Wednesday 28 February 2024

Call for Abstracts Workshop 75 Years Council of Europe

The University of Grenoble-Alpes is organising the workshop '
The Council of Europe: How to move forward after 75 years? The past, present and future of an international organisation in its seventies' in December 2024, with Anca Ailinca as convener. It has issued a call for abstracts, with 24 April 2024 as a deadline. The event will be hybrid: on-site and online, in English and French. Please find al information below:

'The Council of Europe will celebrate its 75th anniversary on 5 May 2024. Founded in 1949 as a response to the Second World War, it embodies the promotion and protection of European values, namely "human rights, democracy and the rule of law". The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are its most remarkable and best-known achievements. So much so that the Council of Europe is often reduced to this essential but reductive aspect. In fact, countless other standards have been adopted under the auspices of this organisation. These standards, which are intended to permeate national legal systems, set the European standards for a common legal order.

In the 75 years of its existence, the Council of Europe has had to adapt to major changes in the political and geopolitical context in which it operates. The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), followed by the European Economic Community and the European Union, has led it to reflect, with varying degrees of success, on its specific role within the European architecture. The dissolution of the USSR led to the swift, if not hasty, integration of a large number of Central and Eastern European countries willing to embark on a process of democratisation that is still ongoing. The massive enlargement of the Council of Europe has had many far-reaching consequences for its functioning and working methods. It has also had an impact on the European Court of Human Rights, which has seen a huge increase in the number of cases brought before it. The resurgence of populism, authoritarianism and nationalism since the 2010s has once again forced the Council of Europe to assess the effectiveness of its actions. The challenge is all the greater given the organisation's limited budget. This reflects a political disengagement on the part of its member states, which can also be seen in the fact that some of them no longer adhere to all European values and ostensibly refuse to implement Council of Europe standards, including the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. In this context, the Council of Europe has embarked on a major reform process, which is still ongoing. The armed aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine has once again changed the geopolitical context in Europe to such an extent that a fourth Summit of the Council of Europe was held in Reykjavik (Iceland) in May 2023.

To date, the Council of Europe has not been able to overcome the many challenges that have tested its effectiveness and even its legitimacy. This may be explained by the Committee of Ministers’ attachment to consensus, even though member states are often divided. Another explanation may be the perhaps disproportionate weight given to geopolitical considerations. All this leads to a political timidity that can sometimes give the impression that member states rely too much on the European Court of Human Rights. However, the Court is not able to overcome structural challenges on its own. 

The aim of the workshop is to make a critical assessment of the Council of Europe's achievements and working methods, to analyse the main challenges it faces and to outline ways of addressing them. It is important to note that the focus of the event will not be on the ECHR and the ECtHR, although the topic will be on the agenda.

Contributions can come from any discipline. They may take a general, cross-disciplinary approach or focus on a particular institution, country or issue. Proposals from young scholars (PhD students and post-doctoral researchers), as well as non-academic contributions and those based on empirical studies are welcome. Proposals that deal exclusively with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, without placing the subject in the wider context of the Council of Europe, will not be considered. We invite original proposals, as we aim to explore publication options, after peer review.

By way of illustration, and without claiming to be exhaustive, contributions may cover the following topics:

General and institutional aspects
- How constructive are relations between different organs of the Council of Europe; how can synergies be strengthened?
- The reform of the Council of Europe: an appropriate quest for efficiency?
- Should the Council of Europe set more focused priorities? Too many partial agreements?
- The Venice Commission, the Commissioner for Human Rights or the monitoring bodies: how to increase their effectiveness?
- How can the execution of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights be improved?
- Is the Council of Europe a credible player in the European institutional architecture?

Substantive aspects
- The vices and virtues of the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental standard-setting work (e.g. choice of topics, working methods, links with the European Union's standard-setting work)
- The European Social Charter and the Revised Social Charter: is the Turin Process sufficient?
- The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention)
- The Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention)
- How can torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment be effectively prohibited in practice?
- What role can the Council of Europe play in environmental protection?
- What is the added value of the Council of Europe in the field of Artificial Intelligence?
- How to overcome political reticence on issues such as migrants’ rights or LGBTQI+?
- Can the Council of Europe protect political prisoners, including those in Russia and Belarus?
- The vices and virtues of joint European Union/Council of Europe programmes

Geopolitical approach
- The implications for the Council of Europe of a future enlargement of the European Union
- The Council of Europe's relations with specific states (e.g. the Russian Federation, Turkey, Azerbaijan)
- The Council of Europe and (frozen or military) conflicts in Europe

Funds are available to cover travel and accommodation costs for workshop participants, where necessary. If this is the case, please include a reasoned request with your proposal.

