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.

Continue reading

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