Recently, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Dean Spielmann, held a speech in the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany. The speech, entitled 'Menschenrechte in Europa - Beiwerk oder Basis?' is now available on the Court's website. The speech, in German, goes into the significance of the European Convention for peace in Europe. Specifically, the President - by way of examples from the Court's case-law - went into the importance of the ECHR in transitions towards the rule of law, the protection and consolidation of democracy, and even in situations of armed conflict within which the Strasbourg system's practical effect may be less direct in the short run, it still has protective and preventive functions. Secondly, the President also shortly went into some of the criticisms towards the Court and admonished not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Thirdly, he pleaded for ongoing dialogue with the various branches of national government. Human rights protection, was the overarching message, should never be just an accessory but rather a basis for peace and democracy.
Monday, 10 March 2014
After a wonderful conference in snowy Iceland, I am back in Utrecht with an update of relevant new ECHR-related literature. The newest few issues of the European Human Rights Law Review include a number of articles on the ECHR. In no. 6 of 2013:
* J. Polakiewicz, 'EU law and the ECHR: will the European Union's accession square the circle?'', pp. 592-605.
* M. Rogan, 'Prisoners and "other status" under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights', by pp. 615-623.
And in no. 1 of 2014:
* S. Skinner, 'Deference, proportionality and the margin of appreciation in lethal force case law under Article 2 ECHR', pp. 32-38.
The Statute Law Review, vol. 35, no. 1 (2014) includes: F. de Londras, 'Declarations of incompatibility under the ECHR Act 2003: a workable transplant?' pp. 50-65.
And, maybe an unexpected outlet, the International journal for the semiotics of law, vol. 26, no. 4 (2013) features: J. Brannan, ‘Coming to terms with the supranational: translating for the European Court of Human Rights’, pp. 909-925.
The Nordic Journal of International Law, vol. 83, no. 1 (2014) includes: A. Willems, 'The European Court of Human Rights on the UN individual counter-terrorist sanctions regime: safeguarding Convention rights and harmonising conflicting norms in Nada v. Switzerland', pp. 39–60)
The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, vol. 3, no. 1 (2014): T. Moustafa, ‘Judging in God’s name: state power, secularism, and the politics of Islamic law in Malaysia’, pp. 152-167.
The Review of Central and East European law, vol. 38, no. 3-4 (2013): F. van der Vet, Transitional justice in Chechnya: NGO political advocacy for implementing Chechen judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, pp. 363–388.
The Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 33, no. 4 (2013) features: A. Sanders,’ Does Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights apply to disciplinary procedures in the workplace?’, pp. 791-819.
* D. Golubovic , ‘Freedom of association in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights’, vol. 17, no. 7-8 (2013) pp. 758-771.
* I. Turner, ‘Positive obligations and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights: a defence of the UK's Human Rights Act 1998’, vol. 18, no. 1 (2014) pp. 94-114.
Finally, Luzius Wildhaber, Arnaldur Hjartason and Stephen Donnelly, have posed on SSRN an article published in HRLJ 33 (2013) pp. 248-263, entitled 'No Consensus on Consensus' on the notion of "European Consensus" in the Court's case-law.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
The second edition of the European Moot Court Competition on the ECHR is organised this week in Strasbourg, at the Court, by the European Law Students' Association (ELSA). The case on which this year's Moot Court is based, an interesting and at times humoristic read in itself, can be found here. This is the press release on the Moot:
Sixteen teams from ten European countries selected for the second edition of the Moot Court Competition
The final round of the second edition of the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition will take place from 24 to 26 February 2014 at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Sixteen university teams from ten countries (Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, UK) have been selected following the written round of the competition.
The competition simulates the procedure of complaints to the European Court of Human Rights. 72 teams from 29 European countries have competed in a fictive case concerning defamation and hate speech in relation to freedom of expression and media freedom. The16 selected teams will plead the case during the final round at the European Court of Human Rights to win a traineeship at the Court.
The Moot Court Competition aims at giving law students, who represent future lawyers or judges, practical experience on the European Convention on Human Rights and its implementation.
