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

The Court offers protection to those who have a disability and are in detention (Jasinskis v. Latvia & Raffray Taddei v. France)

In the most recent round of judgments, squeezed in just before the festive season, are two interesting cases concerning the detention of persons with a disability: Jasinskis v. Latvia and Raffray Taddei v. France. These two cases are exemplary of many others, in which people with a disability are held in detention in appalling conditions. However, the cases get a bitter twist because the national authorities try to lay the blame on the detainees themselves. The Strasbourg Court does a good job protecting the human rights of the applicants.

What happened
The facts that constitute these cases are widely different. The first case concerns Valdis Jasinskis, who was deaf and mute since birth. Continue reading

Freedom of Expression in Turkey: When Changes in the Wording Are Not Enough

The case of Dink v. Turkey recently confronted the European Court with the most brutal affront on freedom of expression: the assassination of a journalist. The Court found a violation of Article 2 (in its both substantive and procedural aspects) and of Article 10. At the basis of the freedom of expression violation was a Criminal Code provision (Article 301, former Article 159) which makes it an offense to “publicly denigrate Turkishness” (Türklük). Under this article, Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor, Fırat Dink, was put on trial. A few months after having been found guilty of denigrating Turkish identity, he was shot dead.

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‘Unluxury problems’ of Europe

In a book published in 2003 Manfred Nowak wrote: “The OAS [Organization of American States] in comparison [with the Council of Europe] is composed of a wide range of states including both the richest industrialized countries (United States and Canada) and the poorest countries of the world (e.g. Haiti), as well as democracies and military dictatorships that covered a good part of the entire hemisphere in the 1970s. Consequently, the human rights bodies of the OAS have always had to deal with far more than Europe’s ‘luxury problems’, such as the excessive duration of legal proceedings in Italy. Historically, and presently, OAS human rights bodies are challenged by widespread poverty, systematic torture and assassination of political dissidents, enforced disappearances and much more.”[1]  

It is impossible to draw a distinction like that from the Court’s case-law of the year 2009. The Court found 269 violations of Article 2 and 3 plus 145 violations of those articles because of lack of effective investigations. This makes it 1/6 of all the violations the Court found that year.[2]  

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