Human Rights Centre submits a third party intervention in case concerning the right to family life of transgender parents and their children

Judith Vermeulen is a doctoral researcher and a member of the Law & Technology research group, the Human Rights Centre and PIXELS at Ghent University.

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University (Belgium)[1] submitted a third party intervention (TPI) before the European Court of Human Rights in the communicated case of A.M. and Others v. Russia. The issue is the restriction of a trans woman’s parental rights in view of her gender identity. In our submission, we argue that this case raises important issues under the right to respect for family life (Article 8 ECHR), taken alone and in conjunction with the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14 ECHR), providing the Court with an important opportunity to clarify the standards in the area of human rights protection of trans persons and children. An overview of the facts as well as a summary regarding our main arguments are provided hereunder. Continue reading

Event Announcement: Conference “The ECHR turns 70: Taking Stock, Thinking Forward” postponed to 24-26 November 2021

We are delighted that our call for papers has attracted a huge interest from all over the world and we would like to thank everyone who submitted an abstract.

In view of the Corona crisis, we are moving the Conference to 24-26 November 2021. This will enable our participants to meet face to face which we believe will add to the discussion and the overall enjoyment of those attending the event.

We still want to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Convention in November 2020 and are therefore organising a smaller, bespoke, event on the original date: 20 November 2020. In particular, we are delighted that the European Court of Human Rights’ President, Judge Spano, and former President of the Court, Judge Sicilianos, will be in conversation with the Ghent Human Rights Centre’s Director, Professor Eva Brems. This will be streamed online.

Further information on both this celebratory event and the conference will be published in due time on this blog. You can also visit the conference website.

 

The right to education in Transdniestria seven years after Catan and Others v. Moldova and Russia: are we there yet?

By Linda Hamid, Research Fellow at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies – Institute for International Law, KU Leuven

On 4 December 2019, during a research stay in the Republic of Moldova, I travelled to the village of Doroțcaia, where I visited the ‘Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt’ lyceum and met with the principal, Ms Eleonora Cercavschi. Until August 2002, the school had been situated in Grigoriopol, a small town in the Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria (MRT or Transdniestria), which is a breakaway region in Moldova that declared independence in 1991, but has not been recognized by the international community. However, in the wake of events that will be described below, the school was evacuated from its premises by MRT ‘police’ and forced to relocate 20 km away, in Moldovan-controlled territory. As can be gathered from this post’s title, the Grigoriopol lyceum is one of the Romanian-language schools in Transdniestria concerned by the landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or the Court) Grand Chamber judgment Catan and Others v. Moldova and Russia. Ms Cercavschi, who together with her daughter was one of the applicants in the case, graciously answered my questions and recounted the circumstances leading to the school’s predicament. This post is based on insights acquired from this discussion and a few other in-depth interviews with key actors in Moldova and Transdniestria, as well as an analysis of both legal and political texts.

In what follows, I will employ the Catan judgment to briefly illustrate the quandaries surrounding the (non-)execution of ECtHR judgments in circumstances as complex as those in Transdniestria, where various actors, State and non-state alike, vie for control and influence. Inside this tangled web, legally binding obligations arising from ECtHR judgments and political commitments extraneous to them may, at times, mutually reinforce each other to give some incidental effects to the former. This, however, does not transpire as traditionally envisioned by Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR or Convention), i.e. through the execution of the judgment by the State bound by it, but rather indirectly, as a byproduct of two different but ultimately complementary processes. In referring to this byproduct, I will use the terms (indirect and partial) ‘implementation’ or ‘effects’. To me, they have a broader meaning than ‘execution’, in that they may also refer to the (persuasive) authority of the Court’s judgments and their influence on other actors than the State(s) directly bound to execute them, such as will be described in this post.

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The Court’s first ruling on Roma’s access to safe water and sanitation in Hudorovic et al. v. Slovenia: reasons for hope and worry

This blogpost is written by Valeska David who is an Affiliated Researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University and Assistant Professor of International Law at University of Navarra. She has recently published the book ‘Cultural Difference and Economic Disadvantage in Regional Human Rights Courts: An Integrated View’ (Intersentia, 2020).

On 10 March 2020, the Strasbourg Court delivered its judgment in Hudorovic et al. v. Slovenia (App. nos. 24816/14 and 25140/14). The case deals with two complaints from Roma families who have been living in informal settlements without access to water, sanitation, sewage, and electricity for decades. The Court has previously dealt with the living conditions of Roma irregular settlements (e.g. Winterstein and Yordanova) as well as with the contamination of water resources resulting in health and environmental risks (e.g. Dzemyuk and Dubetska). This is the first time, however, that it has to examine whether the right to access safe drinking water and sanitation is protected by the Convention (particularly under Article 8 ECHR). This important question is furthermore posed in relation to the social group most affected by inequality in access to water in the first European country to make water a constitutional right. The case understandably attracted third party interventions from the European Roma Rights Centre and the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University, the latter available here.

