A Grand Lady Leaves the Court

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to conclude our series of tributes to Judge Tulkens with this guest post by Professor Paul Lemmens (KU Leuven). We wish Judge Tulkens a happy birthday today and, above all, much happiness in her post-ECtHR life. Judge Tulkens, we will truly miss your voice on the Court.
We would also like to seize this opportunity to congratulate Professor Lemmens on becoming the new Belgian judge at the ECtHR. We are indeed honored to close this tribute to Judge Tulkens with some remarks by her successor and wish him much wisdom and courage.

It is a great pleasure for me to write a tribute to Françoise Tulkens.

We know each other already since a long time. I think our first encounter was at the occasion of a Jean Dabin conference on criminal justice, which she co-organised in 1995 at the Université Catholique de Louvain. Since then we have seen each other on a more or less regular basis, and each encounter was a joyful event, usually with a lot of laughter.

When I think of Françoise, I think in the first place of a warm, radiant personality. Recently I was struck by the sudden change in the atmosphere of a room filled with her colleagues. While the atmosphere was already pleasant before her entry, there was an outburst of joy from all sides as soon as she came in. One could feel the rise of temperature with her arrival. Françoise is a person you like immediately.

She is also a person who shows an immense respect for others and a real interest in their achievements and difficulties. It was only natural that she was elected by her peers to the position of Vice-President of the Court. She is a person who is trusted by her colleagues, who can bring a group together, motivate people, and work towards a common goal.

I personally am grateful to Françoise for the many occasions when she accepted to enrich an event with her presence and to share her views with participants at a conference or with students. She never tried to impose her views on the audience, but rather was open to suggestions. For Françoise it is not uncommon to admit publicly that she still has no clear view on an issue, and that she will continue to reflect on it after her presentation, taking into account the sometimes critical comments made by the audience.

Her legacy at the Court is undoubtedly immense. Continue reading

Juge Tulkens, un hommage en forme d’acrostiche

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to post this tribute to Judge Tulkens by Professors Emmanuelle Bribosia and Isabelle Rorive (Université libre de Bruxelles).

Justice.- Qui mieux que Françoise Tulkens incarne la justice ?  Femme de principe, elle l’a encore été dans l’affaire Yoh-Ekale Mwanje c. Belgique (arrêt du 20 décembre 2011) qui concernait une ressortissante camerounaise atteinte du VIH dont l’espérance de vie serait fortement réduite en cas d’expulsion. Sans s’opposer frontalement, au nom de la sécurité juridique, à la jurisprudence récente de la Grande Chambre (N. c. Royaume-Uni, arrêt du 27 mai 2008) où elle avait rendu une opinion dissidente commune particulièrement étayée, elle a, avec cinq autres juges de sa section, signé une opinion partiellement concordante. Critiquant le seuil de gravité requis –« être quasi-mourant »- pour qu’une expulsion entraîne une violation de l’interdiction des traitements inhumains ou dégradants, les six juges résistent tout en évitant l’écueil de la dissidence perpétuelle : ils invitent clairement la Cour à revoir sa position.

Utopie.- Convaincue que la discussion est plus porteuse que la coercition, Françoise, Tulkens a soutenu sans relâche les échanges entre juridictions. Contributrice indéfectible du dialogue entre juges, du nom du séminaire marquant la rentrée judiciaire de la Cour européenne depuis 2005, elle conçoit ces rencontres non pas comme « une conversation de salon », mais bien comme « un échanges d’idées et d’arguments, une communication au sens substantiel du terme » (Dialogue entre juges, 2011).  Dans le contexte du foisonnement des sources et de leurs interprètes, ce dialogue s’avère crucial pour éviter la fragmentation et permettre la construction d’un droit commun des droits de l’homme auquel elle est profondément attachée, quitte à se faire taxer d’utopiste.

Genre. Continue reading

Eppur, è l’ultima ratio …Le murmure galiléen de Françoise Tulkens

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to post this tribute to Judge Tulkens by Professor Serge Gutwirth (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).

