Tuesday 31 January 2023

Annual Press Conference of the President of the ECtHR

On Thursday 26 January 2023, the President of the ECtHR Síofra O’Leary held a press conference during which the Court's activities and statistics for 2022 were presented. President O'Leary began the conference by stating that the year 2022 was marked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, its expulsion from the Council of Europe and its withdrawal from the Convention. It was stressed that these serious events have had important legal consequences for the Court, for instance for its competence to deal with applications against Russia. 

During the press conference the President provided some statistics on the activities of the Court in 2022. The past year was a year in which the Court was extremely active: it issued a total of 1163 judgments, which is the highest number of judgments since 2012. All statistical information about the activities of the Court is included in the Court's latest annual report

The President furthermore pointed out some relevant developments in 2022. These include, amongst others, the reduction of the time-limit within which an application can be filed to the Court from six to four months from the date of the final judgment at the national level according to Protocol No. 15 to the Convention, and the launch of the Court's Knowledge Sharing Platform (ECHR-KS)

A video of the press conference is available here

Monday 30 January 2023

Expert Workshop on Climate Change, Human Rights and ECHR

On 14 April 2023, the European University Institute (EUI) is hosting an expert workshop in Florence on Climate Change Cases before Human Rights Courts and Treaty Bodies. The workshop, organized by the Law Department of the EUI together with the PluriCourts Centre of Excellence of the  University of Oslo and the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, focuses on human rights litigation before the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and regional human rights courts as a means of combating climate change. The workshop will, amongst others, discuss the pending climate change cases before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR (Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 other states; Carême v. France, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland). The workshop will be followed by a PhD Colloquium on 15 April 2023. 

Here is a brief description of the workshop:

'Climate change is one of the main challenges facing humanity today. Without rapid and decisive action, it will be the main challenge, an existential threat to people and other living organisms. There are many approaches to combating climate change, including intergovernmental negotiations and action through international organizations, social mobilization and protest, efforts to engage corporations and the business community to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and searching through the repository of law for tools that could be used to compel the unwilling. This one-day expert workshop followed by a PhD colloquium will focus on legal tools in the field of human rights and the prospects of human rights litigation for turning the tide of climate change. While taking into account developments in domestic law, general international law and international environmental law, the event will in particular explore developments in and prospects of human rights litigation before regional human rights courts and international human rights treaty bodies in trying to address climate change and its adverse effects as they constitute or cause human rights violations. 

The expert workshop of Friday 14 April will run in the format of plenary sessions from 9.00 to 18.30 and include a lunch break and two coffee breaks. The PhD colloquium of 15 April will be from 9.00 until 12.30, based on papers and presentations by PhD researchers.'

The program can be found here

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