Access to clean water and sanitation might sound too basic to be an issue in today’s Europe. But the truth is that securing universal access to such essential goods continues to be a pending challenge, especially for Roma people. At a time in which the European Parliament and the Council are discussing the adoption of a so-called Drinking Water Directive,[1] the Strasbourg Court is being called to play its part. The Court can significantly contribute to develop common minimum standards to ensure that everyone, especially those historically discriminated against can effectively enjoy water rights in Europe. From this perspective, however, this post argues that the judgment in Hudorovic offers a mixed picture, one of both hope and worry. Before explaining why, I shall briefly summarise the facts of the case and the Court’s findings.   Continue reading

Reminder: Conference “The ECHR Turns 70 – Taking Stock, Thinking Forward”

In these disturbing times for all of us, we at the Ghent University’s Human Rights Centre are really looking forward to seeing all of you, the ECHR community, again once all of this is over. On 18-20 November 2020, we’re organizing a conference to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950. This post serves as a reminder that the deadline for submission of abstracts is 15 April 2020. For more information on how to do so, please visit our conference website. Continue reading

Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2019

Dear readers,

As the Grand Chamber made clear in the (in)famous Lautsi case, “the decision whether or not to perpetuate a tradition falls in principle within the margin of appreciation”. Exercising our discretion in this respect, we hereby decide to perpetuate our tradition of celebrating the start of the New Year with the launch of our annual poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of the preceding year.

Where did the Strasbourg Court in 2019 seize the opportunity to truly act as a beacon of hope to victims of human rights violations across Europe? Conversely, where did the Court fail to provide robust human rights protection? We would like to warmly encourage you, our readers, to participate in answering these questions in the 2019 edition of our vote. Continue reading

Call for papers: Conference “The ECHR Turns 70 – Taking Stock, Thinking Forward”

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950. The Convention will thus be 70 next autumn. Ghent University’s Human Rights Centre wishes to take the opportunity of this anniversary to take stock of the history of the Convention system and to think about its future during an international conference.

The conference will take place in Ghent (Belgium) on 18-20 November 2020. More information can be found in the call for papers below (or download the PDF version with clickable links from the conference website, which will be regularly updated).

During the conference, we will also be present in a Strasbourg Observers live format, allowing scholars to critically discuss single ECtHR judgments in the best Strasbourg Observers tradition. We hope to meet many of our readers and contributors there! Continue reading

New journal: ECHR Law Review

It doesn’t happen every day that a new journal is launched in the area of human rights law, let alone one that focuses exclusively on European Convention law. Looking forward to reading the new ECHR Law Review, edited by regular Strasbourg Observers blogger Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou and by Vassilis Tzevelekos.

More info on the aim of the journal and how to submit an article below.

Continue reading

Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2018

Dear readers,

At the start of the New Year, we traditionally like to seize the moment and assess the past year of Strasbourg jurisprudence. For this purpose, we are hereby launching our poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2018. We would like to warmly encourage you, our readers, to participate in our annual vote.

Out of the 1,014 judgments delivered by the ECtHR in the course of 2018, our internal voting process resulted in a diverse selection of five judgments in each category. If you are, however, of the opinion that we missed out on an important case(s), you can also select other good or bad cases that we may have missed out using the “Other” option. You are welcome to share your reasons for voting via the comments section below.

The winners and losers will be announced in about a month.

To refresh your memory on the nominated judgments – or to introduce you to them – we have included brief summaries below the polls. Continue reading

Magyar Jeti Zrt v. Hungary: the Court provides legal certainty for journalists that use hyperlinks

By Carl Vander Maelen (research group Law & Technology, Ghent University)

On 4 December 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (‘the Court’) found a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Magyar Jeti Zrt v. Hungary. The case concerns the imposition of objective liability for posting a hyperlink leading to defamatory content, with the Court ultimately deciding that using hyperlinks does not simply equate to acts of dissemination. Instead, it requires a case-by-case assessment on the basis of five flexible criteria, resulting in a highly relevant and well-rounded judgment. Continue reading

Basra v. Belgium: a structural problem struck from the list

By Marjan Claes (NANSEN), Charlotte Coenen (NANSEN), Ellen Desmet (UGent), Sylvie Saroléa (UCL)

On 13 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights struck the application of Basra v. Belgium out of its list. Mr. Basra argued not having benefited from an effective remedy in the sense of article 13 ECHR, with respect to his arguable claim of being subjected to treatment prohibited by Article 3 ECHR in case of return to Pakistan.

