Medical negligence after Lopes de Sousa Fernandes: a blank check to the Member States with respect to the substance of the right to life?

In the Lopes de Sousa Fernandes v. Portugal judgment of 19 December, the Grand Chamber made an attempt to clarify the Court’s case law in the area of medical negligence. Traditionally, the Court has examined cases of death resulting from alleged medical negligence almost exclusively from the viewpoint of the procedural obligations under Article 2. Those obligations require the State to set up an effective judicial system to determine the cause of death and to hold those responsible accountable (e.g. Calvelli and Ciglio v. Italy). In recent years, the Court seemed more and more willing to also examine such cases from the viewpoint of the substantive obligations under this provision. Particularly in the Chamber judgment in the Lopes de Sousa Fernandes case, the Court interpreted these substantive obligations in an expansive manner, which arguably would have turned the Court into “a first- and last-instance medical malpractice court” (joint dissenting opinion of Judges Sajó and Tsotsoria). The Grand Chamber, however, didn’t feel like opening the floodgates and decided to overturn the Chamber judgment, severely limiting the scope of the State’s substantive obligations in this area. Continue reading

One-way ticket to Sudan: standard-setting, yet disconnection between reasoning and outcome in N.A. v. Switzerland?

By Ellen Desmet, assistant professor of migration law at Ghent University

On 30 May 2017, the European Court of Human Rights decided two cases regarding the expulsion of rejected asylum seekers by Switzerland to Sudan. In A.I. v. Switzerland, the Court held unanimously that there would be a violation of Articles 2 and 3 ECHR in case of implementation of the deportation order, whereas in N.A. v. Switzerland the Court, also unanimously, did not find a conditional violation of these provisions.

The judgments (only in French) deserve a blogpost for at least two reasons. First, the Court explicitly sets out criteria in order to assess the risk of ill-treatment of political opponents when returned to Sudan. Second, the legal reasoning in N.A. v. Switzerland seems to hold potential for improvement. This post does not aim to question the outcome in N.A.: even though many aspects of A.I. and N.A. run parallel, there are important factual differences that may justify finding a violation in one case but not in the other. It does take issue with the way this outcome is arrived at in N.A. v. Switzerland. Continue reading

Victims placed at the centre in Beslan School Siege Judgment (Tagayeva and Others v. Russia)

By Jessica Gavron and Jarlath Clifford, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC, based at Middlesex University School of Law)

Last month the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) found that Russia violated the right to life of 409 victims of the Beslan school siege. The judgment in Tagayeva and Others v. Russia has been described as a high watermark for the human rights protection of hostages and for confirming the responsibility of states in conducting counter-terrorism operations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Continue reading

Talpis v. Italy: Elements to Show An Article 14 Violation in Domestic Violence Cases

What are the elements necessary to support a finding of discrimination in domestic violence cases? In the recent case of Talpis v. Italy, two judges voted against an Article 14 violation. The dissenting opinions offer an opportunity to reflect on this and other broader questions that may be relevant for future cases. The questions flow from disagreement in the judgment over: whether the domestic authorities involved in the individual case were discriminatory towards the applicant as a woman and whether there were sufficient indications of failures to protect women in the Italian system.

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Trivializing anti-personnel mines and ignoring childness: Sarıhan v Turkey

In an astonishingly laconic judgment (available only in French), the Court found no violation in the case of a 12-year old who was wounded by an anti-personnel mine while herding his sheep.

Facts and Ruling

The facts in this case date back to the summer of 2003, in a Kurdish village in East Turkey, not far from the borders with Armenia and Iran. 12-year old Erkan Sarıhan was herding his sheep in a minefield, situated at 150 metres from his village. He was playing with an anti-personnel mine when it exploded, causing severe injuries to his face, hands and chest. The minefield, which belonged to an army post situated 200 metres further, was surrounded with barbed wire and warning signs. There was also a watch post manned by two soldiers, who however did not have a view of the entire terrain and as a result had not seen the child enter. The inquiry into the accident showed that through the village mayor, the inhabitants of the village had regularly been warned about the dangers of the minefield. The report concluded that the child’s parents were responsible for the accident. It also held that it was necessary, in order to prevent similar accidents, to move the watch post so that it would overview the entire terrain, and to install specific warning signs for illiterate persons.

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It is time for the European Court to step into the business and human rights debate: A comment on Özel & Others v. Turkey

By Lieselot Verdonck, doctoral researcher at the Human Rights Centre (Ghent University) and fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (Belgium).

Özel & Others v. Turkey neatly fits into established case law of the European Court regarding human rights violations in which companies are involved. This is precisely the reason why the judgment may disappoint business and human rights scholars. In times of vigorous and divisive debates, the Court should shed a light on, instead of ignoring, the “business aspect” of the human rights violation.

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From Therapeutic Abstention to the Right to Die? The Case of Lambert and Others v. France

This guest post was written by Konstantin Tretyakov, S.J.D. at Harvard Law School.

On June 5th, 2015, the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) delivered its judgment in the case of Lambert and Others v. France. The case was about end-of-life decision-making on behalf of a persistently incompetent patient (Vincent Lambert, a French citizen) who was in a vegetative state and had to be artificially fed and hydrated through a gastric tube. The controversy arose with respect to the removal of that tube, which would result in the patient’s starvation, dehydration, and, ultimately, death: while some of the patients’ relatives (parents, half-brother and sister) wanted him to be kept fed and hydrated, his other relatives (wife and nephew) and caring physicians wanted the nutrition and hydration to be discontinued.

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