Biao v. Denmark: Grand Chamber ruling on ethnic discrimination might leave couples seeking family reunification worse off

This guest post was written by Alix Schlüter, Ph.D. researcher at Bucerius Law School, Hamburg.

On May 24th 2016 the Grand Chamber found that the refusal to grant family reunion to a Ghanaian couple in Denmark violated Article 14 ECHR in conjunction with Article 8 ECHR. Overruling the Chamber’s judgment of 2014, the Court held by a majority of twelve votes to five that Danish Laws on Family Reunification in part constituted indirect discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin. In the past, the Court for the most part has confined itself to finding violations of the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of race or ethnic origin merely in certain tightly circumscribed case groups, namely cases concerning school segregation of Roma children and racist violence cases. Against that background, the ruling in Biao must be seen as a big step – all the more as critics have proclaimed that the Court might not yet have developed a satisfactory approach to cases of indirect discrimination.[1] The implementation of the judgment by the Danish government, however, has to be awaited with some uneasy suspense. It might result in leaving Danish nationals of non-Danish ethnic origin seeking family reunification worse off.

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Silence as Acquiescence: On the Need to Address Disability Stereotyping in Kocherov and Sergeyeva v. Russia

By Corina Heri, PhD candidate at the University of Zürich / Visiting Scholar at Ghent University

In Kocherov and Sergeyeva v. Russia, a Chamber judgment issued on 29 March 2016, the ECtHR held that the restriction of a mentally disabled father’s parental authority had violated his rights under Article 8 ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life). In the past, the ECtHR has found violations of Article 8 ECHR where the domestic authorities failed to provide sufficient reasons for measures withdrawing parental care or contact rights from disabled parents (compare Olsson v. Sweden (No. 1), Kutzner v. Germany, and Saviny v. Ukraine). One of the most interesting aspects of the Kocherov and Sergeyeva case, however, concerns another provision, namely the prohibition of discrimination in Article 14 ECHR. The complaint made in this regard concerned the fact that Mr. Kocherov was considered an unfit parent based on stereotyped assumptions about parents with mental disabilities, contrary to the evidence about his actual ability to care for a child. The fact that the majority did not find it necessary to examine this complaint represents a missed opportunity to confront stereotyping head-on.

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ECtHR condemns the punishment of women living in poverty and the ‘rescuing’ of their children

By Valeska David

The recently delivered ECtHR judgment in Soares de Melo v. Portugal (application No.72850/14) conveys a strong message on childrearing responsibilities and child protection: families living in poverty (mostly led by women) cannot be punished for their deprivation and their children should not be ‘rescued’ from them. Instead, and because children are not the exclusive responsibility of parents, states must fulfill their supportive role and provide material and other forms of assistance to make family life possible.

Following a summary of the facts and the findings of the Court, I will first briefly contextualize the importance of such a message within the Council of Europe (CoE). Subsequently, I will highlight some of the main contributions explicitly and implicitly made by the judgment. Finally, I will conclude by taking the opportunity to suggest that the way forward requires the Court to be more attentive to the discrimination and stereotypes often at play in these types of cases.

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European Court Buttresses Binational Same-Sex Couples’ Right to Family Reunification

This guest post was written by Zsolt Bobis, Program Coordinator with the Open Society Justice Initiative’s Equality and Inclusion Cluster @ZsoltBobis

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled in Pajić v. Croatia that Croatia’s former legal regime that had categorically denied same-sex couples the possibility of obtaining family reunification had violated human rights standards. The court sided with the applicant, a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who alleged she had faced discrimination on the basis of her sexual orientation during her application for a residence permit in Croatia.

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Mandet v. France: Child’s “duty” to know its origins prevails over its wish to remain in the dark

By Evelyn Merckx, academic assistant and doctoral researcher at the Human Rights Centre (Ghent University)

The European Court of Human Rights has delivered many judgments about a child’s right to know its origins and whether this right can prevail over the refusal of the anonymous biological parent. In Mandet v. France, the opposite scenario took place. A presumed biological father wanted to have his paternity recognised vis-à-vis a child who already had a legal and social father and asked the judges not to change his established family ties. However, the domestic courts decided that it was in the son’s best interests that he knew the truth about his origins.

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No obligation on States to recognize a marriage contracted abroad: the case of Z.H. and R.H. v. Switzerland

Guest post by Sanne Konings, Stafmedewerker Familiaal Internationaal Privaatrecht, Agentschap Integratie en Inburgering.

On 8th of December 2015 the European Court of Human Rights pronounced a judgment in the case of Z.H. and R.H. v. Switzerland. The main question was if the Swiss authorities violated the right to respect of family life under article 8 European Convention of Human Rights of the applicants by not recognizing their religious marriage and removing the second applicant to Italy while the first applicant was allowed to stay in Switzerland.

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Oliari and Others v. Italy: a stepping stone towards full legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Europe

This guest post was written by Giuseppe Zago, Researcher of Comparative Sexual Orientation Law, Leiden University (*)

Last 21 July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Oliari and others v. Italy had once again the opportunity to analyze the status of same-sex couples wishing to marry or enter into a legally recognized partnership. This resulted in a groundbreaking judgment, with the Court asserting that the absence of a legal framework recognizing homosexual relationships violates the right to respect for private and family life, as provided by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) in article 8.

Its relevance is twofold, as the Court poignantly plunges into the current legal situation of Italy, and at the same time builds up on the outcomes of its previous cases, Shalk and Kopf v. Austria and Vallianatos and others v. Greece, to slightly, yet significantly, extend the interpretation of the ECHR principles concerning same-sex individuals who enter stable intimate relationships.

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