Thursday, 26 January 2023

New Icelandic and Danish Judges Elected

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe elected two new judges to the European Court of Human Rights, in respect of Denmark and Iceland.

The new Danish judge will be Anne Louise Haahr Bormann. she has professional experience in working at the Danish Ministry of Justice, including heading its law department. Subsequently, she has also worked in the Danish judiciary at various levels, including as a Supreme Court Judge and as Vice-president of the Labour Court. She was also Vice-chair of the Press Complaints Board in Denmark. 

The new Icelandic judge will be Oddný Mjöll Arnardóttir. A well-known human rights law academic with particular expertise on the ECHR, she defended her PhD thesis at the University of Edinburgh in 2002. on the topic of “Equality and Non-Discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights; Towards a Substantive Approach”. After having worked as a practicing lawyer at the start of her career, she worked for many years at various Icelandic academic institutions, teaching and researching about the ECHR as a professor of human rights. Subsequently, she entered the Icelandic judiciary, serving on the Court of Appeals and the Court on Reopening of Judicial Proceedings. She was also an ad hoc judge at the Icelandic Supreme Court and and ad hoc judge in three cases at the European Court of Human Rights itself.  

Both were elected with for the non-renewable term of nine years and will start on within three months. Warm congratulations!

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Webinar on Ukraine v. Russia before the European Court of Human Rights

On 1 February, the Walther Schücking Institute for International Law at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität (Kiel) will hold an online seminar entitled "Of Parties, Third Parties, and Treaty Intertretation: Ukraine v. Russia before the European Court of Human Rights". The speakers include Isabella Risini and Justine Batura. 

Here is a brief summary of the event:

"An unprecedented number of member States have requested permission to intervene in the case Ukraine v. Russia (X) before the European Court of Human Rights. The significance that can be ascribed to these interventions goes beyond a mere expression of solidarity with Ukraine. Not only are these third-party interventions a timely and much needed opportunity for States to express their support for the European regional human rights system and convey legitimacy to the later judgment. The procedural instrument under Art. 36 § 2 ECHR also provides States the prime opportunity to express views on the interaction of international humanitarian law and human rights law in the wake of Georgia v. Russia (II). In this edition of the “Völkerrechtliche Tagesthemen”, Justine Batura and Isabella Risini discuss the context and value of the third-State interventions. 

A critical assessment of this phenomenon will be part of the presentation. While it is true that more than half of all member States of the Council of Europe have expressed interest in intervening as third-party in Ukraine’s application concerning the Russian full-scale invasion in February 2022, it is also worthwhile noting that the States in question also could have submitted their own application against Russia. Member States’ interest in this conflict, which started back in 2014, is also relatively recent."

To register for this event, you must send an email to tagesthemen[at]wsi.uni-kiel.de.

Monday, 23 January 2023

New Handbook on the ECHR

Mark Villiger, former judge at the European Court of Human Rights and professor emeritus at the University of Zürich, has just published a new Handbook on the European Convention on Human Rights with Brill. It is oriented towards practice and covers both the organisation of the Court itself, procedural and substantive issues - all in one volume. A welcome addition to the growing landscape of ECHR  handbooks!  This is the abstract:

'In clear and concise words, this Handbook offers a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the European Convention and the European Court of Human Rights and its case-law. Numerous cross-references guide the reader through the various topics. Various summaries condense the different principles of the Court’s case-law. 

The Handbook has been written largely for practitioners such as lawyers, judges and persons in administrative functions, but will also be invaluable to university teachers and academic researchers. Meticulously compiled, authoritative and practical, it is a must-have resource for anyone concerned with the protection of human rights in Europe. 

The author served as a Judge at the Court for nine years, three of them as Section President. He is a retired Professor for International and European Law at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. 

With a Foreword by Judge Robert Spano, President of the European Court of Human Rights.'

Thursday, 19 January 2023

New Book on Combating Hate Speech During Electoral Processes

The Council of Europe has published the new book Toolkit on combating hate speech during electoral processes. Here is a brief summary:

'Freedom of expression is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and protects citizens from interference with their right to freely express their opinions. This freedom is essential when it comes to the electoral process which, like any competition, has a strict framework of rules. Freedom of expression must not give rise to hate speech that would undermine the electoral process by polluting the campaign and political debate necessary for voters to make an informed choice.

This toolkit is intended to explain the international standards applicable in this respect, provide tools and strategies that can be used by election management bodies to counter hate speech harmful to free electoral competition and describe the Georgian experience in this area.'