After efforts to reach a friendly settlement had failed, the Belgian Government made a unilateral declaration in order to solve the issue, and invited the Court to struck the case from the list. The Court took up this invitation on the basis of Article 37 (1) (c) ECHR, which allows the Court to strike out an application where, for any reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue its examination.

During this procedure, a third party intervention was submitted to the Court by NANSEN – the Belgian Refugee Council, EDEM (Equipe droits européens et migrations) from the UCLouvain, the Equality Law Clinic of the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Continue reading

Mammadov v. Azerbaijan: It Is about Effectiveness of the Strasbourg System.

By Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool)

Infringement proceedings: the question of legitimacy

In 2010, when Protocol 14 entered into force, it amended Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECtHR). Section 4 was added to this Article. It empowered the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to initiate infringement proceedings before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR. On 5 December 2017, the Committee of Ministers chose to use this procedure for the first time in history and referred the case of Ilgar Mammadov v Azerbaijan to the Court. The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR must now decide whether Azerbaijan has indeed failed to fulfil its obligations under the Convention. Continue reading

Announcement Grassrootsmobilise Conference and Public Event (Athens, 3-4 May)

On Friday 4 May 2018, the Grassrootsmobilise Programme organizes a conference “Between state and citizen: religion at the ECtHR”, preceded by a public event on Thursday 3 May on “Religion and Secularism: does the Court go too far – or not far enough?” Strasbourg Observer Prof. Dr. Eva Brems participates in the latter event.

This is the conference concept note: Continue reading

Seminar “Positive obligations under the ECHR and the Criminal Law: towards a Coercive Human Rights Law?”

Dear readers,

Together with Dr. Natasa Mavronicola (University of Birmingham), I’m co-organizing an expert seminar on “Positive obligations under the ECHR and the Criminal Law: towards a Coercive Human Rights Law?”, which will take place in Ghent on 25 May 2018.

The European Court of Human Rights increasingly requires States to protect ECHR rights by recourse to the criminal law. On the one hand, States now have to criminalize certain human rights violations, such as human trafficking, torture and rape. On the other hand, States may be under an obligation to prosecute offenders and to impose criminal sanctions. The seminar provides an excellent opportunity for an in-depth discussion on the important legal questions raised by this evolution, which go to the heart of the purpose and function of human rights law.

You can find the programme of the seminar here. The seminar is a closed event for a limited number of participants. If you have a strong research interest in the topic, you can ask the organisers to attend the seminar (laurens.lavrysen@ugent.be and n.mavronicola@bham.ac.uk).

Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania: Can Religious Figures Be Featured in Commercial Advertising?

This guest post was written by Ingrida Milkaite, Ghent University *

On 30 January 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR, the Court) found a violation of Article 10 of the ECHR in Sekmadienis Ltd. v Lithuania. The main issue at hand was the question whether the national authorities provided ample explanation, consisting of relevant and sufficient reasons, as to why certain advertisements were contrary to public morals.

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Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2017

Dear readers,

We, from Strasbourg Observers, would like to wish you all the best for 2018. Following our yearly tradition, the start of the new year is a good opportunity to invite you, our readers, to retrospectively assess the ECtHR’s work of the past year. For this purpose, we are hereby launching our poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2017. Continue reading

Call for Papers: “Responding to Legitimacy Challenges: Opportunities and Choices for the European Court of Human Rights”

On 21 September 2018, the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University is co-organizing a Workshop “Responding to Legitimacy Challenges and Choices for the European Court of Human Rights – Researchers Meet the Court” in Strasbourg. This is the call for papers (deadline 15 February 2018): Continue reading

New Book: When Human Rights Clash at the European Court of Human Rights – Conflict or Harmony?

We are pleased to announce the recent publication of When Human Rights Clash at the European Court of Human Rights: Conflict or Harmony? by Oxford University Press (Stijn Smet and Eva Brems, eds). The volume tackles both the existence and resolution of human rights conflicts at the ECtHR. It contains contributions by Samantha Besson, Eva Brems, Leto Cariolou, Ian Leigh, Javier Martínez-Torrón, Dolores Morondo Taramundi, Russell Sandberg, Stijn Smet, Sébastien Van Drooghenbroeck, Dirk Voorhoof and Lorenzo Zucca. In the book’s first part, contributors propose a range of general approaches to human rights clashes. In its second part, they engage in concerted scholarly debate about four leading ECtHR judgments on human rights conflicts: Axel Springer AG v. Germany; Evans v. The United Kingdom; Fernández Martínez v. Spain; and Eweida v. The United Kingdom.