The competition is organised by the European Law Students Association (ELSA) with the support of the Council of Europe. ELSA is an independent and non-profit organisation representing 38 000 students, located in 300 universities in 42 European countries.
Several countries from the Council of Europe have financially contributed to the organisation of this second competition in particular Ireland and Austria, the current Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
Thursday, 20 February 2014
A number of new readings and reports have been published on the European Court and the European Convention recently. To mention a few relevant ones:
The newest issue of the Human Rights Law Review (vol. 14, no. 1, 2014) includes:
* Dirk van Zyl Smit, Pete Weatherby, and Simon Creighton, 'Whole Life Sentences and the Tide of European Human Rights Jurisprudence: What Is to Be Done?'.
* Federico Fabbrini, 'The European Court of Human Rights, Extraordinary Renditions and the Right to the Truth: Ensuring Accountability for Gross Human Rights Violations Committed in the Fight Against Terrorism'.
* Mark Coen, 'With Cat-Like Tread’: Jury Trial and the European Court of Human Rights'.
* Janneke Gerards, 'Inadmissibility Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights: A Critique of the Lack of Reasoning'.
* Uladzislau Belavusau, 'Armenian Genocide v. Holocaust in Strasbourg: Trivialisation in Comparison', a case comment on Perincek v Turkey on Verfassungsblog.
* Laura Hoyano, 'What is balanced on the scales of justice? In search of the essence of the right to a fair trial', Criminal Law Review (2014).
* Dirk Voorhoof, 'The right to freedom of expression and information under the European Human Rights system : towards a more transparent democratic society', Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies EUI, working paper:
Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights has become a crucial instrument to stimulate and compel the national authorities of the 47 member states not only to abstain from interferences restricting media freedom and investigative journalism, but also to promote transparency, media pluralism and internet freedom. This paper explores some of the characteristics and developments of the European Court’s case law regarding media, journalism, internet freedom, newsgathering, whistleblowing and access to information. The perspective of the analysis is that effectively guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and information helps developing the quality of democracy, the protection of other human rights and ultimately contributes to realise a more sustainable, and hence a better, world to live in.
* Report by the Parliamnetary Assembly of the Council of Euroe, entitled 'The European Convention on Human Rights: the need to reinforce the training of legal professionals' (18 February 2014):
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights stresses the importance of solid training for law professionals on the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. This requires the Court's case law to be accessible in a language which law professionals in each State Party can understand.
The committee is of the view that the European Programme for Human Rights Education for Law Professionals, the “HELP Programme”,is well placed to provide assistance with training on the Convention. This Programme is not intended to replace the efforts of specialist training bodies in each member State; but it can and does facilitate this task, for example by developing teaching materials or “training for trainers”. In many jurisdictions, such training is in need of improvement, and member States are invited to ensure that the Convention and the Court’s case law form an integral part of the basic and further training of law professionals.
The committee urges the Committee of Ministers to ensure that the HELP Programme be allocated appropriate funds to carry out its tasks effectively, and recommends the updating of its Recommendation Rec(2004)4 on the European Convention on Human Rights in university education and professional training, as well as the monitoring of its follow-up.
Friday, 14 February 2014
Eva Brems and Janneke Gerards, esteemed colleagues from Ghent University in Belgium and Radboud University in the Netherlands respectively, have edited a new book on the scope of fundamental rights, entitled 'Shaping Rights in the ECHR. The Role of the European Court of Human Rights in Determining the Scope of Human Rights'. The book, to which I was also privileged to contribute with some research on freedom of expression and the abuse of rights clause, was published with Cambridge University Press. It is the outcome of a seminar in 2012 on the scope of human rights, at Ghent University. This is the book's abstract:
In fundamental rights adjudication, a court first has to determine whether the interest at stake falls within the scope of the fundamental right invoked. Whether or not an individual interest falls within the scope or ambit of one of the fundamental rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights determines whether or not the European Court of Human Rights can decide on the merits of a case. This volume brings together a variety of legal scholars in order to examine the scope of fundamental rights. Topics range from the nature of human rights and the real or imagined risk of rights inflation to theories of positive obligations and social and economic rights. It contains contributions of a theoretical nature as well as analytical overviews of the ECtHR's approach. In addition, comparisons are made with domestic, EU and international law.