Dans la triste affaire de M.C. c. Bulgarie, une jeune fille bulgare de quatorze ans et dix mois, M.C., encore vierge auparavant, affirma avoir été violée par deux hommes en une nuit. Les faits se déroulent au cours d’une virée nocturne dans laquelle elle s’était laissée embarquer, par de vagues connaissances, un peu malgré elle, pour se retrouver coincée par le cours des choses. Le film d’horreur se déroule devant nos yeux, petites avances, taquineries, allusions, refus de la reconduire chez elle, mauvaises plaisanteries et rires gras, une séquestration « soft » par l’état factuel de dépendance du moyen de transport, l’endroit désert et glauque annoncé comme lieu de joyeuse baignade nocturne, et puis, les mains baladeuses, les baisers imposés et le viol, non par la violence brute mais par une insistance lente dans laquelle l’intimidation et la peur prennent le dessus de la résistance et plongent la victime dans un état de dépit et d’angoisse paralysante. Plus tard encore dans la nuit, dans une chambre à coucher, un second viol, selon un même mode pourri, par un nouveau violeur, l’autre connaissance, celui dont elle s’imaginait qu’il allait être son protecteur après le premier viol. Et le climat déprimant prévisible persiste pendant le déroulement de l’enquête : les deux hommes évoquent des relations sexuelles consenties, oui même suscitées et provoquées par M.C., avec des témoignages douteux de comparses à l’appui.

Le ministère public et le magistrat instructeur bulgare eux non plus ne feront pas preuve de beaucoup de créativité juridique. Refusant de saisir l’occasion, ils se laisseront porter par la facilité et la routine : s’il n’y a pas de traces et de preuves de résistance physique, de menaces ou d’usage de force physique, le viol ne peut être établi et il faut donc clôturer l’instruction. Ce qui revient a contrario à affirmer que M.C. non seulement aurait volontairement abandonné sa virginité en séduisant deux hommes en une nuit, mais aussi qu’elle aurait essayé abusivement de les faire condamner pénalement afin d’obtenir des dommages et intérêts. Les  « mauvaises », en d’autres mots, étaient la gamine et sa mère. On pourrait presque être content qu’elles ne se sont pas fait condamner pour diffamation.  Elles par contre, introduisent une requête à Strasbourg.

Dans son arrêt M.C. c. Bulgarie du 4 décembre 2003 on retrouve la Cour Européenne des Droits de l’Homme dans toute sa grandeur. Continue reading

Le jeu ambigu du consensus européen dans la détermination de la marge d’appréciation. La vision critique de Françoise Tulkens.

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to post this tribute to Judge Tulkens by Professor Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen (Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne).

Quel honneur de participer à ce «blog tribute» en l’honneur du juge Françoise Tulkens! Admirée de tous et de toutes, elle a incontestablement marquée l’oeuvre jurisprudentielle de la Cour : de l’intérieur, par la pertinence de ses opinions dissidentes ; de l’extérieur, par son activité doctrinale qui n’a jamais cessé. Elle a ainsi toujours continué à réfléchir et prendre de la hauteur de vue dans le cadre de son activité judiciaire : élément fondamental pour rendre une justice juste (la redondance est délibérée). Professeur elle est, professeur elle restera. La cohérence de sa pensée est manifeste entre son oeuvre doctrinale et son office de juge. Que ces quelques lignes puissent lui démontrer qu’elle a ouvert, pour de nombreux juristes de ma génération, la voie vers une analyse critique et progressiste du droit des droits de l’homme en gardant à l’esprit un seul mot d’ordre : dialogue, encore et toujours, entre les divers «acteurs» de l’univers des droits humains. Continue reading

A special neighbor

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to post this tribute to Judge Tulkens by Judge Wilhelmina Thomassen, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights 1998-2004 and Justice of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands 2004-2012.

Fourteen years ago, in 1998, the ‘old’ European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission of Human Rights were abolished to make room for one institution, the ‘new’ Court.  Till then the machinery of human rights protection which had came into force on 3 September 1953 provided for a Commission  and a Court, their members meeting in Strasbourg on a part-time basis. The Commission was conceived as a filter to prevent the Court from being swamped by frivolous petitions and the procedure of complaint from being abused to serve political ends. Furthermore, several States were of the opinion that petitions of a political nature should not be adjudicated on by the Court, but should ultimately be handled by the Committee of Ministers.

