M.), researcher at the University of Antwerp and visiting professor of criminal law at UC Leuven-Limburg.

In the Buzadji v. the Republic of Moldova judgment of 5 July 2016 the ECtHR took the opportunity to clarify its case law on the requirement on a judge to give relevant and sufficient reasons for detention. In its established case law, the Court has already developed criteria for the justification of arrest and detention on remand of suspects pending trial. The Court has found a reasonable suspicion to suffice for the initial detention of a suspect. However, the Court has held that after “a certain lapse of time” reasonable suspicion no longer suffices (a.o. Letellier v. France and Idalov v. Russia). Further detention must be justified in addition on one of the other lawful grounds for detention as enumerated in the ECtHR case law and these grounds must constitute relevant and sufficient reasons. The Court requires “special diligence” from the courts reviewing whether these reasons are provided when deciding on the further detention (a.o. Labita v. Italy and Ilijkov v. Bulgaria).

Due to the lack of a more precise time indication and delineation of relevant and sufficient reasons, the impact of the Strasbourg case law on the domestic practice of pre-trial detention has remained limited. In the Buzadji judgment the Grand Chamber indicated that on two points it felt compelled to further develop its case law. As such, this case is a principled outlining of the Strasbourg case law on pre-trial detention and an important guideline to take into account in practice.

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Silencing the Voices of People with Disabilities: Recent Developments before the European Court of Human Rights

This guest post was written by Constantin Cojocariu, human rights lawyer[1]

Recently, I got involved in a case pending before the European Court of Human Rights – N. v. Romania – on behalf of a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who claimed that his detention for 14 years in high security psychiatric hospitals has been unlawful. I was surprised to notice that although he claimed breaches of Articles 5§1 and 6, the case had only been communicated under Article 8, and that the Court effectively requested the Romanian Government to place him under guardianship so that he may be represented in proceedings before it. Far from being exceptional, this case is part of a broader trend in disability cases, whereby the Court increasingly focuses on issues of process instead of offering substantive guidance, with the result that entrenched abuse and discrimination remain unchallenged. In this post, I examine critically several cases against Romania, mostly decided already, but also pending, including N. v. Romania, that in my view depart from well-established case law and which establish differential standards of scrutiny for persons with disabilities. Continue reading

Deprivation of liberty in armed conflicts: the Strasbourg Court’s attempt at reconciling human rights law and international humanitarian law in Hassan v. UK

This guest blog post was written by Frederic Bernard, Lecturer at the University of Geneva, Global Studies Institute, and Attorney-at-law admitted to the Geneva Bar.

The fragmentation of international law has been for some time the subject of in-depth academic and expert studies, as exemplified, for instance, by the report dedicated to this topic on 13 April 2006 by the Study Group of the International Law Commission. The relationship between international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular, has attracted much attention. In this context, the Hassan case is noteworthy, because, for the first time, the Strasbourg Court’s Grand Chamber had to address this relationship directly, in order to assess whether the applicant’s brother’s rights had been breached due to his detention in Iraq by British forces during the 2003 war:

This is the first case in which a respondent State has requested the Court to disapply its obligations under Article 5 or in some other way to interpret them in the light of powers of detention available to it under international humanitarian law.

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The European Court of Human Rights has spoken … again. Does Turkey listen?

This guest post was written by Dr Elena Katselli, Senior Lecturer in Law at Newcastle Law School

Thirteen years have elapsed since the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) judgment in Cyprus v Turkey in which the Court found Turkey responsible for 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its Protocols. The violations related to 1,485 Greek Cypriots who disappeared during the Turkish military invasion and occupation of Cyprus in 1974; the living conditions of enclaved Greek Cypriots living in the occupied area of Karpas since thereafter; and displacement.[1] Continue reading

Crossing the red line: application of the ‘significant disadvantage’ criterion in an Article 5§3 case

Recently, Judges De Gaetano and Ziemele did not hide their bewilderment with the Latvian government’s argument in favor of the application of the ‘significant disadvantage’ admissibility criterion in the case of Bannikov v. Latvia. Continue reading

The Right To Protest Contained By Strasbourg: An Analysis of Austin v. UK & The Constitutional Pluralist Issues it Throws Up

This post is written by David Mead who is a Senior Lecturer at the UEA Law School and author of The New Law of Peaceful Protest: Rights and Regulation in the Human Rights Act Era published by Hart in 2010. More information about David can be found here http://www.uea.ac.uk/law/Staff/All+People/Academic/dmead