And this is the table of contents:
1. Shaping rights: the role of the European Court of Human Rights in defining fundamental rights - Janneke Gerards and Eva Brems
Part I. Conceptual, Structural and Constitutional Issues Relating to the Scope of Rights:
2. Between the will of the contracting parties and the needs of today: extending the scope of Convention rights and freedoms beyond what could have been foreseen by the drafters of the ECHR - Alastair Mowbray
3. The scope and balancing of rights: diagnostic or constitutive? - George Letsas
4. Interpreting the protection guaranteed by two-stage rights in the European Convention on Human Rights: the case for wide interpretation - Gerhard van der Schyff
5. The scope of ECHR rights and institutional concerns: the relationship between proliferation of rights and the caseload of the ECtHR - Janneke Gerards
Part II. Scope and More: Developments in the Case-Law of the ECtHR:
6. Defining the scope of economic and social guarantees in the case-law of the ECtHR - Ingrid Leijten
7. Procedural protection: an examination of procedural safeguards read into substantive Convention rights - Eva Brems
8. The scope of rights and the scope of obligations: positive obligations - Laurens Lavrysen
9. Contested contours: the limits of freedom of expression from an abuse of rights perspective: Articles 10 and 17 ECHR - Antoine Buyse
Part III. 360° Comparison:
10. Bottom-up shaping of rights: how the scope of human rights at the national level impacts upon Convention rights - Eirik Bjorge
11. Old and new human rights in Europe: the scope of EU rights versus that of ECHR rights - Xavier Groussot and Eduardo Gill-Pedro
12. European human rights as universal rights: in defence of a holistic understanding of human rights - Martin Scheinin
Part IV. A Closer Look at Specific Rights:
13. The 'absolute' prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in Article 3 ECHR: truly a question of scope only? - Stijn Smet
14. The right to a fair trial and its multiple manifestations: Article 6 § 1 ECHR - Paul Lemmens
15. How the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence became the nursery in which new rights are born: Article 8 ECHR - Maris Burbergs
16. Discrimination as a magnifying lens: scope and ambit under Article 14 and Protocol No. 12 - Oddný Mjöll Arnardóttir.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
Two months ago the Council of Europe launched an open call and invited contributions on the reform and future of the European Convention of Human Rights system. A large number of creative ideas were submitted by an equally wide range of NGOs, academic and individuals. All of these can now be found online on the website of the Council of Europe. Among them are many renowned human rights experts including Fiona de Londras, Janneke Gerards, Marten Breuer, Steven Greer, Elisabeth Lambert Abdelgawad, and Philip Leach. The contributions come from all corners of Europe, from the UK to Estonia and from Liechtenstein to Armenia. They range from ideas for internal Court reforms to outright changes of the Convention. Just to mention one of the most orginal, albeit also least comprehensible ones: "Due to similarities of nature and society, in structures (humans-molecules; body-society) and in relationships, Physics may offer its models for Law (Jus-physics)." It made me think of the heydays of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century ... In any event, the large variety of proposals offers a lot of food for thought for the working groups addressing the Convention's and the Court's future.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
I am happy to introduce a new guest post by professor Renáta Uitz of Central European University in Budapest, who has earlier contributed to this blog, this time on the recent Grand Chamber judgment in O'Keeffe v Ireland, dealing with victims of sexual assault in schools. Her comments particularly focus on the positive obligations elements in the Grand Chamber's reasoning:
O’Keeffe v Ireland Brings Closure to Some, Uncertainties to Others
by Renáta Uitz
The Grand Chamber’s judgment in O’Keeffe v Ireland concludes litigation in a test case of a victim of sexual assault in Ireland’s national school system some 41 years after the initial school incident. A divided Grand Chapter found that Ireland violated the substantive aspect of Article 3 when it failed to protect the applicant from sexual abuse, and also found a violation of Article 3 in conjunction with Article 13 for Ireland’s failure to provide an effective remedy to protect the applicant. While the judgment brings closure to the victims of sexual abuse in the Irish national school system, the construction of positive obligations in public education under Article 3 arguably amounts to a departure from previous case law. As the division of the Grand Chamber indicates, this departure did not go unnoticed on the bench: Judges Zupancic, Gyulumyan, Kalaydjieva, de Gaetano and Wojtyczek wrote a joint partial dissent, Judge Charleton filed a dissenting opinion, while Judge Ziemele wrote a concurring opinion. The implications of this new construction of positive obligations under Article 3 as applicable for public education are clearly worthy of further attention, in light of old as well as future cases.
