The Right to Life and the Scope of Control: Fernandes de Oliveira v Portugal

By Peter Bartlett (Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust Professor of Mental Health Law, Institute of Mental Health and School of Law, University of Nottingham)

On its face, this case considers the duty of the State to protect the lives of voluntary (or informal) psychiatric patients under Article 2 of the ECHR (right to life).  Below the surface, the case raises a number of broader questions about the scope of the positive obligations under Article 2; how they relate to the autonomy-related rights in Articles 3 (prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty) and 8 (right to privacy and family life); the fact-finding exercises and evidential approach of the ECtHR; and the relationship between the ECHR jurisprudence and other international law, most notably the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Continue reading

Rooman v. Belgium: when linguistic problems lead to a violation of core human rights

Marie Bourguignon is a PhD researcher at the Leuven Centre for Public Law, Institute for Human Rights. She specializes in linguistic rights and access to law in multilingual Belgium.

On 31 January 2019, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights convicted Belgium for inhuman or degrading treatment as well as for violating the right to liberty and security. The case concerns Mr. Rooman, a convicted sex offender suffering from mental disorders and sentenced to prison, who could not have proper access to psychiatric and psychologic care in his own language. Although the Court was right to find human rights violations in casu, it should not have based its reasoning on the official status of the language spoken by the applicant. Continue reading

Yeshtla v. the Netherlands: a missed opportunity to reflect on the discriminatory effects of States’ social policy choices

By Fulvia Staiano, Adjunct Professor of International Law and European Union Law (Giustino Fortunato University)

On 15 January 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered an inadmissibility decision on the case of Emabet Yeshtla v. the Netherlands. In this case, the ECtHR was asked to determine whether the withdrawal of the applicant’s housing benefits (motivated by the fact that she cohabited with an unlawfully resident son) had breached her right to respect for private and family life under Art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), alone and in conjunction with the prohibition of discrimination under Art. 14 ECHR. This case raised interesting questions on the potential impact of social assistance and welfare policies on recipients’ family life, as well as on the discriminatory effects of domestic norms that use social benefits as a tool to discourage irregular residence. Regrettably, the ECtHR dismissed this case without a thorough consideration of such questions. Continue reading

Compensation for victims in inter-state cases. Is Georgia v Russia (I) another step forward?

By Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool)

On 31 January 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered a judgment on just satisfaction in the inter-state case of Georgia v Russia (I). The ECtHR ordered the respondent state to pay 10 million euros to the applicant country. In turn, Georgia will have to distribute this amount among about 1500 victims of the violations identified by the Court in its main judgment. The Court is developing a very new line of case law by awarding non-pecuniary damage in inter-state cases. Until the judgment in Cyprus v Turkey, delivered in 2014, the Court has never awarded financial compensation in inter-state cases. It is beyond the scope of this short post to consider if the Court is doing the right thing by using just satisfaction in the inter-state cases. In this post I will just show some potentially problematic areas which the Court would have to address if this issue is considered again. There are a few pending inter-state cases and the question of compensation is very likely to resurface again. Continue reading

Dupin v. France: the ECtHR going old school in its appraisal of inclusive education?

By Johan Lievens (VU Amsterdam) and Marie Spinoy (Leuven Centre for Public Law, KULeuven)

In Dupin v. France the European Court of Human Rights saw itself confronted with one of the key conflicts in education law: when parents and state officials disagree on which educational trajectory is best for a child with a disability, who gets the final say? This case concerned a mother fighting the decision of the French authorities to refuse her child, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, access to a general school (through a form of inclusive education). Instead, the child was referred to an ‘Institut medico-éducatif’, an institution established to provide care and a specialized type of education to children with an intellectual impairment. Seemingly going back on its prior case law, the Court did not consider the right to education of the child to be violated. Continue reading

Wunderlich v. Germany: enforcing compulsory home-schooling

By Daniel Monk, Professor of Law, Birkbeck, University of London

On 10th January 2019, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that there had been no violation of Article 8 in a case concerning the withdrawal of aspects of the authority of parents and the removal of children from their home for a period of three weeks. The case did not explicitly address Germany’s policy of compulsory schooling, but, rather the legality of the measures taken to enforce the policy. Nevertheless, the arguments raised highlight why home-schooling (or Elective Home Education) is an issue that goes to the heart of current debates about shifting understandings of parental responsibilities and the underlying potential tensions between the civil/political and the social/welfare functions of education. Continue reading

Murtazaliyeva v. Russia: on the examination of witnesses and the “corrosive expansion” of the overall fairness test

On 18 December, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in the case of Murtazaliyeva v. Russia, finding no violation of the right to a fair trial in a case concerning the conviction of a Chechen woman for terrorist offences.  The most significant aspect of the judgment concerns the applicant’s complaint that the domestic courts’ refusal to call two defence witnesses violated Article 6 § 1 and § 3 (d) of the Convention.[1] As the Strasbourg case law was underdeveloped in this area, this case provided an important opportunity for the Court to clarify Convention standards.  Unfortunately, in doing so, the Grand Chamber yet again expanded the scope of the “overall fairness of the proceedings” test under Article 6 § 1, which now also serves as the final benchmark in this area. In this blog post, it will be argued that the increasing recourse by the Court to this test risks depriving defendants of meaningful procedural protection. Continue reading