The acceptance of the individual right of petition and of the jurisdiction of the Court were optional and the proceedings before the Commission were confidential, in order to avoid undesirable publicity (sought by applicants) which would prejudice the possibility of a friendly settlement. It was anticipated by certain States that the Commission would do its utmost to ensure that friendly settlements were reached. The possibility to refer a case to the Court was open solely to the Commission and the State(s) concerned, and was expressly denied to the applicant. The Commission was therefore initially the central monitoring body which, in order to prove its worth to member States, had to keep a watchful eye on the balance between the legally desirable and the politically acceptable. However, the substantive rights protected by the European Convention for Human Rights had been extended by various additional protocols. More and more States accepted the right of individual petition.  The thinking behind the Eleventh Protocol was that the merger of the Commission and the Court would enable proceedings to be simplified and thereby accelerated, as well as making it easier to cope with the increased influx of petitions. Since its entry into force on 1 November 1998  the judges of the Court sit on a permanent basis and 800 million people have the right to apply directly to it.

In the early spring of 1998 44 judges were elected. Much preparatory work had to be done to enable the new Court to commence its judicial business on the first of November.  Numerous questions had to be decided on, such as how the fixed sections and judgment chambers should be composed and whether the sections should deal with all kind of cases or should operate on a system of specialization.  The Court, despite the pressure of time, managed to have its rules drafted before 1 November 1998 (Wilhelmina Thomassen, “Six years as a judge in the European Court of Human Rights 1998/2004, highlights and frustrations”, Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 2004).

It was in that summer of preparatory works that I met Françoise. Continue reading

The “kettling” of the case law

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to post this tribute to Judge Tulkens by Professors  Sébastien Van Drooghenbroeck (Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis) and Frédéric Krenc (Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis)

In a Grand Chamber judgment of 15 March, 2012 (Austin vs UK) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that containment within a police cordon during a violent demonstration – so-called “kettling” – does not amount to “deprivation of liberty” in the sense of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Three dissenting judges, led by Françoise Tulkens, summed up the reasoning of the majority as follows:  “If it is necessary to impose a coercive and restrictive measure for a legitimate public-interest purpose, the measure does not amount to a deprivation of liberty.” The minority three further observe that “this is a new proposition which is eminently questionable and objectionable.” There follows a lengthy argumentation, listing a series of precedents to refute said proposition, not only specifically as regards the definition of “deprivation of liberty”, but also, more generally, in relation to the conflict between the respect for individual liberty and the obligation to protect competing rights.

The majority does not mention these precedents. The judgment appeared to consider that the evolutive interpretation, while not allowing for an actual reversal, at the very least made possible a flexible interpretation of jurisprudence.

Thus, the judgment reiterates that “the Convention is a living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions and of the ideas prevailing in democratic States today” (§ 53). More specifically, the majority declares that “advances in communications technology had made it possible to mobilise protesters rapidly and covertly on a hitherto unknown scale. Police forces in the Contracting States face new challenges, perhaps unforeseen when the Convention was drafted, and have developed new policing techniques to deal with them, including containment or “kettling”. Article 5 cannot be interpreted in such a way as to make it impracticable for the police to fulfil their duties of maintaining order and protecting the public, provided that they comply with the underlying principle of Article 5, which is to protect the individual from arbitrariness” (§ 56).

The judgment in Austin, and the dissidence it provoked, hint once again at the problematic relationship between Time and Human rights, and even more specifically, at the very delicate issue of overruling of precedent in malam partem. Continue reading

Françoise Tulkens, indefatigable defender of migrants’ human rights

The Strasbourg Observers are delighted to post this tribute to Judge Tulkens by Professor Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, University of Sussex.

Françoise Tulkens arrived at Strasbourg because she wanted to make a contribution to the development of European human rights law. She had no prior judicial experience but brought to her new office fine legal skills and great personal qualities. Amongst these must be mentioned her passion, generosity, energy, sensitivity, charm, wisdom, sense of justice and unfaltering commitment to human rights. This exceptional combination enabled her to become a key player within the European Court of Human Rights. Her successive internal elections – first as Vice-President of Section, then as President of Section and finally as Vice-President of the Court – testify to the respect in which she has been held by her fellow judges.

Her election as Vice-President is the more remarkable since she is a woman (a fact which should be irrelevant but rarely is) and holds views which are far from mainstream within the Court. To put it bluntly: Françoise Tulkens has been, throughout the fourteen years of her tenure, a resolutely progressive judge within an institution which often reveals deeply, and sometimes worryingly, conservative streaks (as in Palomo Sanchez and Others v. Spain or Austin and Others v. the United Kingdom). She swam indefatigably against the predominant current, often carrying colleagues with her. This short tribute proposes to start pinpointing her tremendously positive influence in an area where reflexes of fear and hostility are not always easily transformed into an ethic of respect towards the human being who faces us; namely, the area of migrants’ rights. Continue reading