Category Archives: European System

ECtHR Finds Forced Disclosure of Known Journalistic Source Violates Rights

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons

On October 5, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously ruled that Norway violated a journalist’s rights under Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) because the Supreme Court of Norway imposed a fine on her for refusal to testify on her source, who had already made himself known. See ECtHR, Becker v. Norway, no. 21272/12, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 5 October 2017. The Court’s decision turned on the fact that it was not necessary to the case to retrieve the journalist’s testimony, since the individual suspected of criminal activity was charged and convicted without her statement. See id. at para. 78. This case goes beyond the ECtHR’s existing jurisprudence on the application of the right to freedom of expression to the protection of journalists’ sources. Prior to this case, the ECtHR had yet to address the question of whether a court may compel testimony when the source’s identity has already been revealed by the source’s own admission. See id. at paras. 73-74. The ECtHR decided that a source’s own disclosure is not decisive of whether a journalist should be compelled to disclose the source in his or her own testimony. See id. at para. 75. Read more

Supreme Court of India Declares Privacy Is a Fundamental Right

Supreme Court of India
Credit: Legaleagle86 via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of August, the Supreme Court of India unanimously held that the Constitution of India specifically protects the right to privacy, which it concluded is inherent to constitutional guarantees of life and liberty pursuant to its Article 21 and, therefore, already exists as a fundamental freedom enshrined in the Constitution. See Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs. Union of India, (2017) (India) (opinion of Chandrachud, J.), at 110, 254, 257, 262. The decision arose from a case challenging the constitutionality of the country’s system of using biometrics to identify individuals. For the case to move forward, the nine judges of the Supreme Court of India had to first determine whether the Constitution of India protects the right to privacy. See id. at 7. Affirming the right, the court’s decision was in accordance with international standards on privacy; the court confirmed that individuals have a zone of privacy limited by others’ rights and that the State may interfere with the right to privacy only through established law in pursuit of a legitimate aim and when necessary in a democratic society. See id. at 180-91, 242-46. The constitutional challenge to the biometric identification system will now resume, taking into account the privacy framework decided by the court.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) the ruling in the present case will not only have an impact on national policies concerning mandatory identification programs, but also other domestic issues, such as sexual orientation; the opinion explicitly states that sexual orientation is essential to privacy and identity, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is counter to dignity. A challenge to India’s law criminalizing same-sex relations is also currently pending in court. [HRW] See id. at 124. The decision already overruled two prior domestic cases that held the right to privacy is not specifically protected under the Constitution of India. See Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs. Union of India, (opinion of Chandrachud, J.), at 5. Read more

ECtHR: Romania Violated Privacy Rights After Employer Monitored Instant Messages

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons

On September 5, 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that a private company’s decision to dismiss an employee, after monitoring and accessing his instant messages sent from the workplace, violated the employee’s right to respect for private and family life, enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See ECtHR, Bărbulescu v. Romania [GC], no. 61496/08, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 5 September 2017, para. 141. The ECtHR held that Romanian authorities did not protect Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu’s right to private life because the Romanian courts did not adequately balance Bărbulescu’s interest in privacy and the employer’s interest in monitoring communications sent from the workplace. The national courts, the European Court found, did not sufficiently assess the relevant factors of whether the employer gave prior notice to the employee that communications may be monitored; whether there was a reasonable justification for monitoring the employee’s communications; whether there were less intrusive measures available to the employer to achieve the same end; and the necessity of the disciplinary action taken against the employee. See id. at para. 124, 133, 139-41. This case adds to the ECtHR’s developing jurisprudence on the balance between the competing interests of an employee’s right to privacy and a private employer’s right to monitor communications; two previous cases determined that the State has a positive obligation to protect the employee’s right to privacy of telephone communications, email, and internet use that originates at work. See ECtHR, Halford v. the United Kingdom, no. 20605/92, ECHR 1997, Judgment of 25 June 1997; ECtHR, Copland v. the United Kingdom, no. 62617/00, ECHR 2007, Judgment of 3 April 20017. Read more

Guatemalan Court Blocks President’s Attempt to Expel Anticorruption Panel Leader

CICIG Commissioner Iván Velásquez speaks at the UN Embassy in Guatemala
Credit: US Embassy via Wikimedia Commons

