The Curious Case of Molla Sali v. Greece: Legal Pluralism Through the Lens of the ECtHR

By İlker Tsavousoglou, Doctoral Candidate at Human Rights Centre, Ghent University, Attorney at Law

On 19 December 2018, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgement on the case of Molla Sali v. Greece. In its ruling, the Grand Chamber unanimously held that there has been a violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. The Applicant, Ms Chatitze Molla Sali, a Greek national and member of the Muslim minority of Western Thrace, was the beneficiary of her deceased husband’s estate based on a notarised testament of civil law. Following a domestic legal dispute, the Greek Court of Cassation found that the will drafted by a Greek of Muslim faith is devoid of effect. This was because, pursuant to a series of binding international agreements and the relevant domestic norms, the law applicable to the case was Islamic inheritance law instead of the relevant civil law. Continue reading

New publication on the history of the ECHR in Belgium

I’m happy to announce the publication of my article “‘Strasbourg was something new, it was an adventure’ – A history of the Belgian cases before the European Court of Human Rights in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s” in the December edition of the Legal History Review. This article is the product of a research project, funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), I undertook on the history of the European Convention on Human Rights in Belgium. It is to a large extent based on oral history accounts of actors involved in Strasbourg litigation during the period under consideration. This is the abstract:

In recent years, a burgeoning literature has focused on the history of human rights in general and the history of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in particular. In order to understand how the ECHR gradually managed to gain authority in diverse national settings, it is necessary to complement transnational historical perspectives with studies of national reception histories. The present article approaches the history of the ECHR in Belgium by focusing on the history of the Belgian cases in Strasbourg, which have played an important role in contributing to the ‘discovery’ of the ECHR in the Belgian legal system. On the basis of interviews with actors involved in the early cases against Belgium, it was possible to determine their position in the Belgian legal landscape as well as their motivations and aspirations in going to Strasbourg. Moreover, these interviews allowed gaining insight into the circumstances out of which litigation against Belgium arose.

 

Judgment of Burlya and Others v. Ukraine: Local authorities held accountable for violating Convention rights of Roma residents in pogrom

By Tess Heirwegh, PhD researcher at the Human Rights Centre, Ghent University

This blog post will focus on the recent case of Burlya and Others v. Ukraine to highlight the negative role that local authorities may play in human rights realisation and why it is essential that the Court held them explicitly accountable for it. In this judgment of 6 November 2018, the Strasbourg Court dealt with the complaints of 19 Ukrainian nationals of Roma ethnicity following a pogrom by village residents against their houses. First, the Court held that this attack had undoubtedly been motivated by anti-Roma sentiment. Second, it stated that the applicants who had been forced to flee their homes due to this attack had suffered degrading treatment. One important factor for this finding was the local authorities’ attitude during the events, namely the appearance of their official endorsement for the attack, as well as the ineffective investigation into the crime. Therefore, the Court found a violation of both the substantive and procedural aspect of Article 3, taken in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR. Moreover, these findings were sufficient for the Court to rule that Article 8, taken in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR, had been violated as well. Continue reading

Unravelling Salduz and the EU: Grand Chamber judgment of Beuze v. Belgium on the right of access to a lawyer

This guest blog post was written by Cedric Serneels, Teaching Assistant & Researcher at Institute for European Law, KU Leuven

On 9 November 2018, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its long-awaited judgment in the case of Beuze v. Belgium. In the present case, the Court was confronted with the question when a restriction on the right of early access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings renders those proceedings unfair and thus constitutes a breach of Articles 6(1) and 6(3)(c) of the European Convention. The majority ruled that under the principle established in Salduz v. Turkey a systematically applied general and mandatory restriction on the right of access to a lawyer will only amount to a breach of Article 6 ECHR when it compromises the overall fairness of the criminal proceedings. Accordingly, the mere existence of such a restriction does in itself not constitute a violation of the Convention. In a Concurring Opinion, analysed below, it is asserted that the majority interpreted Salduz in a way that departs from and even contradicts that judgment’s original meaning and that it adopted a much more relative — and thus less protective — approach without sufficient justification. While the Court was unanimous in finding a violation of the Convention, the soundness of its legal reasoning has thus been fiercely contested. Further, it will be argued that this ruling is particularly interesting for EU lawyers as well, as it provides an example of the two-directional interplay between EU fundamental rights law and the Convention. Continue reading

ECtHR or CEDAW: Spoilt for Choice in Moldova?

By Irina Crivet (PhD Candidate, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey)

The proliferation of international and regional human rights bodies has given the victims of human rights violations the chance to pick and choose where they can send their complaints. Whilst these choices are limited by geographical locations of individuals and the states’ acceptance of right to individual petition before multiple bodies, today some individuals and their lawyers have more than one choice. Moldova is one such country. Individuals can submit applications either before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) – or before  quasi-judicial human rights bodies of the United Nations, the UN Treaty Bodies (UNTBs).

This blog post examines the effects of this proliferation for Moldovan victims of domestic violence who can take cases both before the ECtHR and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW or the Committee). In doing so, I first examine the ECtHR case law regarding domestic violence in Moldova and the status of views adopted by UNTBs against Moldova. Continue reading

Loneliness that is good for you: the European Court addresses the right to marry of people with disabilities

By Constantin Cojocariu, human rights lawyer specialised in disability and transgender rights

On 25 October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its first substantive ruling under Article 12 regarding people placed under guardianship.[i] Delecolle v. France involved an elderly man who was not allowed to marry a long-time friend under the pretext that he was not able to understand the financial implications of that decision. The Court held that the right to marry and found a family under Article 12 benefited only those possessing full legal capacity. It did not engage with the justifications advanced for depriving the applicant of his capacity to marry, focusing instead on the quality of the national procedures. Worryingly, the Court endorsed reasoning that was impregnated with prejudice against and paternalism towards the elderly and the disabled. The Court has lately proven increasingly willing to consider the implications of the widely ratified Convention on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for its jurisprudence. Several judgments have broken new ground, such as Çam v. Turkey on inclusive education and Guberina v. Croatia on accessibility and reasonable accommodation. With the Delecolle judgment, the Court reverts to an uncertain trajectory in the area of disability, characterised by a palpable inability to develop, and apply consistently, a coherent set of principles on difficult subjects such as legal capacity, accessibility, independent living or detention. Continue reading

Mutu and Pechstein v. Switzerland: Strasbourg’s Assessment of the Right to a Fair Hearing in Sports Arbitration

This guest post was written by Cathérine Van de Graaf, a PhD student at Ghent University.

In Mutu and Pechstein v. Switzerland, the European Court of Human Rights considered the lawfulness of proceedings at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Lausanne. In its analysis, the Court focussed on three elements: the free acceptance of the arbitration clause by the applicants; the status of the CAS as an independent and impartial tribunal established by law and the absence of a public hearing. Continue reading