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

New Book: Taxation at the European Court of Human Rights

Robert Attard (EY and University of Malta) and former ECtHR judge Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque (the Catholic University of Portugal) have published a book entitled Taxation at the European Court of Human Rights. Here is an overview of the book:

Taxation at the European Court of Human Rights is a first-of-its-kind to critically analyse over 500 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR’s) important ‘tax cases’, which create a human rights code of conduct for European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) State Signatories in matters involving taxation. Albeit the ECHR mentions taxation only once – and in a context that, rather than conferring rights, limits their application – references to public prerogatives pertinent to taxation are present in several of the ECHR’s articles, giving rise to an implied normative framework that has influenced the tax jurisprudence of the ECtHR. Especially given the enormous impact of the famous Yukos cases, the ECtHR has made it abundantly clear that tax policies of State Signatories must be regularly stress-tested against the requirements of the Convention.

In this book, relevant articles of the ECHR are each addressed by a detailed analysis of successful and non-successful tax cases flowing from it. The following invaluable knowledge base and guidance on the ECHR’s relevance to taxation have been furnished:

  • the ECHR’s legal concept ‘margin of appreciation’ and the ECtHR’s supervisory jurisdiction in taxation matters;
  • the legal avenues to impugn tax measures based on Article 1 of Protocol 1 ECHR and other articles of the ECHR;
  • the lines of defence hampering judicial activism in the tax arena;
  • the concept of ‘emergency’ in tax policy;
  • the effects of tax penalty classification and retrospectivity;
  • the right to a fair trial in tax disputes; and
  • the extent tax policy may hamper the right to privacy and other fundamental human rights.

In elaborating on the nexus between taxation and human rights, this book proves to be a vital contribution to a crucial element of the ongoing debate focusing on the tax-related jurisprudence of the ECtHR. With its practice-oriented tax policy rulebook drawn from the judgments of the ECtHR, tax practitioners and in-house counsel will approach any case with cognisance of its human rights implications and constitutional consequences.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Workshop: Legitimate Aims and Ulterior Purposes in International Human Rights Law

On 2 June 2023,  the Centre for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School is hosting a workshop on the Legitimate Aims and Ulterior Purposes in International Human Rights Law. The workshop, co-organised by PluriCourts at the University of Oslo and the Academy for European Human Rights Protection at the University of Cologne, aims to explore this issue in light of recent global jurisprudential developments, in particular those of the European Court of Human Rights, and the pressing contemporary challenges to democracy and the rule of law. 
 
Here is a brief description of the call:
 
'International human rights law (‘IHRL’) requires that states respect their international commitments. Restrictions in human rights are generally not permitted if they do not have a legitimate aim. However, the question of how to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate aims has tended to stay in the background of human rights jurisprudence and theory until relatively recently. 
 
We invite paper submissions that analyse the demarcation of legitimate aims and/or ulterior purposes in contemporary IHRL. We welcome papers that employ normative, doctrinal, critical or social science methods. We also particularly welcome papers that employ comparative methods drawing on public or human rights law, and other fields of law (public or private) to analyse legitimate aims and/or ulterior purposes, as well as papers that draw on political and democratic theory. 
 
The workshop is open to both established and early-career scholars and practitioners, including advanced PhD students. It welcomes submissions from researchers of human rights law and fundamental rights as well as inter-disciplinary researchers, encompassing political philosophy, political science, sociology and anthropology.
Interested participants should provide an abstract in Word format of no more than 500 words. Together with their abstracts, in the same Word document, applicants should provide the following information: name, affiliation, the title of the proposed paper and an email address.
 
To submit an abstract, please send an email to fundamentalrights[at]hertie-school[dot]org by 15 February 2023 with the heading ‘Submission Legitimate Aims and Ulterior Purposes Workshop’. Read the full Call for Papers here

Speakers will be informed of the acceptance of their proposals by 1 March 2023 and will be required to submit a draft paper by 19 May 2022.' 

Friday, 13 January 2023

Happy New Year from the ECHR Blog

Dear readers of the ECHR Blog, let us start off by wishing all of you a happy and good new year! After a more than tumultuous year in which the Council of Europe lost its largest member state when it invaded another one, causing enormous human suffering and large-scale human rights violations, and the ECHR now only covers 46 state parties, the protective umbrella of the European Convention is much smaller than it was. Yet, at the same time, these enormous setbacks, have also put into sharp perspective how crucial human rights are and it has yielded a much-increased awareness of human rights protection not just as an afterthought in conflict but also as a preventive tool. We can only hope that the coming year will bring better news for the people who need it most.

