A Casualty of Formalism: The Application of the Six-Month Rule in Kamenica and Others v. Serbia

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

On 27 October 2016, the Court published the Third Section’s decision in Kamenica and Others v. Serbia. That case concerns the alleged ill-treatment of 67 persons who fled Bosnia and Herzegovina during the conflict that broke out there in 1992 and who were subsequently interned in a Serbian detention camp. The Third Section applied the six-month rule to the case, finding that it had been brought out of time. Its decision raises questions about the strictness of the six-month rule and the application of a statute of limitations to grievous alleged violations of Article 3 ECHR. Granted, the application of a rigid time limit for bringing applications to Strasbourg fosters certainty and ensures that the proceedings before the Court take place within a useful time frame. However, decisions such as this one indicate that, in certain types of cases – here, a particularly grievous one that stood to be investigated in a post-conflict scenario – the Court’s emphasis of a strict time limit can seem decidedly formalistic.

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Khan v. Germany, Episode II: The Empire strikes out

Guest post by Benoit Dhondt, Belgian lawyer specialized in migration and refugee law. As a teaching assistant, he is also connected to the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University, more specifically its Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic.

Several practitioners were disappointed with the road the ECtHR traveled in Khan v. Germany last year. With the Grand Chamber referral, hope rose for a more sensible approach and greater protection standards for mentally ill migrants on the verge of expulsion. Alas, the Grand Chamber has struck out the case, leaving us with more questions than answers. In what follows I will give a brief description of the case after which I will delve a little bit deeper into some of the issues the decision to strike out has left untouched.

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The potential of a vulnerability-based approach: some additional reflections following O.M. v Hungary

Guest post by Denise Venturi, PhD Student in International Law, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy) and KU Leuven (Belgium)

As has recently been noted in this blog, the case of O.M. v Hungary adds another tile to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) mosaic on vulnerability. The present blog post seeks to start from these premises and dig further into the Court’s reasoning, to reflect on the extent to which vulnerability can be operationalised and meaningfully used in the legal reasoning and when, instead, it risks to remain confined only to a synonym for specific situations deserving attention.

As the readers of this blog may know, O.M. v Hungary concerned the detention to which a gay asylum seeker from Iran was subject while his asylum request was processed and before being granted refugee status. The detention was ordered because, allegedly, Mr. O.M. had not been able to clarify his identity and nationality; had entered irregularly; had not had any resources to live on in Hungary and there was a risk he could frustrate the procedure if left at large. The applicant claimed before the ECtHR that his detention had been unjustified with respect to Article 5(1)(b) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and that no individual assessment had been carried out. Notably, the applicant’s sexual orientation had not been taken into consideration, although Mr. O.M. reported to fear harassment in detention because of this circumstance.

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Too little, too late? The ECtHR’s pilot judgment on the Belgian internment policy

Guest post by Els Schipaanboord, LL.M. – PhD Researcher at the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy, Ghent University

On 6 September 2016, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Belgium once more, after 22 previous convictions, for its internment policy. This safety measure, under the Belgian law referred to as ‘internering’, aims to protect the society against ‘dangerous’ mentally ill offenders who cannot be held accountable for the offence they have committed, due to their illness. This time, however, the verdict granted Belgium the questionable honor of a pilot judgement. Applying the ‘pilot procedure’, the Court classifies Belgium’s internment policy as systematically and structurally dysfunctional and imposes an obligation upon it to address these problems within a limited amount of time. The Court gave Belgium a deadline of two years.

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Crossing the Very Fine Line between Justice and Vengeance: Massive Purges in the Aftermath of the Attempted Coup in Turkey

Guest post by Duygu Çiçek – LL.M. in Human Rights from the University of Edinburgh (2015-2016)

Turkey’s recent attempted coup of the 15th of July exposed various discussions and conspiracy theories about the reasons behind the coup as well as future concerns regarding political dynamics at the domestic and international level. This contribution, however, will specifically focus on the massive purges occurring in the aftermath of the failed coup and the human rights implications of these violations within the ambit of the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisprudence, with a specific focus on the example of lustration.

Turkey’s current de-Gülenization movement has employed harsh measures, including torture and ill treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention of people in the absence of due process, as well as the screening, suspension, and dismissal of tens of thousands of teachers, public employees, judges, prosecutors, academics, and journalists accused of aligning themselves with the Gülen movement. The recent Decree-Law no. 672 enacted under the state of emergency does not only regulate the dismissal of public officials who are related to FETÖ (“Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization”, accused of creating a parallel state and organizing the coup attempt), but also bans them from working in the public field in the future, aiming to sweep out the influence of this movement from state institutions as well as the private sector. All these measures violate the European Convention on Human Rights (“the ECHR” or “the Convention”) and go beyond what can be justified even under the state of emergency invoked by the Turkish government.

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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