Category Archives: European System

January 2018: Universal Periodic Review and Regional Bodies in Session

Palais des Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

In January 2018, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, interactive dialogues, country visits, and hearings. One United Nations treaty body will meet throughout January to assess States’ compliance with their treaty obligations related to the rights of the child. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Three UN special procedures mandate holders will conduct country visits, and an additional special procedure working group will hold sessions. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the rights of liberty and security, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial, and the limitation of restrictions on rights.

The UN treaty body’s session may be watched via UN Web TV. The IACtHR’s session may be viewed on its website or Vimeo page, and the ECtHR’s hearings may be viewed on its webcast.

 To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

Council of Europe Exercises Historic Infringement Proceedings Against Azerbaijan

Council of Europe building in Strasbourg, France
Credit: Filip Maljković via Wikimedia Commons

On December 5, 2017, the Council of Europe’s (COE) Committee of Ministers triggered formal infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan for the State’s repeated refusal to comply with the 2014 judgment in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case of Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan. [Council of Europe Press Release] The next step is for the ECtHR to review Azerbaijan’s compliance with Article 1 (obligation to ensure the rights and freedoms of the Convention) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in light of its previous ruling; if the Court finds the State in violation of the ECHR, Azerbaijan will be referred back to the Committee of Ministers, and it could lose its voting rights, or potentially even its membership, in the Council of Europe. See Statute of the Council of Europe (adopted 5 May 1949, entered into force 3 August 1949), ETS No. 001, art. 8. In the case that prompted the infringement proceedings, Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan, the ECtHR ruled that Azerbaijan’s detention of the political activist Ilgar Mammadov violates the right to liberty in the ECHR and is motivated by Azerbaijani officials’ desire to silence and punish Mammadov for criticizing the government; Mammadov remains in detention today. See ECtHR, Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan, no. 15172/13, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 22 May 2014, para. 143. [Council of Europe Press Release] This is the first time that the Committee of Ministers has initiated infringement proceedings, the only procedure by which Member States of the Council of Europe can be held accountable for failure to comply with a ECtHR’s judgment. [Council of Europe Press Release] The decision to bring infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan comes among continued concern over some countries’ non-enforcement of ECtHR judgments. See Pierre-Yves Le Borgen, Implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights: 9th report (2017), para. 6. [EURACTIV; Open Dialogue Foundation] Read more

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

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