Category Archives: European System

News Clips- April 28, 2017

The Foreign Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden at a United Nations event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Civil Society

  • On Thursday, Palestinians organized a strike, which closed down schools, institutions, and transportation, to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Thursday, 30 people in Turkey were detained and charged with membership in an armed terror organization as a result of their ties to a newspaper that was run by a woman accused of leading a coup attempt in the country. [Washington Post]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Tuesday, the United Nations and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland held a one-day conference in Geneva, Switzerland focused on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. [UN News Centre]
  • On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that detention conditions in Romanian prisons violated the right to the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. [Council of Europe]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • On Monday, a migrant boat traveling between Greece and Turkey sunk, killing 16 people. [Washington Post]
  • According to European Union (EU) officials, 23,000 unaccompanied children in Greek and Italian refugee camps are at risk of child abuse, rape, and smuggling. [Guardian]
  • This week, 25,000 people were displaced due to a violent offensive in the Kodok region of South Sudan. [Washington Post]

International Criminal Law

  • On Thursday, an appeals court in Senegal upheld former Chad dictator Hissene Habre’s life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed the warrant of arrest for alleged war criminal Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled for crimes committed in Libya in 2011. [ICC Press Release]

Politics

  • On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Maduro announced Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS) amid ongoing violent protests in the country. [BBC News]
  • On Monday, Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee approved a law that prohibits discrimination against, and expands protections for, individuals with HIV and AIDS. [Jurist]

Requiring Operation to Correct Sex on Birth Certificate Violates Rights

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons

On April 6, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that France’s requirement that two transgender applicants first undergo an irreversible identity change through an operation or sterilizing treatment in order to correct their “sex” designation on their birth certificates violated Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR determined that such a requirement impermissibly conditioned the recognition of the right to respect for private life on forgoing the right to respect for one’s physical integrity. See ECtHR, AP., Garçon and Nicot v. France, Nos. 79885/12, 5247/13, 52596/13, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 6 April 2017, para. 131 (French version). The ECtHR found no violation of Article 8, however, where French law required an applicant to prove that they suffered from gender identity disorder before the State would grant a change to their birth certificate under the category of “sex.” See id. at para. 139. Similarly, the ECtHR held there was no violation of Article 8 where an applicant was ordered by a French court to undergo a medical examination to confirm the applicant’s sex reassignment surgery. See id. at para. 150-152.

The Court did note the expansion of transgender rights at the national and international levels, including in France where since the applicants submitted their claims, the law has changed so that corrections to official sex designations are no longer conditioned upon irreversible medical procedures or sterilization treatments, but rather require publicly presenting oneself as the claimed sex; being recognized by family, friends, and colleagues as their claimed sex; and evidence that their name has been changed to correspond with their claimed sex. The Council of Europe has called for an end to the practice of conditioning the recognition of an individual’s chosen gender identity in official documents on medical procedures and treatment. See id. at paras. 68-69, 75-77. Read more

News Clips – April 14, 2017

Russia blocks the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • This week, Thai authorities warned that the online dissemination of information from two academics and a journalist critical of the government could violate Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. [Guardian]
  • On Wednesday, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced a human rights lawyer to ten years in prison for using Facebook to “harm national unity.” [Washington Post]
  • Last week, a TV reporter in Uganda was kidnapped, threatened, and beaten in relation to her coverage of the president of Uganda’s family. [Reporters Without Borders]
  • Last week, law enforcement officials opened fire on protesters, killing six, as thousands demonstrated at polling stations near Srinagar, India. [Guardian]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russian officials failed to act sufficiently in response to an impending terrorist attack in 2004, which resulted in more than 330 deaths. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, Russia vetoed the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for an investigation. [UN News Centre]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • Four days of violence in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon resulted in six dead and 35 injured. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Sunday, Egypt declared a state of emergency in response to two attacks, claimed by ISIS, targeting Egypt’s Christian minority; the attacks caused at least 44 deaths and 100 injuries. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, a large-scale fire broke out across the Dunkirk camp in France leaving 900 refugees and migrants displaced. [Guardian]

European Union

  • On Wednesday, the European Union warned it will take legal action if Poland and Hungary do not receive asylum seekers according to the region’s migration scheme. [Reuters]
  • This week, the European Union extended sanctions, initially applied in 2011, against Iran as a result of alleged human rights violations in the country. [Washington Post]

Trafficking in Persons

ECtHR: Refusing Man with Intellectual Disability Choice of Residence Justified

María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the former Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, speaks at a press conference
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

On March 23, 2017, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Finland did not violate the rights of a Finnish national with an intellectual disability, A.-M.V., when the domestic court refused to replace his mentor who would not allow him to move to his choice of residence. A.-M.V. desired to live in a village far from his hometown because his foster family had moved there, but his mentor denied his wishes, finding it best that he remain where his biological family resides. Before the ECtHR, he alleged violations of Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention (the right to freedom of movement). See ECtHR, A.-M.V. v. Finland, no. 53251/13, Judgment of 23 March 2017. The Court found that there had been an interference to A.-M.V.’s right to respect for private and family life, but that given the facts of this case, the interference was justified as it balanced A.-M.V.’s will and preferences with “the need to protect his interests.” See id. at paras. 91-94.