Timetable and submission procedures

24 April 2024: Submission of a 1,000-word abstract, in French OR English. Authors are requested to include their full name, title and functions, as well as the institution(s) with which they are affiliated. Authors are also encouraged to mention any difficulties they may have in following the debates in French AND English. Projects can be submitted to: 

31 May 2024: Response after blind evaluation by the Scientific Committee

10 November 2024: all selected participants will be invited to submit the written version of their contribution before the conference.

Week of 2 to 6 December 2024: Workshop in Grenoble'

Thursday 22 February 2024

Research Event on Subsidiarity and Human Rights in the EU and the ECtHR

On Tuesday 19 March 2024 from 16:00 to 17:30 CET, the Hertie School Centre for Fundamental Rights is hosting a research event entitled 'The soul of Europe in the balance? Subsidiarity and human rights in the EU and the ECHR'. The research presentation will be given by Andreas Føllesdal (University of Oslo) and will be chaired by Joseph Finnerty (Hertie School). Here is a short description of the event:

'What is at stake if the EU accedes to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and becomes subject its Court – as required by the Treaty on European Union Article 6? We might expect no conflicts between the human rights protection by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU): The EU is committed to a Charter of Fundamental Rights which requires the CJEU to abide by ECHR standards and ECtHR jurisprudence (52.3). The ECtHR’s ‘Bosphorus Doctrine’ assumes that states comply with the ECHR when they implement EU legislation. And the term ‘subsidiarity’ appears in the treaties of both. Yet the CJEU objected to the draft accession treaty, and the ECtHR appears to foresee some such conflicts.

The presentation argues that appeals to subsidiarity will not alleviate the tensions, because the two treaties as interpreted by their courts have different primary objectives. Arguments from subsidiarity do not indicate which of those objectives to privilege in order to harmonize the treaties. Important value laden choices remain concerning how to ‘balance’ and order the various valuable objectives. It seems ill advised to leave those choices to any one of the international courts.'

You can register here. The registration deadline is 11 March 2024.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

New ECHR Readings

Please find below our newest selection of academic publications covering the ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights. Enjoy reading!

* Ryan Goss, ‘The Disappearing ‘Minimum Rights’ of Article 6 ECHR: the Unfortunate Legacy of Ibrahim and Beuze’, Human Rights Law Review (2023):

‘This article critiques the European Court of Human Rights’ recent extensive case law on the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and particularly the right to legal assistance in criminal trials. The article examines the significant and ongoing impact of the judgments in Ibrahim (2016) and Beuze (2018) and argues that the recent case law reflects buyer’s remorse on the part of the Court for its landmark judgment in Salduz (2008). Article 6 is among the most heavily litigated provisions of the ECHR, and this article is the first extended scholarly analysis of the post-Beuze case law. The article identifies two interrelated trends in the most recent case law: first, the Court taking a number of analytical steps that allow it to overlook the text of Article 6(3) in favour of an impressionistic assessment of the overall fairness of the proceedings; and, second, the Court providing Governments with multiple opportunities to advance public interest justification arguments despite continued pronouncements that Article 6 is an unqualified right. The article suggests that the jurisprudence is weakening the Article 6 guarantees.’

* Katie Morris, ‘Vulnerability, Care Ethics and the Protection of Socioeconomic Rights via Article 3 ECHR’, Human Rights Law Review (2023):

‘Vulnerability analysis serves a distinct purpose within adjudication of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights ('ECHR'), in that it has been used by the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’ or ‘the Court’) to lower the threshold for a finding of ill-treatment from which positive obligations relating to socioeconomic rights have arisen. However, the group-based notion of vulnerability invoked by the Court is extremely limited, producing minimal protection from deprivation whilst equally paternalizing and essentializing the populations it deems vulnerable. In light of these failings, this article proposes a new element to be incorporated within the Court’s vulnerability analysis which can deliver greater protection of socioeconomic rights via Article 3: the political theory of care. By highlighting care’s potential to transform the concepts of vulnerability and state responsibility whilst empowering the care-receiver, it argues that care can overcome the limitations of the Court’s current approach as a means of targeting destitution.’

