Human Rights Centre and SAR submit a joint third party intervention in cases concerning academic freedom

By Sofia Sideridou (intern at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University)

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University (Belgium)[1] and the Scholars at Risk Network (New York, U.S.), have jointly submitted a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Telek, Şar and Kivilcim v. Turkey. The cases concern three Turkish academics complaining about the cancellation of their passports as part of the broader crackdown on the signatories of the 2016 “Academics for Peace Petition.” In our third party intervention, we invite the Court to reaffirm its prior statements related to the protection of academic freedom and explicitly recognize the importance thereof, particularly at a time that massive violations take place in Turkey.  A brief overview of the facts of the case and the main arguments are provided hereunder. Continue reading

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

Another case of violating privacy and personal data protection: Catt v. the United Kingdom

This blogpost was written by Judith Vermeulen, PhD researcher in the Law and Technology Research Group at Ghent University.

Shortly after Big Brother Watch (see also the blogpost for this case), the European Court of Human Rights again had the opportunity to pronounce itself on the compatibility of Article 8 ECHR with the collection, retention and further use of personal data for public interest purposes by UK authorities. Catt, however, does not involve an assessment of the data processing regime as such. Rather, it evaluates the specific situation the applicant is in. While the question of adequacy of the legal and regulatory framework surrounding the impugned measures remains unanswered, the processing of the applicant’s data in particular is considered to not pass the necessity test. Noteworthy in any case is that the Court – in contrast to what the EU Court of Justice has decided in the past – reiterates that the indiscriminate collection of personal data is justifiable. With Brexit looming – and the CJEU accordingly soon losing its jurisdiction vis-à-vis Britain –, this development in the Strasbourg case-law is of particular importance. Finally, it is questionable whether Article 8 is in fact the best legal ground for assessing the facts of this case. The discussions these provoked at national may illustrate this point. 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