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