This is the volume’s description:

The notion of conflict rests at the heart of the judicial function. Judges are routinely asked to resolve disputes and defuse tensions. Yet, when judges are called upon to adjudicate a purported conflict between human rights, they face particular challenges and must address specific questions. Some of these concern the very existence of human rights conflicts. Can human rights really conflict with one another, in terms of mutual incompatibility? Or should human rights be interpreted in harmony with one another? Other questions concern the resolution of real conflicts. To the extent that human rights do conflict, how should these conflicts be resolved? To what extent is balancing desirable? And if it is desirable, which understanding of balancing should judges employ? This book seeks to provide both theoretical and practical answers to these questions. It debates both the existence and resolution of human rights conflicts, in the specific context of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The contributors put forth principled and pragmatic arguments and propose theoretical as well as practical approaches, whilst firmly embedding their proposals in the case law of the European Court. Doing so, this book provides concrete ways forward in the ongoing debate on conflicts of rights at Europe’s human rights court.

Readers of the Strasbourg Observers Blog can use promotional code ALAUTHC4 to receive a 30% discount when ordering the book directly from the OUP website (only for individual (non-trade) customers; limit of ten copies; valid until 31 December 2017).

The ‘limits of human rights law’: dissenting androcentric voices in Talpis v. Italy

By Fleur van Leeuwen, LL.M. Ph.D., human rights researcher and lecturer

In March this year the European Court of Human Rights (Court) concluded that Italy had violated the human rights of Talpis, a Moldovan/Romanian woman living in Italy who had for years endured domestic abuse by the hands of her Moldovan husband. The violence had culminated in the death of her son and a life threatening chest wound to herself. The Court found that the Italian authorities had not acted with the required due diligence to protect the applicant from harm and held that Italy had violated articles 2 (the right to life), 3 (freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment) and 14 (non-discrimination). Two judges did not agree with the decision [on this case, see the blog post by Lourdes Peroni here]. Continue reading

Nagmetov v. Russia: opening up Pandora’s Box on Article 41?

By Dr. Elisabeth Lambert Abdelgawad
Assoc. Prof. Edith Cowan University (Perth, Western Australia)

The allocation of just satisfaction by the Court has become a more controversial issue, probably due to the increasing number of applications where very serious violations occurred. ‘Article 41 is probably one of the provisions which have raised the most important difficulties to judges over the years’ (E. Lambert Abdelgawad, ‘Is there a need to advance the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human rights with regard to the award of damages?’, in A. Seibert-Fohr & M. E. Villiger (eds) Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights – Effects and Implementation, Ashgate, Nomos, 2014, 116). Continue reading

New publication: Procedural Review in European Fundamental Rights Cases

I am happy to present a new book, Procedural Review in European Fundamental Rights Cases, which is a joint edition of prof Janneke Gerards (Utrecht University) and myself. It originated in an expert seminar we hosted jointly at Ghent University in 2015. We will be addressing this topic also in a panel at the next ICON-S conference in Copenhagen.

This is the abstract and table of contents: Continue reading

Osmanoğlu and Kocabaş v. Switzerland: A Swiss perspective

By Fabienne Bretscher, PhD Student at the University of Zurich, Visiting Researcher at the Erasmus School of Law Rotterdam

In a recent judgment, the ECtHR found that the refusal to grant Muslim students exemption from mandatory swimming classes in Swiss public schools did not amount to a violation of the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 9 ECHR. In its decision, the ECtHR emphasised the important role of public schools in the process of social integration into local customs and way of life. After giving an overview of the facts of the case as well as the ECtHR’s judgment, the present post sheds some light on the background of the issue of Muslim students’ participation in mandatory swimming classes in Switzerland and argues that, with its decision, the ECtHR is (again) reinforcing and legitimising intolerance against Muslims. Continue reading

European Court of Justice keeps the door to religious discrimination in the private workplace opened. The European Court of Human Rights could close it.

By Saïla Ouald-Chaib and Valeska David

On 14 March 2017, the European Court of Justice issued two judgments, in the cases of Achbita and Bougnaoui concerning the manifestation of beliefs in the private workplace. From the perspective of inclusion and human rights law, the judgments are very disappointing. They basically legitimize and even provide a recipe for discrimination of employees on the basis of their religious or other convictions. Continue reading

Pihl v. Sweden: non-profit blog operator is not liable for defamatory users’ comments in case of prompt removal upon notice

by Dirk Voorhoof

In its decision of 9 March 2017 in Rolf Anders Daniel Pihl v. Sweden, the ECtHR has clarified the limited liability of operators of websites or online platforms containing defamatory user-generated content. The Court’s decision is also to be situated in the current discussion on how to  prevent or react on  “fake news”, and the policy to involve online platforms in terms of liability for posting such messages. Although the Court’s ruling expresses concerns about imposing liability on internet intermediaries that would amount to requiring excessive and impractical forethought capable of undermining the right to impart information via internet, the decision in Pihl v. Sweden itself guarantees only minimal protection for the rights of internet intermediaries and users’ rights.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Court’s Difficult Choice in Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v. Russia