Despite its four-decade long history, the facts of the case are straightforward. The applicant was sexually assaulted by a music teacher in 1973, in a so-called national school, i.e. a denominational school financed by the state. At the time, 94 per cent of primary schools were such national school in Ireland. The teacher was convicted and imprisoned in 1998. The applicant received compensation for criminal injuries in 2002, and recovered damages in a civil action from the perpetrator in 2006. The applicant’s civil action for damages against the government was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2008, when the national court did not find the state vicariously liable for the sexual assault committed by a teacher in the national school. During this time there were several inquiries and reports on sexual abuse in the Irish school system, and also special procedures were put in place to address allegations of sexual abuse.
After the judgment of the Irish Supreme Court the applicant turned to the ECtHR about the state’s failure to protect her from sexual assault and failure to provide an effective remedy under Articles 3, 8, 13, 14 of the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol no. 1.
When assessing the admissibility of the application, on the applicant’s victim status the ECtHR found (12 to 5) that in relation to the perpetrator’s criminal conviction and the applicant’s access to damages, the national legal system did not address the issue of the state’s responsibility in the applicant’s case. Although criminal damages were paid to the applicant from state funds, the ECtHR found that this payment was based on an ex gratia basis and did not acknowledge the responsibility of the state [para 118].
On account of the violation of the substantive aspect of Article 3 the applicant argued that the state’s failure to put in place an adequate legal framework protecting children from sexual abuse violated a positive obligation. The applicant also argued that sexual abuse in the national schools was a risk which the “state knew or ought to have known” [para 123]. As the Court summarized it in the applicant’s argument the discussion of the nature of the state’s positive obligation in public education and the state’s awareness of the abuse of children in schools was intertwined. This connection was also accepted by the Grand Chamber when it summarized the essence of the claim as “whether the respondent State ought to have been aware of the risk of sexual abuse of minors such as the applicant in National Schools at the relevant time and whether it adequately protected children, through its legal system, from such treatment” [para 168].
The Grand Chamber (11 to 6) described the positive obligation of the state under Article 3 in primary education with regard to the “nature and importance of this obligation,” emphasizing that primary education was an “important public service,” that school authorities were obliged to protect “young children who are especially vulnerable and are under the exclusive control of those authorities” [para 145]. Thereupon the ECtHR declared that “having regard to the fundamental nature of the rights guaranteed by Article 3 and the particularly vulnerable nature of children, it is an inherent obligation of government to ensure their protection from ill treatment, especially in the primary education context” [para 146]. Importantly, agreeing with the applicant the ECtHR found that the state is not absolved from such obligations when delegating duties in primary education to private actors [para 150].
Looking at the facts of the case the Grand Chamber found that the “State was therefore aware of the level of sexual crime by adults against minors. Accordingly, when relinquishing control of the education of the vast majority of young children to non-State actors, the State should also have been aware, given its inherent obligation to protect children in this context, of potential risks to their safety if there was no appropriate framework of protection.” [para 162, emphasis added] Assessing the mechanisms in place the ECtHR found that the respondent state failed to fulfill its “inherent positive obligation … to protect children from ill treatment.” [para 168]
Taking Article 3 in conjunction with Article 13, the Grand Chamber (11 to 6) also agreed with the applicant that the lack of legal mechanisms to find the state liable for the violation of her bodily integrity (an unenumerated constitutional right) meant that national law did not afford an effective remedy to the applicant. The irony of the majority’s position was pointed out by the joint dissent, when it noted that this case could only come before the ECtHR because the state provided avenues for asserting civil and criminal damages two decades after the original facts of the case occurred [joint dissent, para 6].