Over the last year, this blog - with an expanded editorial team - has tried to track both the developments related to the ECHR within the Council of Europe and the Court and its judgments as well as events and publications in the academic, research and civil society spheres. This blog has once again proven to be a key point of reference for the ECHR 'community' with almost 200,000 pageviews and 79 blogposts last year. We are grateful to our readers, who also continue to provide us with input for the blog! We are also looking forward to the coming year, as we will mark the blog's 15th anniversary in a few months from now.

Kind wishes, the ECHR editorial team
Antoine Buyse, Kushtrim Istrefi and Matilda Rados

Saturday, 17 December 2022

New Thematic Factsheet on Hate Crime and Hate Speech

The Council of Europe's Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights has just issued a new thematic factsheet on hate crime and hate speech. Here is a brief description:

'Hate crime is a criminal act motivated by bias or prejudice towards a person or group of persons while hate speech concerns various forms of expression directed against a person or group of persons on the grounds of the personal characteristics or status of the person or group of persons. When hate speech takes the form of conduct that is in itself a criminal offence – such as conduct that is abusive, harassing or insulting – it may also be referred to as hate crime.

The Court has noted that discriminatory treatment as such can in principle amount to degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention where it attains a level of severity such as to constitute an affront to human dignity. When investigating violent incidents, State authorities have the duty to take all reasonable steps to unmask possible discriminatory motives. The Court has underlined that the authorities must do whatever is reasonable in the circumstances to collect and secure the evidence, and deliver fully reasoned, impartial and objective decisions, without omitting suspicious facts that may be indicative of violence induced by intolerance or discrimination. Treating violence and brutality with a discriminatory intent on an equal footing with cases that have no such overtones would be turning a blind eye to the specific nature of acts that are particularly destructive of fundamental rights. 

The present factsheet provides examples of general and individual measures reported by States in the context of the execution of the European Court’s judgments, concerning the combat against racially motivated hate crimes which may emanate from security forces, private individuals or groups targeting Roma and migrants, hate crime and hate speech targeting LGBTI persons and religiously motivated hate crime and hate speech.'

Friday, 16 December 2022

Call for Abstracts 'Heads and Tails': ECHR Admissibility and Remedies

On 15-16 June 2023, we are organising the international academic workshop 'Heads and Tails': Admissibility and Remedies at the European Court of Human Rights' at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. It is part of a collaboration between the Montaigne Centre for Rule of Law and Administration of Justice, the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM), and the Institute of Private Law of Oslo University. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 15 February 2023. The call for abstracts is as follows:

‘Heads and Tails’: Admissibility and Remedies at the European Court of Human Rights

Thursday 15 and Friday 16 June 2023 at Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Conveners: professor Janneke Gerards, professor Antoine Buyse, and professor Mads Andenas 

Background of the workshop

In recent years, much attention has been given to the position and effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights. With the aim of helping the Court deal with its heavy case-load, the ‘Interlaken process’ and the entry into force of Protocol 15 ECHR have brought about important changes in the formal rules on access to the Court as well as the Court’s working processes. For example, Protocol 15 has tightened the timeframe within which applicants have to submit their applications and has eased the requirements for holding applications inadmissible because the applicant did not suffer any significant disadvantage. In addition, the Court itself has invested in streamlining and improving its working processes, for instance by changing the application form, amending its priority rules and offering (better) reasoning in Single Judge decisions. It also has resorted to a new system for negotiating friendly settlements and it has proved to be increasingly willing to accept unilateral declarations, all to the effect that there is no need to decide these cases on their merits.

At the same time, with similar objectives, various developments can be seen as regards the remedies the Court can offer. In recent years the Court can be seen to make less use of its pilot judgment procedure, but it has been increasingly indicating individual and general measures that the respondent States should take to remedy a violation. Occasionally, the Court can be seen to award just satisfaction that is so high that it could arguably be seen to amount to punitive damages. Moreover, the Court may put pressure on the States to reopen national proceedings, even though the States have no obligation to do so under the Convention. In several ‘No 2’ cases the Court has appeared ready to revisit a situation it already dealt with in an earlier judgment, even when the Committee of Ministers is still exercising its supervisory role. And in a few recent cases, the Court has been asked under the infringement procedure of Article 46(4) ECHR to revisit cases in which state implementation was clearly failing.