The ECtHR took into account Article 12 of the United Nations International Covenant on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ICRPD), noting that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – the treaty body that monitors compliance with the ICRPD and interprets its provisions – requires States to replace substitute decision-making models, often found in guardianship laws, with a supported decision-making model. The latter, according to the Committee, takes into account the person’s will and preferences while the former does not. See id. at paras. 42-45. The Court also acknowledged a third party submission elaborating on supported decision-making models, which, the third party explained, guards against overriding the preferences of the person with a disability. See id. at paras. 66-68. Read more

News Clips- March 31, 2017

Protection forces in South Sudan visit site of recent ambush on aid workers
Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

Civil Society

  • This week, hundreds of people in Johannesburg, South Africa protested recent xenophobic attacks. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Tuesday, 17 anti-deportation protesters locked themselves to an aircraft due to remove asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Nigeria and Ghana. [Guardian]
  • Lawyers and activists allege Russian authorities in Crimea are detaining and abusing human rights activists in psychiatric hospitals. [Guardian]

Armed Conflict, Violence, & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Thursday, United Nations officials reported a resurgence of violence in the Central African Republic and called for the protection of civilians. [UN News Centre]
  • On Tuesday, the Red Cross reported three million Kenyans need emergency food aid in response to a worsening drought; food crises also exist in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Sunday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported six aid workers had been killed in an ambush in South Sudan. [Al Jazeera]
  • The Kamuina Nsapu militia in the Congo allegedly kidnapped six individuals and may be responsible for the decapitation of 42 police officers in the region. [Washington Post]

Cases Before International Bodies

Migrants

Politics

  • On Wednesday, the Supreme Court in Venezuela held that the Court can “assume congressional duties,” if lawmakers fail to respect court rulings. [Guardian]
  • On Wednesday, El Salvador became the first country to ban metal mining. [Guardian]
  • On Wednesday, Britain submitted a letter marking its official exit from the European Union; Britain is the first country to withdraw from the EU. [Washington Post]

ECJ: Employer’s Objective Rule, Not Customer Preferences May Prohibit Headscarf

European Court of Justice
Credit: Cédric Puisney via Wikimedia Commons

In two separate opinions issued this week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that while an employer may prohibit a Muslim woman from wearing a headscarf at work through a rule applied consistently to all religious beliefs, an employer may not prohibit a Muslim woman from wearing religious clothing based on a customer’s preferences. These are the first cases before the ECJ that deal with Muslim women employees’ desire to wear an Islamic headscarf at work. The cases involve a woman in Beligum who asserted her desire to wear a headscarf to work despite the company’s internal policy prohibiting religious clothing and symbols and a woman in France who refused to stop wearing a headscarf after her employer prohibited her from doing so in response to a customer’s complaint. See European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber), Samira Achbita et al. v. G4S Secure Solutions NV, Case C-157/15, Request for Preliminary Ruling, Judgment of 14 March 2017; European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber), Asma Bougnaoui et al. v. Micropole SA, Case C-188/15, Request for Preliminary Ruling, Judgment of 14 March 2017. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), a regional human rights court, has previously addressed the issue of religious clothing and symbols in the work place, holding that some public interests, like public health and safety and neutrality, outweigh an individual’s fundamental right to manifest their religious beliefs, while other private interests, like maintaining a corporate image, do not. The judgments of the ECJ come amidst growing anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiments in the region. [New York Times] Read more

ECtHR: Holding Prisoners in Facilities Far from Family Violates Rights  

A prison in Russia
Credit: A. Savin via Wikimedia Commons

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a unanimous judgment on March 7 holding that imprisoning individuals thousands of miles away from their families violates their right to private and family life protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). See ECtHR, Polyakova and Others v. Russia, Nos. 35090/09, 35845/11, 45694/13, 59747/14, Judgment of 7 March 2017. In Polyakova and Others v. Russia, three prisoners were held between 2,000 and 8,000 kilometers from their family members, and the distance, the applicants showed, had a direct effect on how often the prisoners were able to visit with family. Russia’s domestic legal system, the ECtHR found, allows for vast discretion in choosing a prisoner’s location, and does not require consideration of the effect a penal facility’s geographical location may have on a prisoner’s family life when placing a detainee. See id. at paras. 98-101, 116-19. Domestic procedures do not adequately safeguard against abuse of discretion through effective judicial review or another mechanism, the Court found, and, therefore, Russia’s interference with the prisoners’ rights was not justified. See id. at para. 119. The Court in its opinion recognized that the margin of appreciation given to States on “permissible limits of the interference with private and family life” when regulating family visits in prisons “has been narrowing.” See id. at para. 89. A 2013 case against Russia also found that placement in remote prisons and a lack of efficient transportation to those prisons implicated the right to private and family life for prisoners. See ECtHR, Khoroshenko v. Russia [GC], no. 41418/04, Judgment of 30 June 2015. The current case expanded upon that opinion, stating placing prisoners 2,000 to 8,000 kilometers away from family members interfered with their rights.

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