The points which the concurring opinion of Judge Ziemele made about the retroactive application of jurisprudence on positive obligations in the context of public education were carried further by the joint dissent. Note that the issue is not that of potentially time barred suits, but rather, how should the Court respond where the applicable standards of protection have changed considerably since the underlying facts of the case occurred. In the elucidating words of the joint dissent “[i]t is Kafkaesque to blame the Irish authorities for not complying at the time with requirements and standards developed gradually by the case-law of the Court only in subsequent decades.” [para. 9] While the majority opinion does refer to international instruments on children’s rights and education which had been adopted by 1973, the joint dissent argues that the contents and intensity of these obligations became clear only in more recent years.
Note that while that the facts of O’Keeffe (due to the unique features of national schools in Ireland) create the impression that this case is rather exceptional, the retroactive application of more recently developed standards of protection in the positive obligation jurisprudence is not unique to this case and is not even novel. For instance, in 2008, in K.U. v Finland [Application no. 2872/02, Judgment of 2 December 2008], a case involving child pornography and the internet, the Court took it that in 1999, when the facts of the case occurred (i.e. a decade before the judgment), “it was well known that the Internet, precisely because of its anonymous character, could be used for criminal purposes” [para 48]. In that case the Court found that although in the meantime adequate mechanisms of protection were put in place, these measures came too late for the applicant [para 49]. It remains questionable at best, if the harms and risk that were associated with child pornography on the internet and the anonymity of the medium werel similar in kind and magnitude in a decade’s hindsight.
While the problem of time-travel is not unfamiliar, in O’Keeffe it was further exacerbated by the majority’s understanding of the nature of the positive obligation to protect vulnerable youth in public education under Article 3. As also noted by the join dissent, the majority uses a novel concept of positive obligation in the context of public education. The joint dissent is most concerned with the majority’s merging of ill-treatment by private parties and state actors under Article 3 [para 12]. The joint dissent also takes issue with the majority’s inclusion of risk assessment (termed as retrospective vigilance – para 15) in defining the scope of the state’s positive obligations in light of harms, threats and risks which the state is aware of at a particular time. The majority’s insistence that the state should have been aware of potential risks to the safety of children in public education (see para 162, above) clearly builds on a more remote connection between harm and state obligation, than the previously familiar standard which required the prevention of a “real and immediate risk” [in the Article 3 context: D.F. v Latvia, Application no 11160/07, 29 October 2013].
The dimension of the majority opinion on the positive obligations of the state to prevent ill-treatment in public education under Article 3 which deserves further attention is the majority’s emphasis on the “inherent” nature of these obligations. Under Article 8 the Court has been pointing out positive obligations which are “inherent” in Article 8 at least since the Marckx and Airey judgments in 1979. Today the right to protect one’s reputation is considered by the Court as inherent in Article 8 [e.g. Axel Springer AG v. Germany, Application no. 39954/08, Judgment of 7 February 2012, GC, 2012, para 83]. An inherent positive obligation to provide an effective protection to private life applies between individuals themselves, and the margin of appreciation of the state is narrow where a “particularly important facet of an individual’s existence or identity is at stake, or where the activities at stake involve a most intimate aspect of private life” [Söderman v. Sweden, Application no. 5786/08, Judgment of 12 November 2013, GC, para 79].
While under Article 8 the Court has been invited several times to explain the relationship between the state’s negative and positive obligations [especially in cases involving requests for family reunification barred by immigration rules, see Osman v Denmark, Application no. 38058/09, Judgment of 14 June 2014], the notion of positive obligations inherent in particular Convention rights has been spreading in the case law. Jurisprudence under Article 3 has been an especially fertile ground for the elucidation of such positive obligations inherent in Convention rights. As acts of sexual violence, especially when left unprosecuted, concern multiple Convention rights, in its case law the Court took to explaining the differences between claims and ensuing positive obligations under Article 3 and 8 [see M.C. v. Bulgaria, Application no. 39272/98, Judgment of 4 December 2003].