The last few days have proved to be eventful for anyone interested in free speech and protest. First, Cambridge PhD student Owen Holland was rusticated for seven terms for reading out a poem that disrupted a speech being given by universities minister, David Willetts. Had this fallen to the magistrates, under say s.5 of the Public Order Act 1986, rather than to the university’s disciplinary “court”, it is hard to see how the sentence meted out would not have been significantly less. Continue reading

Stanev v. Bulgaria: The Grand Chamber’s Cautionary Approach to Expanding Protection of the Rights of Persons with Psycho-social Disabilities

This post is written by Lycette Nelson, Litigation Director, Mental Disability Advocacy Center*

The Grand Chamber’s recent judgment in Stanev v. Bulgaria has enormous significance for the rights of thousands of persons with psycho-social disabilities and intellectual disabilities throughout Europe. In finding violations of Articles 3, 5§1, 5§4, 5§5, 6§1, and 13, the Grand Chamber opened the possibility for persons in social care institutions to challenge both their deprivation of liberty and the inhuman and degrading conditions in institutions, and reaffirmed its jurisprudence regarding the right of persons whose legal capacity has been restricted to have access to a court to challenge their loss of rights.  However, the  Court’s narrowing of its holdings and failure to examine the applicant’s claim under Article 8 limit the scope of the judgment. The D.D. v. Lithuania judgment, coming immediately upon the heels of Stanev, brings the limitations of Stanev into focus. Read together, the two cases raise questions about the Court’s willingness to broaden its approach to protection of the rights of persons with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities and to go beyond acknowledging the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as the international standard for the rights of persons with disabilities to engage substantively with the paradigm shift the CRPD embodies.

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Less stringent measures and migration detention: overruling Saadi v. UK?

The recent cases of Yoh-Ekale Mwanje v. Belgium and Popov v. France illustrate how a ‘less stringent measures test’ is entering the Court’s reasoning under Art. 5 § 1 ECHR in migration detention cases. The Court appears to be slowly moving away from its deferential approach in Saadi v. The United Kingdom. This might result in the overruling of Saadi by the Grand Chamber in the near future.

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Strasbourg Court condemns Belgian internment policy

On 6 December 2011, the European Court of Human Rights found the Belgian internment policy to be in breach of the ECHR. The case of De Donder and De Clippel v. Belgium concerned Tom De Clippel, a mentally ill person who had committed suicide while interned in an ordinary prison. Under Belgian law, internment (“internering” / “internement”) is a “safety measure” to protect society against a dangerous mentally ill individual who was committed a serious offence, but who is not considered to be criminally liable due to his or her mental illness.

According to the Court, the authorities should have been aware that there was a real risk that Tom De Clippel, as a paranoid schizophrenic, might attempt to commit suicide while detained in an ordinary prison environment. The Court found a substantive violation of Art. 2 ECHR (the right to life) on the ground that Tom De Clippel should never have been held in the ordinary section of a prison. Continue reading

Schmitz v. Germany and Mork v. Germany: Applause for the German Constitutional Court—Does ‘Dialogue’ Solve it All?

This guest post was written by Ingrid Leijten who works as a Ph.D. fellow and teaching assistant at the Leiden University Faculty of Law, Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law. Her main research interest lies in the development of the ECHR and the practice of the ECtHR in relation to the Member States’ policymaking.

 

Recently, the Fifth Section of the Court held in the cases of Schmitz v. Germany and Mork v. Germany that the (possibly) infinite preventive detention the claimants were exposed to did not violate Article 5§1 of the Convention. What makes the decisions worth mentioning though, is the role accorded to the judgment of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (German Constitutional Court; BVerfG) of 4 May 2011—and thereby the exemplar of ‘dialogue between Strasbourg and national courts’ these cases might turn into.

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European Court of Human Rights Goes With the Times: Mangouras v. Spain

Earlier this week, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in the case of Mangouras v. Spain. The case concerns the environmental disaster caused when the oil tanker Prestige sank in front of the Galician coast in 2002. Following the disaster, the Greek captain of the ship was detained in Spain. His bail was set at 3 million euros and he was only released after 83 days, when the ship owner’s insurers posted bail. The captain complained about what he considered to be an excessive bail and his case eventually reached Strasbourg, where the Chamber held that art. 5 of the ECHR had not been breached (see Mangouras v. Spain, 8 January 2009). The Grand Chamber has now endorsed that ruling, also finding that under the circumstances the setting of bail of 3 million euros was not exsessive.

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