Is it permissible for States to categorically exempt women, juveniles and the elderly from being sentenced to life in prison? How should the Court handle the threat that States will ‘level down’ protection after it finds that a given measure is discriminatory? Those were the questions facing the Court’s Grand Chamber as it reached its judgment in Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v. Russia, issued on January 24th. The case concerned the alleged discrimination inherent in the fact that life imprisonment in the respondent State can only be imposed on men between the ages of 18 and 65. The Grand Chamber was divided, and ultimately found no violation of the Convention in the case. When reading the judgment and separate opinions, it emerges that the Court failed to find that gender discrimination had taken place for a very specific reason: doing so would have brought about the (re-)introduction of life imprisonment for the excepted groups. Continue reading

The Best and Worst ECtHR judgments of 2016 are…

Dear readers,

We are happy to announce the results of our poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2016. For an overview of the shortlist of candidates, including a motivation for selecting them, see our previous blog post published on the occasion of the opening of the polls.

In light of the recent Oscars ceremony fiasco, we have made sure to double-check all votes. In the category of best judgment, the winner is… Continue reading

Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2016

The Strasbourg Observers are launching the annual poll for best and worst European Court of Human Rights judgment, 2016 edition!

This year, the pre-selection of nominees was particularly challenging. A diverse batch of 28 (!) judgments received nominations from our blogging team at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. Ultimately, our internal voting process led to the ten below nominees, across both categories.

It is now up to you, our readers, to elect the winner (best judgment) and loser (worst judgment) of 2016! The results will be announced next month.

Attentive readers will note that quite a large number of our nominees address asylum and migration issues. This not only reflects the ‘reality’ of today’s political and judicial scene in Europe. It also signals, in the category of best judgment, that we are impressed by how the European Court of Human Rights has remained, in the nominated cases, an independent stronghold against the populist tide that threatens to sweep migrants, asylum seekers and refugees away from Europe.

To refresh your memory on the nominated judgments – or introduce you to them – we have included brief summaries below the polls (please click ‘Continue reading’).

[the order of judgments in both polls is automatically randomized on each page visit]

Continue reading

Blog seminar on positive obligations (4): The Responsiveness of a Positive State – Vulnerability and Positive Obligations under the ECHR

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

The concept of vulnerability has had wide-ranging effects for the Strasbourg jurisprudence, although the European Court of Human Rights, in what appears to be a matter of conscious choice,[1] has never defined it. Instead, the Court has opted for a flexible and reactive application of the concept in a broad array of cases under various Convention articles. This approach, which has been employed by the Court in deciding hundreds of cases to date, has recently benefitted from much-needed scholarly attention.[2] It has also enjoyed further exploration in the context of Laurens Lavrysen’s recently-published Ph.D. thesis on Human Rights in a Positive State. Against the backdrop provided by these findings, the following will seek to shed some additional light on the Court’s approach to vulnerability-based positive obligations. Continue reading

Blog seminar on positive obligations (3): Positive obligations to protect fundamental rights – any role to be played by the European Court of Justice?

By Malu Beijer, researcher Radboud University Nijmegen

The concept of positive obligations has become a regular feature of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ever since the classic cases of Marckx v. Belgium, Airey v. Ireland and X. and Y. v. the Netherlands. The ECtHR has made very clear in this case law that the full and effective protection of fundamental rights requires states to take active measures. States cannot simply remain passive by complying only with their negative obligations.

In other systems of international human rights law and under national law, a similar concept of positive obligations can often be recognised. The same does not hold true for the protection of fundamental rights under EU law. The EU’s (relatively) more recent system of fundamental rights protection so far mainly has had a focus on negative obligations. Can it be established by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that the EU institutions and the member states must fulfil positive obligations as well? In this post I will briefly explain some of my thoughts on this specific question which formed the topic of my PhD research. Continue reading

Blog seminar on positive obligations (2): positive obligations under unqualified rights

Guest post written by Dr. Vladislava Stoyanova, Lecturer and Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Law, Lund University

Author of Human Trafficking and Slavery Reconsidered. Conceptual Limits and States’ Positive Obligations in Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Currently working on a postdoctoral project entitled ‘Positive Obligations under the ECHR’

