Aghdgomelashvili and Japaridze v Georgia: a further step in the direction of Article 3’s dignitarian promise?

By Natasa Mavronicola (University of Birmingham) and Laurens Lavrysen (Human Rights Centre, Ghent University)

On 8 October 2020, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgment in the case of Aghdgomelashvili and Japaridze v Georgia. The case concerns a police raid on the office of an LGBT organization in Tblisi. During this raid, police officers subjected the applicants to homophobic and transphobic insults, threats, and humiliating strip-searches. In its judgment, the Court found both a substantive and a procedural violation of Article 3 (the right not to be subjected to torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR (prohibition of discrimination). The present contribution will first discuss the facts of the case and the Court’s judgment, before zooming in on the relationship between discrimination and Article 3. We conclude that the judgment constitutes a welcome step in cementing the nexus between discrimination and the wrongs proscribed by Article 3 ECHR, and the significance of this interconnection. We argue, however, that a more principled approach to the question of substantive violation of Article 3 would recognise as degrading any humiliating treatment with a discriminatory motive or intent.

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Bouyid and dignity’s role in Article 3 ECHR

Guest post by Natasa Mavronicola, Lecturer in Law at Queen’s University Belfast.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights recently delivered an important judgment on Article 3 ECHR in the case of Bouyid v Belgium. In Bouyid, the Grand Chamber was called upon to consider whether slaps inflicted on a juvenile and an adult in police custody were in breach of Article 3 ECHR, which provides that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. Overruling the Chamber judgment in the case, the Grand Chamber ruled by 14 votes to 3 that there had been a substantive violation of Article 3 in that the applicants had been subjected to degrading treatment by members of the Belgian police. The background and finding of substantive violation are outlined in Stijn Smet’s blog post here.

In this post, I want to concentrate briefly on the way the majority of the Grand Chamber unpacked and applied the concept of dignity – or ‘human dignity’ – in its finding of a substantive breach of Article 3, and distil some of the principles underpinning the understanding of dignity emerging in the Court’s analysis.

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Bouyid v. Belgium: Grand Chamber Decisively Overrules Unanimous Chamber

By Stijn Smet

This Monday, 28 September 2015, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights overruled the Chamber judgment in Bouyid v. Belgium (see our post on the Chamber ruling here). The Grand Chamber found a violation of art. 3 ECHR on the substantive aspect of the case, ruling by a clear 14 votes to 3 that the applicants in Bouyid had been the victims of degrading treatment at the hands of the Belgian police. This came as somewhat of a surprise, given the unanimous ruling of no violation by the Chamber. But it certainly was a pleasant surprise. In the first place for the applicants, who have now finally received justice for the ill-treatment they suffered at the hands of Belgian police officers. But also for us at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University, since we had submitted a third party intervention in the case. In our third party intervention, we indicated that “the Grand Chamber judgment in Bouyid may well become a decisive moment in the Court’s case law on the interpretation … of Article 3 ECHR [and on] the protection offered against police violence under the Convention”. We were most pleased to note that the Grand Chamber has seized the occasion to set the necessary standards.

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ECtHR Rules that Police Officers Can Slap Suspects in the Face Without Contravening Article 3 ECHR: Bouyid v. Belgium

Recently, the European Court of Human Rights failed to condemn Belgium for two incidents in which police officers slapped suspects of foreign origin – including a minor – in the face during police questioning in relation to trivial affairs. The Court specifically ruled that a one-time slap in the face did not, under the specific circumstances of the case, meet the threshold for applicability of art. 3 ECHR. Although the Court condemned the police officers in moral terms, in terms of human rights law their behaviour was apparently completely acceptable. In this post I will argue that the unanimous ECtHR ruling dramatically falls short of what one might expect from a human rights court.

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