In O’Keeffe, however, the majority talks about inherent positive obligations in a different sense. In para 146 when inherent positive obligations of the government are mentioned, the French version of the judgment makes it clear that the obligations foreseen by the majority are inherent not in particular Convention rights, but in the very nature of the government’s tasks in public primary education. In the words of the French version “les pouvoirs publics ont l’obligation, inhérente à leur mission, de protéger …” [para 146,, emphasis added], which translates literally as “public authorities have an obligation, inherent in their mission, to protect … “. (This formulation in the French is repeated when the majority explains the nature of the failure of public powers: “la protection des enfants contre les mauvais traitements constituait pour les pouvoirs publics dès les années 1970 une obligation positive inhérente à leur mission” [para 168])
It certainly remains to be seen in future cases, whether there is more to this new formulation of ‘inherent positive obligations’ than a discrepancy between translations. It quite possibly points to a novel approach that in O’Keeffe the majority explained (in para 145) the contents of this inherent positive obligation not from the Article 3 case law, but with reference to a case involving the inclusion of grades for religious studies in primary school certificates, decided under Article 9 and 14 (Grzelak v. Poland (Application no. 7710/02, 15 June 2010) and another case concerning a bus shuttle scheme which resulted in an affected student’s freezing to death under Article 2 (Ilbeyi Kemaloğlu and Meriye Kemaloğlu v. Turkey, Application no. 19986/06, 10 April 2012). Taken together with the risk assessment which requires national governments to predict and thus prevent potential future violations of Convention rights, and the unwillingness of the majority to distinguish between private and governmental actors, this understanding of positive obligations inherent in the nature of a public service (public primary education, in the case at hand) clearly requires further elaboration – and clarifications may only follow from further decisions where the approach is used.
As the joint dissent properly points out, focusing on the inherent obligations of the state with regard to a particular governmental function or public service opens up the possibility for the Court to indirectly impose particular (“ideological”) visions on how that public service is best performed [see joint opinion, para 19]. Dissenters in O’Keeffe found that the majority prefers strong state participation in education. Obvious objections include that such judicial line drawing would leave very little room for national differences.
Instances where the scope and limits of this emerging approach may be tested are not that remote even in the primary public education setting. For instance, while the Court has been rather receptive to claims of Roma children challenging their discrimination in primary public education, key judgments in this area are largely unenforced. The psychological harm caused by misdiagnosis required for the placement of Roma children in special classes, their ruined educational prospects and inferior life or career prospects are all serious instances of emotional and psychological harm affecting the deepest layers of these students’ humanity. That “[p]ublicly to single out a group of persons for differential treatment on the basis of race may constitute a special form of affront to human dignity and might therefore be capable of constituting degrading treatment contrary to Article 3” is difficult to question since the Commission’s decision in the East African Asians v UK case, in 1973. It may be time for the Court to give much needed edge to its case law on discrimination against Roma children in public education, and remind member states of the seriousness of the violation they engage in, in an Article 3 setting. The Court’s approach in O’Keeffe’s relying on positive obligations inherent in public primary education under Article 3 may have just confirmed that this opportunity is still open.
Another setting where the O’Keeffe approach on positive obligations in public education may be put to a test involves the lack of anti-bullying measures. With school children suffering from bullying in public schools, and attempting suicide, it is hardly questionable that the well-being, physical integrity and in some cases even the life of school children is imperiled by the lack of adequate legal frameworks, preventive mechanisms and even awareness in some member states. Since the victims of bullying often happen to belong to protected minorities, they are by definition even more vulnerable than the average pupil. Also, as bullying often takes place outside school premises, through internet and social media, a case like this would serve as an opportunity to clarify the obligations of the state in a setting with strong horizontal dimensions.
In conclusion, despite the symbolic significance of the O’Keeffe judgment for the victims of sexual abuse in the Irish national school system, it is not possible to predict what follows from the Grand Chamber’s finding that under Article 3 member states have positive obligations which are inherent in their responsibilities in primary public education. The sharp division of the Grand Chamber is in itself evidence that the O’Keeffe judgment offers more questions than answers. While – as demonstrated above – potential future cases are easy to envision, due to the lack of clear standards and the persisting disagreement, at present the O’Keeffe approach is best seen as a potential alternative to existing routes of protection.