I certainly agree with Dr. Laurens Lavrysen’s assessment that the concept of positive obligations has remained undertheorized in the existing literature and in this respect, his book constitutes an invaluable contribution aimed at filling the gap. There is much in Lavrysen’s Human Rights in a Positive State for human rights scholars, lawyers, students and both national and international judges to engage with and enjoy. The book offers an impressive review of recent judgments and demonstrates an excellent analytical rigor in its efforts to extract relevant principles and structure these in a clearer analytical framework. In this contribution, I would like rather focus on two issues: the analytical distinction between qualified and unqualified rights and, as related to the above, the proximity requirement, namely the proximity between State conduct and the harm sustained by the individual. Continue reading

Blog seminar on positive obligations (1): Publication PhD “Human Rights in a Positive State”

I am proud to announce the publication of my PhD “Human Rights in a Positive State – Rethinking the Relationship between Positive and Negative Obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights”. In my PhD, I have exhaustively studied the concept of positive obligations in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, on the basis of a corpus of 2618 cases in which the Court used the notion of positive obligations, identified through the Court’s HUDOC database. During my PhD research, I was particularly interested in how the Court distinguishes between the respective concepts of positive and negative obligations and how the choice to examine a case from the one or the other perspective influences the Court’s legal reasoning. Continue reading

Human Rights Centre submits third party intervention in case concerning LGBT rights activism

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University[1] has submitted a third party intervention in the cases of Nikolay Alekseyev and Movement for Marriage Equality v. Russia and Nikolay Alekseyev and Others v. Russia. The case concerns the refusal by the Russian authorities to register two LGBT rights organisations because they were considered extremist organisations on account of the allegedly immoral character of their activities. The full text of the third party intervention can be found here, the main arguments are summarized hereunder.

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Aldeguer Tomás v. Spain: a missed opportunity for the Court to provide guidance concerning the legal recognition of same-sex relationships

Last year, the Court issued the judgment of Oliari and Others v. Italy, described on this blog as “a stepping stone towards full legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Europe.”  In this judgment the Court recognized that Article 8 ECHR encompasses a positive obligation on States to put in place a legal framework providing for the legal recognition and protection of same-sex relationships. The Court in particular emphasised that such legal framework must at least provide for the “core rights relevant to a couple in a stable and committed relationship” – as opposed to supposedly “supplementary” rights, such as for example the question whether such legal framework should allow same-sex couples to marry, a question which the Court in its Schalk and Kopf judgment considered to fall within the State’s margin of appreciation. The Court however failed to provide any guidance on what should be understood under those enigmatic “core rights”.

In the recent case of Aldeguer Tomás v. Spain, the Court however fails to build upon the Oliari judgment in order to provide more guidance in the area of the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. The case concerns the inability of the surviving partner of a same-sex relationship to receive a survivor’s pension. Continue reading

Strasbourg Court fails to acknowledge discrimination and stigmatization of persons living in poverty

In the recent case of Garib v. the Netherlands, the Court considered that a policy imposing minimum income conditions on persons wishing to settle in a number of inner-city areas of the city of Rotterdam did not violate the freedom to choose one’s residence as guaranteed by Article 2 Protocol No. 4. In doing so, the Court over-relies on the margin of appreciation doctrine and fails to acknowledge the discriminatory and stigmatizing effects of such policy faced by persons living in poverty. Continue reading

The Winners: Poll on Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2015

The results of our poll on best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2015 are in! We are excited to announce the results now that exactly a month has passed since the opening of the polls.

In the category of best judgment, celebrating the best the ECtHR had to offer in 2015, the top three are:

Bouyid v. Belgium: 29%

Oliari and Others v. Italy: 27%

Khlaifia and Others v. Italy: 20%

In the category of worst judgment, indicating that there is always room for improvement, the top three are:

Ebrahimian v. France: 26%

Pentikäinen v. Finland: 23%

A.S. v. Switzerland: 18%

Thanks for voting. We already look forward to next year’s edition of the poll!

Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2015

Following an annual and cherished tradition, we are hereby launching our poll for the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2015!

As usual, preselecting a limited number of contenders was both fun and hard. There is always room for debate. Always other judgments that deserve a shot at the title. Other judgments to cheer at. And other judgments to boo (somewhat). But we hope you find your champ among our contenders. If not, you can always support an underdog by selecting ‘Other’.

The winners and losers will be announced in about a month.

To refresh your memory on the nominated judgments – or introduce you to them – we have included brief summaries below the polls (click ‘Continue reading’, immediately below the polls).