Although these developments have been commented upon by scholars, their contributions often concern just one or a few particular aspects of the wider phenomena of admissibility and remedies. This makes it difficult to see the overall picture and discuss how the various developments regarding the ‘head’ and ‘tail’ of cases interact, from admissibility to striking off-decisions and remedies, or what their overall impact is on the ECHR system. How do these developments relate to the debate on whether the Court should offer individual or general justice, and whether its primary role should be to offer redress to individual justice or rather (or also) to address systemic violations? Can it be seen that the stricter demands on admissibility in the end result in stronger remedies to be imposed? Can the changes primarily be explained by the challenges offered by the Court’s caseload, or can other explanations be provided? What role is played in all these developments by the demands and needs of parties to the cases and other actors, such as (representing or intervening) NGOs and NHRIs, and how can this be assessed?

Aim of the workshop

This workshop brings together a number of expert researchers working on the ECHR system, from different perspectives, and using different methods. The invitation to them is to address particular developments and changes in the Court’s approach to admissibility, strike-off decisions and remedies and critically review them in the broader light of the objectives and nature of the ECHR system. The workshop is set up to foster dialogue and discussion and to allow for the various developments to be compared and contrasted, so as to allow for a bigger picture to arise.

Call for abstracts

We invite abstracts of maximum 350 words together with a cover letter by February 15, 2023, in one single PDF document. The cover letter should include a 1 paragraph CV (maximum 200 words) and explain in a few sentences the context of the paper: e.g. whether it is part of a PhD project, whether it is based on undertaken empirical research or part of ongoing research etc. Accepted contributors will be asked to provide a core draft paper with the main arguments, to be presented in the workshop. After the workshop we will invite a selected number of authors to finalise their paper with a view to compile a special issue of an international, peer-reviewed journal.

Timeline

15 February 2023: Deadline abstract submission

End of February: Decision on accepted abstract and invitation to the workshop

1 June 2023: Submission of draft core papers

15-16 June 2023: Workshop at Utrecht University

End of June: Selection of authors for submission of papers for the special issue

15 September 2023: Submission of full papers for the special issue

Practicalities and format

To allow for intensive, in-depth discussions we aim at a small-size workshop (about 20-25 people), for which we would like to include a mixture of early-career and advanced scholars. We envisage five sessions, spread out over two half days (Thursday afternoon and Friday morning), with two or three very short presentations per session and sufficient time for real discussion. Prospective sessions include the following topics:

Session 1 | Entry Points: developments in admissibility criteria: Protocol 15, working methods of the Court 
Session 2 | Along the Way: developments in ‘striking off’ decisions: friendly settlements and unilateral 
Session 3 | The End of the Road (I): Developments in individual remedies (just satisfaction, reopening) 
Session 4 | The End of the Road (II): Developments in general/structural measures (pilot judgments, general remedies, role played by NGOs/NHRIs) 
Session 5 | Which Road to Travel? Which role(s) for the Court (individual versus structural justice, implementation problems) – (final general discussion with two very short kick-offs) 

Please note: the above serve as indications of the focus of the workshop – you do not need to indicate in your abstract in which session your format fits.
The workshop will be held at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. We are unfortunately not able to cover any costs of travel and accommodation, but we will offer an option for online presentations for those otherwise unable to attend. 

How to submit and deadline
Please submit the pdf with your abstract, CV and context explanation in one unified document by sending an email with the header ‘ECHR Heads and Tails Workshop’ before 15 February 2023 to:  montaignecentrum@uu.nl .

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Online Course 'Introduction to the ECHR and the Court'

The Council of Europe is offering the free six-hour online course 'Introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights'. The course offers legal professionals and others a way to get familiarized with the text of the Convention and the interpretation thereof by the Court. It offers basic knowledge on the ECHR and the Court, necessary for anyone interested in the field. The course consists of three modules: one introductory module on the Convention, one introductory module on the Court, and one module on the execution of the Court's judgments. The course is available in 26 languages. A statement of accomplishment is obtained after completing the course. Here is the outline of the course:

Introductory Module: welcome message; navigation instruction; course authors; course target group

Module 1: Introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights
- Structure of the ECHR
- Interpreting the ECHR
- the ECHR within the national legal order
Module 2: Introduction to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
- Structure of the ECtHR
- The life of an application before the ECtHR
Module 3: Execution of the Judgments of the ECtHR
- Introduction to the module
- Supervision of the implementation of the ECtHR judgments
- Execution of the ECtHR judgments

The course is publicly available on the Council of Europe HELP platform.