The impact of infringement proceedings in the Mammadov/Mammadli group of cases: a missed opportunity

Toby Collis, Lawyer at the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC)[1]

Infringement proceedings are a relatively new measure designed to deal with a state’s failure to implement a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR, the Court). Introduced by Protocol No. 14 in 2010, and contained in Article 46(4) of the Convention, the measure is triggered only after serving formal notice on the state concerned, and (which more difficult to achieve) securing a two-thirds majority of votes of the Committee of Ministers (CM). After this, the case is referred to the Court to determine whether the state has, in fact, failed to abide by the judgment. If such a failure is found, leading to a violation of Article 46(1) of the Convention, the case is then returned to the CM to consider any further measures that need to be taken. The CM cannot issue fines, but further measures could include adopting ‘strongly worded’ resolutions or decisions, convening meetings, and (in theory but not in practice) the state’s suspension or expulsion from the Council of Europe.

The infringement procedure was viewed by commentators as unlikely to ever be used. Then, along came the case of Azerbaijani opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov, who was imprisoned in circumstances the Court found had been designed to silence or punish him, and who remained imprisoned despite the CM repeatedly calling for his release. Perhaps because of this outrageousness, and perhaps because the stars aligned making it politically possible to gain the required number of votes in the CM, this case was the first and so far only example of infringement proceedings to be launched.

Now that a number of years have passed since these infringement proceedings were initiated, the purpose of this blog is to assess their impact–both on the situation of Ilgar Mammadov, and on that of several Azerbaijani politicians, human rights defenders and civil society activists who, like Mammadov, won a case in Strasbourg and are waiting for their judgments to be fully implemented. In cases such as these, where a number of judgments raise common issues, the CM will group them together and examine them jointly. The CM has therefore been supervising the execution of all these cases under the Mammadov (now Mammadli) group. We will see that the narrow terms of the infringement procedure—relating only to Mammadov and not the other applicants in the group, and not applying to general measures—led to a missed opportunity to generate meaningful impact.

Continue reading

How many judgments does one need to enforce a judgment? The first ever infringement proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights.

By Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool)

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its first ever judgment in an infringement procedure request (under Article 46-4 ECHR) in the case of Mammadov v Azerbaijan. The applicant in this case was an opposition leader from Azerbaijan who was put in prison contrary to Articles 5-1c and 18 ECHR. The Court confirmed that acquittal of the applicant was the only individual measure capable to remedy this violation. In so doing, the Court has effectively made the only decision that was politically plausible, namely it agreed with the Committee of Ministers that the judgment in the first Mammadov case was not executed properly. I have argued that this was the only possible solution in my previous blog post on the issue. The Court made it clear that the Committee of Ministers has quite broad competencies in interpreting the judgments of the ECtHR. Başak Çalı has written a good blog post analysing the substance of this decision. So, to avoid repetition I am going to focus on a few points which I found important not only for this judgment in particular but also for the future of the procedure pursuant to Article 46-4 ECHR if the Committee of Ministers ever requests a new judgment. 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

The Committee of Ministers goes nuclear: infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan in the case of Ilgar Mammadov

By Lize R. Glas, assistant professor of European law, Radboud University

For over seven years, the Committee of Ministers (Committee) has had at its disposal the ‘nuclear option’ of launching infringement proceedings against a state that refuses to execute a Strasbourg judgment. On 5 December 2017, it decided to go nuclear for the first time, in the case of Mammadov v. Azerbaijan. Continue reading

Protestor’s arrest and conviction for disobeying a police order violated Article 11

By Ronan Ó Fathaigh

The European Court’s First Section has unanimously held that a protestor’s arrest and conviction for failing to obey a police order violated his Article 11 right to freedom of assembly, despite the demonstration being unlawful. The First Section’s opinion in Mammadov v. Azerbaijan tackled the difficult issue of how police officers are supposed to respond to unlawful demonstrations, and whether protestors who participate in such demonstrations, but remain peaceful, may still be arrested.

Continue reading