[the order of judgments in both polls is automatically randomised on each page visit]

SUMMARIES OF JUDGMENTS

Continue reading

Don’t open the floodgates: fines and Article 1 Protocol 1

In the recent case of Konstantin Stefanov, the Strasbourg Court examined the acceptability of a fine (the equivalent of EUR 260) imposed on a lawyer, appointed ex officio by a domestic court, for declining to represent a defendant from the viewpoint of Article 1 Protocol 1. The Court did not find a violation of this provision, taking into account the wide margin of appreciation allowed to the State in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the justice system, the fact that a remedy to challenge the fine had been available to the applicant and because the Court considered the amount of the fine “neither prohibitive, nor oppressive or otherwise disproportionate”. This blog post is not concerned with the outcome of the case, but rather with the remarkable fact of the Court considering it self-evident that the imposition of a fine interferes with the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

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New publication: Poverty and the ECHR

I’m happy to announce the publication of my article “Strengthening the Protection of Human Rights of Persons Living in Poverty under the ECHR” in the September edition of Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights. In my article, which could hardly be any more topical than in today’s austerity-struck Europe, I address questions such as: what is the European Court of Human Rights’ record in protecting the human rights of persons living in poverty? What are the limitations of its current approach? What kind of legal approaches could assist the Court in better grasping the nature of poverty as capability deprivation? And how could this, ultimately, result in a stronger protection of the human rights of persons living in poverty?

This is the abstract:

In recent years, the European Court of Human Rights has developed a significant jurisprudence which illustrates the added value of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the field of poverty. Building on the findings of Amartya Sen’s “capability approach”, the article examines the extent to which the Court has grasped the nature of poverty as “capability deprivation”. It is argued that, due to polycentric concerns and a reluctance to overcome the negative / positive obligations and civil and political / social and economic rights dichotomies, the Court has only, to a limited extent, done so. Subsequently, three approaches are examined that could allow it to better take into account the findings of the “capability approach” and that could allow for enhanced protection of the human rights of persons living in poverty under the ECHR: endorsing a more complex perspective on the responsibility of the state; analysing poverty as a failure to provide substantive equality; and recognising the vulnerability of persons living in poverty.

Research methodology for case law analysis: An appeal for openness

By Saïla Ouald Chaib

The enrolment as a PhD student does not come with a handbook. Consequently, you are somewhat forced from the start to reflect not only about the research subject, but also on the methodology you will use. In my case indeed, I spent some time not only doing research on the substantive part of my dissertation topic, but also doing research on doing research. My dissertation focused on the right to freedom of religion in the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg Court and case law analysis occupied therefore a central position in my work. Very soon I was confronted with a lot of questions. Do I first dive into the literature on the subject or do I first analyse the case law? Which cases should I read and how many? How should I approach the case law? This blogpost does not intend to draw a roadmap of how to conduct case law analysis. In fact, there is no such thing as one case-law analysis method. Instead, I want to share one of the ways I analysed the case-law and how methodologies from outside the legal sciences inspired me in the process. Continue reading

Appointment of the Court’s Registrar: Towards More Transparency

This guest post was written by Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Surrey.

The Council of Europe has recently announced a vacant position for Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights. For the last ten years, Erik Fribergh has been Registrar of the Court. Before that, he worked as a Deputy Registrar and Section Registrar of the Court. His successful career in the Court lasted for more than 30 years and he clearly represents the institutional memory of the Court. His life in the Court highlights the crucial importance of the Registry of the Court and the position of Registrar for the functioning of the ECtHR. This short comment aims to highlight some preliminary observations on the importance of the position of Registrar and the legitimacy of the process of his or her appointment.

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Third Party Interventions before the ECtHR: A Rough Guide

This guest post was written by Paul Harvey, a UK lawyer in the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. This article is an edited version of a paper given at the European University Institute, Florence on 28 January 2015. The views expressed are personal. Comments are welcome at paulgharvey[at]gmail.com.

What constitutes an effective third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights? Before answering that, it is necessary to make three preliminary points on what distinguishes the practice of the Strasbourg Court on third party interventions from other courts.

First, the Court has always had a comparatively liberal policy as regards granting leave to third party interveners. Second, since the third party interventions of Amnesty International and the German Government in Soering v. the United Kingdom in 1989, there have been well over a hundred significant interventions in Court’s cases. The Court has generally been well served by these interventions, though for reasons I shall come to, in some cases it has been less well served in recent years. Third, a survey of those interventions shows a striking range in both the types of interveners and the types of cases in which they have intervened. There have been broadly six types. Continue reading

The Results Are In: Poll on Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2014

With an impressive 1,000 votes cast, the time has come to announce the winners and losers of this year’s poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of 2014.

We will not let the audience linger in anxious anticipation, but will get straight down to the nitty-gritty. Here are the results:

Best Judgment – Top 3

  1. Matúz v. Hungary (47%).
  2. Tarakhel v. Switzerland (29%).
  3. Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania (15%).

