Tuesday 25 January 2022

Public Lecture on Positive Obligations under the ECHR - Within and Beyond Boundaries

On 10 March, the University of Liverpool is hosting an online public lecture by Dr. Vladislava Stoyanova on Positive Obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights - Within and Beyond Boundaries. Here is a brief description of the event:

'The development of positive obligations has been one of the hallmarks of the work of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or the Court) in interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Various issues from various spheres of life have been reviewed by the Court as involving possible breaches of positive obligations. Given the extensive regulatory functions of the State and the enormous breadth of state activities, any harm could potentially be a ground for making an argument that the State failed to fulfil its positive human rights obligations by failing to prevent or mitigate harm or risk. As a result, it is rather unclear under which conditions positive obligations may be triggered and how far-reaching they may be, given how difficult it is to draw the boundaries of state responsibility for omissions. The difficulties in determining and delimiting the role of the State in the contemporary society contribute to this uncertainty.

The lecture will address these challenges by identifying the key analytical issues that need to be considered in determining whether a State is responsible under the ECHR for omissions. The focal question is whether and how omissions by the State can be conceptualised into failures to fulfil positive obligations. In addition to this technical analytical question, the project also reflects upon what is at stake for the political community when the triggering, the content, and the scope of positive human rights obligations are determined. A central question is then how the search for a balance between intrusion and restraint by the State, between protection and freedom from invasion, defines this community and pulls the analysis of state responsibility for omissions in different directions.

One of these key analytical issues is the competition between obligations. In particular, positive human rights obligations can compete, and even conflict, with other human rights obligations, both positive and negative. This is important since protection might lead to diversion of resources, potentially in breach of other positive obligations, and unjustifiable forms and levels of intrusiveness and coercion that might be in breach of negative obligations. The latter can be particularly disturbing in light of the tension between obligations that constrain state power (negative obligations) and obligations that mandate state power or demand its more expansive exercise (positive obligations). These tensions are relevant all the time when positive obligations are at stake, although they not always explicit in the Court’s reasoning. The tensions imply that the more the State protects certain interests, the less it might be able to protect and the more it might interfere with other interests.

The specific concern will be then how competing human rights obligations owned by the State need to be taken into consideration in the determination of the scope and the content of positive obligations, so that a possible protective overreach can be prevented. The speaker will first explain that obligations need to be specified so that tensions and competitions between obligations become cognizable. Once competing obligations become cognizable, they should be denoted a distinctive and special role (in contrast to competing general public interests) in the assessment of the reasonableness of the positive obligations. Then it will discuss considerations that can be relevant to addressing the tension between positive obligations and other (both positive and negative) human rights obligations corresponding to absolute, strictly qualified and qualified rights. These considerations include respecting the equal moral status of each affected individual, the relative importance of the affected interests grounding rights as related to the relative importance of the corresponding obligations, whether actions or omissions form the content of the obligations, and the determinacy of the harm and the affected individuals. Finally, while acknowledging the difficulties, it is proposed that the obligations can be farmed in such a way in terms of content and scope, so that accommodation is possible.'

You can register here

Friday 14 January 2022

New Book: Putting Human Rights to Work

Philippa Collins, a lecturer at the University of Bristol, has published a book entitled 
Putting Human Rights to Work: Labour Law, the ECHR, and the Employment Relation (with Oxford University Press). 

Here is a short description of the book:

"The very existence of an employment relationship places the human rights of a worker at risk. Employers can, and frequently do, exercise their managerial and disciplinary powers in a manner that interferes with the most fundamental rights of the individual worker. Adequate safeguards against such infringements are necessary if individuals are to receive full protection of their rights. This book examines how far the labour laws of England and Wales offer such guarantees, with a particular focus on dismissal law. The chapters reflect on the relationship between employment, labour, and human rights before conducting a detailed and critical analysis of the scope, shape, and application of domestic employment law. The framework for evaluation is drawn from the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, as it develops a principled and tailored approach to how the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Right should be enforced in working relationships. Statutory mechanisms, such as the law of unfair dismissal, and common law causes of action are examined and found to be lacking in their capacity to vindicate and enforce the human rights of workers. This book culminates in the proposal and elaboration upon an innovative solution, the Bill of Rights for Workers, that would draw on the successes of human rights and labour law instruments to render the Convention rights directly enforceable in the relationship between a worker and their employer."