* Maciej Oksztulski, Maciej Perkowski, & Wojciech Zoń, ‘Autistic Persons in the Labour Market in the Light of ECtHR Case-law’, International Community Law Review (2023):

‘The European acquis on the protection of human rights is indisputable. This also applies to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. However, this acquis is not extensive enough to cover all the problems Europeans have. The aim of this article is to establish the status quo in the area of anti-discrimination against persons on the autism spectrum in the labour market, taking into account the related Strasbourg jurisprudence in question, as a starting point for potential proceedings (in this area) before the European Court of Human Rights. Currently, the body of doctrine in this area is not extensive, and the increasing number of diagnosed cases of autism may in the future necessitate a deeper reflection on the guarantees provided by international law. The article will generally characterise autism, discuss ECtHR jurisprudence relating to persons with disabilities and (briefly) the right to work, discuss the labour market participation of persons on the autism spectrum in selected countries as a challenge to jurisprudence, and present a conclusion.’

* Jakub J. Czepek, ‘ECtHR Case-law Concerning Russian Aggression on Ukraine and the Events Taking Place after 2014’, International Community Law Review (2023):

‘Ukraine has faced ongoing armed conflict within the eastern parts of its territory since 2014. The state witnessed the annexation of Crimea, de facto occupation of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the shooting down of Flight MH-17, and numerous human rights violations in the eastern parts of the country. Since the Russian aggression in 2022, Ukraine has faced armed conflict throughout the country. At the same time, Russia and Ukraine had been states parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Russia ceased to be a party to the ECHR on 16 September 2022, due to its expulsion from the Council of Europe (CoE) six months earlier. All the applications against the Russian Federation filed to the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) before this date should – and will – be examined by the Court. This research mainly aims to analyse the Court’s existing case-law concerning the events in Ukraine after 2014, and the ECtHR jurisprudence concerning armed conflicts. The purpose of such analysis is to examine the possibilities and challenges the Court will face in its forthcoming judgments in inter-state applications filed by Ukraine against Russia. It should be stressed that the execution of these future judgments may also be an issue.’

* Bartosz Ziemblicki, ‘Modern Technologies as a Challenge for the Right to Privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights’, International Community Law Review (2023):

‘The paper explores the right to privacy as a human right and its contemporary challenges in the digital age. It discusses the definition of privacy, its recognition in international human rights documents, and the wording of the right to privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The article highlights the increasing difficulty of protecting privacy in the digital age and the potential threats posed by modern technologies. It also examines the balance between the right to privacy and freedom of expression, particularly on the internet, citing relevant case law from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Furthermore, the article discusses mass surveillance and the protection of personal data as a component of the right to privacy. It emphasizes the importance of effectively enforcing the right to privacy to protect individuals and societies.’

* Antonio Mariconda, ‘Victim Status of Individuals in Climate Change Litigation before the ECtHR: Between Old Certainties and New Challenges’, Italian Review of International and Comparative Law (2023):

‘The climate change applications currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) present substantial challenges to the status quo of the Strasbourg system, encompassing both merits and admissibility issues. Of particular concern is their compliance with the admissibility requirement outlined in Article 34 of the European Convention of Human Rights (echr), which stipulates that applicants must be victims of a violation of the Convention by a State to file a case before the Court. Given the diffuse nature of the harms stemming from climate change, identifying individuals as victims of its effects and, consequently, whose rights are allegedly infringed upon, becomes a complex task. Furthermore, establishing a direct causal link between the harm endured and the actions or omissions of a single State proves to be equally challenging. Therefore, the aim of this article is to scrutinize how this admissibility requirement might operate in the cases at hand. In particular, it argues that, albeit with some caveats, it is legally possible to consider some climate change applicants as both direct and potential victims, as per the definitions established by the case law of the ECtHR. Nevertheless, this solution could pose significant challenges to the legitimacy and efficiency of the Strasbourg system, which the Court will have to prevent when deciding these cases.’

* Andrew Drzemczewski & Rick Lawson, ‘Exclusion of the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe and the ECHR: an Overview’, Baltic Yearbook of International Law (2022).