On August 29, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court issued a temporary injunction to block President Jimmy Morales’ expulsion order against Iván Velásquez, head of a United Nations anticorruption panel, who just days earlier announced his intent to investigate Morales for alleged campaign finance violations in 2015. [Al Jazeera; New York Times] The UN International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym CICIG) was formed 10 years ago to address the pervasive corruption problems in Guatemala. [Al Jazeera] In furtherance of its mission, CICIG currently seeks to strip Morales of his official immunity so that he may face a campaign finance investigation. [Washington Post] Morales announced his decision to expel Velásquez on August 27, citing “the interests of the Guatemalan people” and his aim to “strengthen[] . . . the rule of law and our institutions.” [Al Jazeera] The expulsion order sparked protests in defense of Velásquez and continues to draw international criticism. [New York Times] Representatives from the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the European Union (EU) have condemned Morales’ actions as beyond the scope of his authority and an unjustified interference with the work of CICIG. [UN News Centre; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release (in Spanish); EU Press Release] Read more

News Clips- August 11, 2017

The United Nations Security Council adopts increased sanctions against North Korea
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Civil Society

  • In Kenya, five people have been killed since Raila Odinga, an opposition leader, declared the recent presidential election fraudulent. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Thursday, authorities in Turkey issued 35 detention warrants for journalists and other individuals connected to Fethullah Gulen, who has been accused of involvement in the attempted coup last year. [Washington Post]
  • On Sunday, Russia passed a law with increased restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs), reducing user anonymity. [Guardian]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch reported that Israel’s transfer of Palestinians in Jerusalem out of their homes may amount to war crimes. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council linked conflict to “devastating humanitarian consequences,” like threats of famine, in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria. [Washington Post]
  • This week, police forces in India launched a hotline dedicated to preventing honor killings for couples who feel threatened by their families. [Reuters]

Activities of Supranational Entities

  • On Wednesday, several United Nations entities concluded in a joint statement that the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been obstructed by continued vulnerability and exclusion. [UN News Centre]
  • On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council strengthened sanctions against North Korea, imposing a full ban on the export of coal, iron, and iron ore, among other limitations. [UN News Centre]
  • Last week, the European Court of Human Rights stopped Russia’s deportation of Khudoberdy Nurmatov, a reporter who fears he would be tortured if he returned to Uzbekistan. [Washington Post]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

Politics

  • This week, North Korea announced a plan to launch four intermediate-range missiles to land near the United States territory of Guam. [Guardian]
  • On Thursday, China called for the immediate withdrawal of Indian troops that China says have been increasing along the China, India, Bhutan border. [Al Jazeera]

News Clips- August 4, 2017

The United Nations Security Council discusses the situation in Syria
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • This week, a source confirmed that the government of Syria executed activist and Internet entrepreneur, Bassel Khartabil Safadi, in October 2015. [Washington Post]
  • On Thursday, it was reported that activists launched a public appeal asking the prince of Saudi Arabia to dismiss terrorism-related offenses against 14 Shiite men. [Washington Post]
  • On Tuesday, two Venezuelan opposition leaders were taken into custody by security forces as a part of an alleged “expanded crackdown on dissent.” [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a request for release from prison by two Turkish teachers with reportedly grave health conditions connected to their hunger strike, citing no “imminent risk to their lives.” [Al Jazeera]
  • This week, two major companies, Apple and Amazon, removed apps used to circumvent censorship in China. [Washington Post]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

Politics

  • On Wednesday, the polling company in charge of the election of the Venezuelan political assembly reported that the election results were manipulated and inaccurate by at least one million votes. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, a week before Kenya’s presidential election, Christopher Msando, an election official, was found tortured and killed. [Associated Press]
  • On Friday, Leo Varadkar was elected prime minister of Ireland; in addition to being the youngest leader of the country, he is also Ireland’s first gay and first ethnic minority prime minister. [Guardian]

Lack of Psychiatric Services in Language Detainee Understands Violates Rights

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held last week that Belgium violated the rights of Rene Rooman – a prisoner with mental health problems who only speaks German – because the State failed to provide access to a psychologist who could also speak German. See ECtHR, Rooman v. Belgium, no. 18052/11, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 18 July 2017 (in French). Following a criminal conviction in 1997, Rooman, a Belgian and German national, was put in detention and later placed in a psychiatric institution in Paifve. [ECtHR: Press Release] Rooman’s application before the ECtHR alleged violations of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to liberty and security enshrined in articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (European Convention), respectively. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR took into account prior efforts made by mental health bodies in the Paifve institution, but found that the national authorities’ failure to provide him with a psychologist who could speak German, one of three official languages in Belgium, was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention because it caused Rooman distress that exceeded the unavoidable level of suffering that is inherent in detention. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR also considered whether there had been a violation of Article 5 (the right to liberty) but did not find a violation because Rooman was held in a facility appropriate for a person with a mental health disability. [ECtHR: Press Release] The European Court has previously held that when a State detains someone with a mental health disability and does not provide adequate medical care to the detriment of the detainee’s health, the State has violated the right to prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. See, e.g., ECtHR, Claes v. Belgium, no. 43418/09, ECHR 2013, Judgment of 10 January 2013. Read more

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