Worst Judgment – Top 3

  1. S.A.S. v. France (40%).
  2. Senchishak v. Finland (36%).
  3. M.E. v. Sweden and Pentikäinen v. Finland (6%).

Festive congratulations to the winner, sincere commiserations to the loser.

A few – speculative – words follow on why the winner might have won, and why the loser might have lost.

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Poll: Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2014

In keeping with our annual tradition, we hereby kindly invite all our readers to cast their vote for the best and worst European Court of Human Rights judgment of the previous year, i.e. of 2014.

2014 was a year of many highs for the ECtHR, but unfortunately also of a few lows (both liberally defined as such by the Strasbourg Observers team). The good and the bad are reflected in our nominations below.

Underneath the polls, we have provided links to the texts of the nominated judgments and our blog posts on them.

Should you not find your pick off the litter on our shortlists, you can always surprise everyone by introducing a novel contender – potentially saddling us with a dark horse – by selecting “other” and filling in your preference (we will periodically provide an overview of the votes for “other” judgments in the comments section).

As always, we will announce the winners and ‘winners’ (roughly) a month from now.

Let the voting commence!

 

Links to the nominated judgments and our posts

(best)

Al Nashiri v. Poland / Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Polandpost and post.

Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romaniapost.

Matúz v. Hungarypost.

O’Keeffe v. Irelandpost.

Tarakhel v. Switzerland post.

(worst)

Senchishak v. Finlandpost.

S.A.S. v. France post, post and post.

Pentikäinen v. Finlandpost.

M.E. v. Swedenpost.

Biao v. Denmarkpost.

New publication: Less Restrictive Means & the Strasbourg Court

First of all, a Happy New Year to you all, dear readers! As far as we are concerned, 2015 couldn’t have started better. We’re proud to announce the publication of the article “‘Don’t use a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut’: Less Restrictive Means in the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights”, written by prof. Eva Brems and I. The article is concerned with the emerging practice by the European Court of Human Rights to use more and more explicit lines of legal reasoning placing the examination of less restrictive means at the centre of its proportionality analysis. What is the theory behind this concept? How does it work in practice? Is there really a less restrictive means revolution going on in Strasbourg? For the answer to all these questions and more, you can access the article on the website of Human Rights Law Review.

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Seminar Announcement: Law’s Imagining of Religion

The Strasbourg Observers are back from a summer break with an exciting announcement: the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University organizes a seminar entitled “Law’s Imagining of Religion: A Debate across Disciplines.” The seminar will bring together religion and legal scholars from Canada, Europe and the United States, including Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Cecile Laborde, Helge Arsheim, Malcolm Evans, Lori G. Beaman, Susanna Mancini, Solange Lefebvre, Mark Hill, Meadhbh McIvor and Lourdes Peroni.

WHEN: 23 September 2014

WHERE: Ghent University’s Faculty of Law, Voldersstraat 3, 9000 Ghent

WHAT: Speakers will address questions such as: Are the notions of religion underpinning the law inclusive enough to attend to today’s diversity of religious ways? If not, can and should these notions be legally “stretched” so as to become more responsive to such diversity? The morning sessions will focus on how law, including human rights law, understands and should understand religion. The afternoon sessions will focus on the ways in which the European Court of Human Rights conceives of and should conceive of religion. Scholars presenting in the afternoon will unpack the notions of religion underlying high-profile freedom of religion judgments (including S.A.S. Lautsi, Eweida and Bayatyan) and examine the extent to which these notions attend and should attend to applicants’ religious experiences.

A limited number of places are still available. Attendance is free, but registration is required. If you would like to attend this seminar please send an email to Lourdes Peroni at hrcevent@ugent.be.

This is the program:

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Mennesson v. France and Labassee v. France: Surrogate motherhood across borders

This guest post was written by Liesbet Pluym, PhD candidate at Ghent University.

Surrogate motherhood is a complex phenomenon which can lead to many different human right questions: would the absolute prohibition of surrogacy in domestic laws be in accordance with the right to respect for private and family life (art. 8 ECHR)? If it is legally regulated, would e.g. the exclusion of gay couples be in breach with article 8, 14 ECHR? Would denying maternal rights to the surrogate mother and not giving her a right to reconsider her decision once the child is born, be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights?

The application of international private law rules also leads to uncertainty concerning the compatibility with human right treaties en declarations. The cases of Mennesson v. France and Labassee v. France concerned the French refusal to grant legal recognition in France to parent-child relationships that had been legally established in the United States between children born as a result of surrogacy treatment and the couples on whose request the treatment was performed. The European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular the children’s right to respect to private life ⎼ but no violation of the right of the children or intented parents to respect of family life.

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