Monday 10 January 2022

EIN Colloquium on Implementation of Judgments in French

On 18 February, the European Implementation Network (EIN) in Strasbourg is organising an in-person colloquium on how NGOs and NHRI can effectively participate in the supervision process of implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The event will take place in French. More information can be found here and this is the announcement of the event by the organisers:

'Les arrêts de la cour Européenne des Droits de l’Homme (CEDH) impliquent souvent, au-delà des mesures individuelles concernant la victime, la mise en œuvre de mesures générales – de nature législatives ou autres - qui ont un impact fort sur l’état des droits humains de tout un chacun dans un Etat. De par leur expertise et leur connaissance du terrain, les ONG et INDH, mais également les organisations professionnelles telles que Conseil des Barreaux ou Syndicat des avocats, sont parmi les mieux placées, à côté des autorités étatiques, pour formuler des recommandations sur les mesures substantielles nécessaires à la bonne exécution d’un arrêt, qui permettront d’éviter des violations identiques à l’avenir. En ceci, la participation des ONG, INDH et organisations professionnelles au processus de supervision de l’exécution des arrêts de la CEDH constitue un élément important pour la protection de l’Etat de droit en Europe, et dans l’UE en particulier.

Pour autant, la participation de ces structures au processus de supervision des arrêts de la Cour reste encore très limitée – seules 5-7% des affaires en ont bénéficié la dernière année – et le processus en tant que tel, ainsi que son potentiel pour la protection de l’Etat de droit dans l’UE, reste méconnu.

Ce Colloque a pour but de sensibiliser et former ONG, INDH et organisations professionnelles au rôle clef qu’elles peuvent et devraient jouer pour accompagner une meilleure exécution des arrêts de la CEDH, et de formuler un Appel, enrichi de recommandations concrètes, envers les institutions européennes, afin que ce volet soit dûment pris en compte dans les rapports et politiques de l’UE en faveur de l’Etat de droit. Un élément essentiel sera l’appel à une plus grande prise en compte des besoins de financements des ONG/INDH dans le cadre du programme « Citoyens, égalité, droits et valeurs », et du volet « Valeur de l’Union » qui est au cœur de ce programme. L’Appel et ses recommandations seront relayés par l’EIN sur la plateforme de la Conférence sur l’Avenir de l’Europe.'

Wednesday 5 January 2022

The New Year and What is Coming up at the Court

First off, our very best wishes for the new year to all our readers for 2022! Before focusing on a number of matters ahead in the ECHR system, one decision emanating from the Court in the last days of 2021 also deservers attention. So, we start the year with a number of notifications:

1. As the Court announced in one of its last press releases of last year, the much contested dissolution of Russia's oldest human rights NGO Memorial will be reviewed under the ECHR. In the meantime, and as far as we are aware, applying interim measures for the first time in a freedom of association case, the Court requested Russia to suspend enforcing the domestic court decision to close the NGO and its affiliates. This is the message on the ECtHR's own website: 

'On 28 and 29 December 2021 respectively, the International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Centre reiterated their request to the European Court of Human Rights under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to apply an interim measure to prevent their forced dissolution following the adoption of the judgments of 28 and 29 December 2021 by the Supreme Court of Russia and by the Moscow City Court, respectively.

The Court has decided to indicate to the Government of Russia, under Rule 39, that in the interests of the parties and the proper conduct of the proceedings before it, the enforcement of the decisions to dissolve the applicant organisations should be suspended for a period that would be necessary for the Court to consider the application.'

2. Looking ahead, this month will witness one of the Court's most awaited hearings of recent times, the one in the inter-state case Ukraine and The Netherlands v the Russian Federation. Inter-state cases are rare and always very sensitive. The hearing was already deferred from last year and the cases focuses on the downing of infamous Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 in 2014 above Ukraine during the armed conflict there. Meanwhile, the criminal case against four main suspects in absentia is progressing in Dutch domestic courts, in parallel. The hearing in Strasbourg is now scheduled for 26 January. 

3. And finally, a crucial change for potential applicants will enter into force on 1 February. From then on, the time-limit for submitting a complaint in Strasbourg will be reduced from 6 to 4 months after exhausting domestic remedies. This is the most visible change resulting from the entry into force of Protocol 15 ECHR last year, of which the transition period ends in a few weeks. New applications submitted after 1 February can only be declared admissible if they comply with this new time limit.