* Paul Gragl & Christian Breitler, ‘The Past, Present, and Future of European Inter-State Disputes: A Modest Proposal for Reconciling Inter-State Cases in the Context of EU Accession to the ECHR’, The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals (2023):

‘The last few decades have seen a rise in inter-State cases before the international/supranational European courts, i.e., the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, respectively. This article therefore examines why this particular procedure is challenging for both courts, especially due to potential overlaps in State actors/respondents as well as substantive questions in light of the EU’s planned accession to the ECHR. The EU’s tight jurisdictional corset found in Article 344 TFEU will, in particular, prove to be a considerable issue here. Lastly, possible solutions to these problems will be presented for a future scenario after the Union’s accession to the ECHR, when it will be formally bound by the ECHR and the judgments of the ECtHR.’

* Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, ‘Keep Me in the Loop: Feedback Exchange between the European Court of Human Rights and States’, The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals (2023):

‘This article applied the theory of “Voice and Exit” developed by Hirschman to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR or Court) interaction with its member States. According to this theory, if the organisation cannot be changed through Voice, the Exit of its members is more likely. This article argues that there are avenues for the Contracting Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to Voice their concerns to the ECtHR, however it is important that the Court reacts to these concerns through feedback loops. The feedback loops do not come without a cost and the Court needs to be cognisant of their dangers. The article applies this framework to existing practices of the ECtHR and considers whether the Court used the feedback loops that have already been developed with maximum efficiency. This article establishes a typology of feedback loops and explains how they are operationalised by the ECtHR in practice.’

* Agne Limante, ‘Protecting vulnerable groups in Europe: highlights from recent case law of the European Court of Human Rights’, The International Journal of Human Rights (2023):

‘This paper focuses on the recent cases of the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR, the Court) in which the Court offered legal protection to vulnerable groups. For this purpose, the paper will first discuss the vulnerability paradigm before the ECtHR and draw the list of groups recognised by the Court as vulnerable. It will then turn to the case law to trace the recent trends and developments in the Court’s focus when protecting vulnerable groups. In particular, the research covers the Court judgements rendered in the last four years (from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2022).’

Thursday 8 February 2024

Conference: Activating the Protection of Fundamental and Human Rights at European Level

On Thursday 7 March and Friday 8 March 2024, the Law Department of the College of Europe and the Institute for European Law of KU Leuven/RESHUFFLE project are organizing a high-level conference entitled 'Activating the Protection of Fundamental and Human Rights at European Level'. The conference will focus on the role played by the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe in protecting human rights in Europe. 

Here is a short description of the event:

'There is growing awareness that the European Union, next to the Council of Europe, is playing an active role in the protection of human rights in Europe.
The two Courts (the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe (‘ECtHR’) & the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’) thus often act side-by-side to protect Europe’s most cherished rights. This event will shed light on the procedural tools available before each of them to enhance the protection of ‘human rights’, in the language of the ECtHR, and of ‘fundamental rights’, in the language of EU law. What are the respective strengths and weaknesses of each of the two judicial systems when it comes to actually activating them? While research on substantive law showing complementarities as well as differences between the two approaches is growing, there is still very little analysis of the procedural features of the emerging European law of fundamental and human rights. This event and the publication that will result therefrom are intended to bridge this gap in a context characterised by the revival of prospects of accession by the EU to the ECHR.'

The programme can be found here. You can submit your registration here

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Book Launch: Positive Obligations under the ECHR

On Wednesday 21 February 2024, from 17:30 to 19:00 CET, the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights of Oxford University is hosting a book launch for the new book 'Positive Obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights', authored by Vladislava Stoyanova (Associate Professor of Public International Law at the Faculty of Law, Lund University) and published with Oxford University Press. The event will be joined by Sandy Steel (Professor of Law and Philosophy of Law in the Faculty of Law at Oxford University), Helen Mountfield KC (Principal of Mansfield College and Barrister at Matrix Chambers) and Ed Bates (Associate Professor at the University of Leicester). The event will be chaired by Başak Çalı (Head of Research at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and professor of International Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford). 

Here is a short description of the book:

'Positive Obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights provides novel insight into the elements underlying a state's responsibility to fulfil positive obligations and offers the first examination of the conceptual hurdles of applying positive human rights obligations extraterritorially.  It further clarifies European Court of Human Rights doctrine to empower better reasoning and outcomes across the diverse fields in which positive obligations apply. It is essential reading for academics, legal practitioners, and policymakers working across the diverse fields in which positive human rights obligations may apply.'

You can register here for the event.