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
A short and simple video has been made by the Council of Europe explaining in plain terms how the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are executed and how the Committee of Ministers’ supervises this. Apart from English, the video is also available in French - other languagues will be added later on. A super-short crash course into what happens "post-judgment".
Thursday, 6 February 2014
Last week the Judicial Year 2014 officially started in Strasbourg at the European Court of Human Rights. In what has become an anuual tradiiton, the Court's President, Dean Spielmann looked back at the past year, highlighting the most important developments. The most remarkable aspect is probably that the Court's backlog has decreased again, now falling below the symbolic number of 100,000 (in September 2011, for example, the backlog was still 160,000 cases. The good news is partly due to internal reforms, such as the single-judge system and the creation of a new section of the Court dedicated specfically to the filtering of cases. In addition, the staff capacity has been temporarily increased to deal with the blacklog by voluntary extra contributions of state parties to the Convention.
Even if the numbers are still very high, the significant decrease of the past two years is hopeful. Looking beyond the general figures, it is probably more telling to mention some details. More than half of the currently pending applications come from four(!) countries only: Russia, Italy, Ukraine and Serbia. This says something about the future (in the sense of judgments), but also about current structural problems in those countries. In addition, last year, the Court found most judgments with violations against the following countries: Russia, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, and Hungary. In total the Court issued 916 judgments last year, a slight decrease compared to 2012 (1,093), which can be explained by the joining of cases in judgments and the focus on more complex cases. Contentwise, most violations concern the right to a fair trial (art. 6: 30%), the prohibition of torture (art. 3: 18%) and the right to liberty (art. 5: 16%). Finally, if one looks at the number of newly allocated cases over 2013 compared to a country's population, many former Yugoslav states as well as Ukraine and Moldova score very high, indicating a relatively large influx of applications from those countries.
The press release can be found here. More information can be retrieved from the Annual Activity Report, the analysis of statistics over 2013 and the very user-friendly ECHR in Facts and Figures 2013.
On a separate yet related matter, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has produced a report entitled 'ECHR - need to reinforce the training of legal professionals'. This report, written by rapporteur Jean-Pierre Michel, emphasizes the need for better and more systematic training of professionals at the national level in order to increase the effectiveness of the Convention system.
Finally, Adam Bodnar and Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, both lawyers at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, have published an Op-Ed online entitled 'Saving the Strasbourg Court' which includes some very important points about the current discussions in both the UK, Russia, and elsewhere on the Strasbourg system.
Wednesday, 5 February 2014
On Friday 16th May 2014 the University of York is organising a one-day seminar on "Sexual Orientation and the European Convention on Human Rights: Voices and Perspectives". The seminar will be hosted at Heslington by the Department of Sociology and will explore and discuss sexual orientation issues in relations to human rights in Europe. This is the seminar's abstract:
"The seminar will bring together a range of stakeholders – from the European Court of Human Rights, the legal profession, academia, and LGBT NGOs – to discuss the current state of rights relating to sexual orientation under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Individuals began making complaints under the European Convention on Human Rights about sexual orientation discrimination in 1955. Since the first successful complaint in 1981, the European Court of Human Rights has issued judgments in respect of a wide range of issues relating to discrimination experienced by gay men and lesbians. Whilst the Court has often upheld complaints about sexual orientation discrimination and evolved human rights protection for sexual minorities, it also continues to reject many complaints on crucial issues such as discrimination in respect of marriage and aspects of family life.
This round-table seminar is designed to encourage in-depth, cross-disciplinary and focused discussion on a range of pressing issues relating to sexual orientation discrimination in the 47 states of the Council of Europe. We welcome attendance from all those who have an interest in sexual orientation, human rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Confirmed participants are: Nikita Ivanov, Registry of the European Court of Human Rights; Dr. Marc de Werd, Justice in the Amsterdam Court of Appeal; Dr. Loveday Hodson, University of Leicester; Prof. Robert Wintemute, King’s College London; Jeffrey Dudgeon MBE, LGBT activist and applicant in Dudgeon v the UK."
Participation is free, and refreshments/lunch will be provided, but places are limited. To book a place please email paul.johnson at york.ac.uk
A full programme will be available soon and an event flyer is available here.