Thursday, 2 October 2014

News from SIM

Very happy to inform you that as of this week I have been appointed full professor of human rights and director of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM)! Last week was the formal hand-over ceremony at the occasion of the annual SIM Peter Baehr Lecture (delivered this year by Sir Nigel Rodley), where my esteemed predecessor, professor Jenny Goldschmidt, handed over the baton to me. I feel deeply honoured by having been appointed to this new position and am looking forward to cooperating with the human rights research community across the globe to continue SIM's mission of human rights research and education. In addition, I will of course endeavor to keep up with the challenge of hosting the ECHR Blog. ECHR-related news will be on here again next week (and forgive me for this exceptional detour to something not ECHR-related, dear readers!).

Monday, 22 September 2014

New Book on Article 6 ECHR - Fair Trial Rights

Ryan Goss, lecturer in Law at the Australian National University in Canberra, has written a book which critically analyses what is probably the most litigated right in the Convention: Article 6 ECHR, the right to a fair trial. The book, entitled 'Criminal Fair Trial Rights - Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights', has been published with Hart Publishing. It takes an interesting cross-cutting approach and in doing so deviates from standard handbooks on the issue. This is the abstract: 

"The Article 6 fair trial rights are the most heavily-litigated Convention rights before the European Court of Human Rights, generating a large and complex body of case law. With this book, Goss provides an innovative and critical analysis of the European Court's Article 6 case law.

The category of 'fair trial rights' includes many component rights. The existing literature tends to chart the law with respect to each of these component rights, one by one. This traditional approach is useful, but it risks artificially isolating the case law in a series of watertight compartments.

This book takes a complementary but different approach. Instead of analysing the component rights one by one, it takes a critical look at the case law through a number of 'cross-cutting' problems and themes common to all or many of the component rights. For example: how does the Court view its role in Article 6 cases? When will the Court recognise an implied right in Article 6? How does the Court assess Article 6 infringements, and when will the public interest justify an infringement? 

The book's case-law-driven approach allows Goss to demonstrate that the European Court's criminal fair trial rights jurisprudence is marked by considerable uncertainty, inconsistency, and incoherence."

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

New Book on EU Accession to ECHR

The Council of Europe itself has now published a book on the ever-continuing story of the European Union's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. The book, entitled 'The accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights', was authored by Johan Callewaert of Leuven University. It is available both in print version and in PDF, both for sale through the Council of Europe's website. This is the abstract:

"Provided for under the Treaty of Lisbon, the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights is destined to be a landmark in European legal history because it will finally make it possible for individuals and undertakings to apply to the European Court of Human Rights for review of the acts of European Union institutions, which unquestionably play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. After nearly three years of negotiations, a draft agreement on European Union accession was adopted on 5 April 2013. In the light of the draft agreement, this publication offers a concise analysis of the reasons for European Union accession to the Convention, the means by which this is to be achieved and the effects it will have."

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

New ECHR Readings

Please find below a number of new readings related to the European Convention on Human Rights from a number of leading international legal journals:

* Matthew Scott, 'Natural Disasters, Climate Change and Non-Refoulement: What Scope for Resisting Expulsion under Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights?', International Journal of Refugee Law (Vol. 26, no. 3, 2014).

* L. Peroni, 'Deconstructing ‘legal’ religion in Strasbourg', Oxford Journal of Law and Religion (vol. 3, no. 2, 2014) pp. 235-257.

*  N. Cox, 'Delfi AS v Estonia: the liability of secondary internet publishers for violation of reputational rights under the European Convention on Human Rights', Modern Law Review (vol 77., no. 4) pp. 619-629.

* C. Zoethout, 'Margin of appreciation, violation and (in)compatibility: why the ECtHR might consider using an alternative mode of adjudication', European Public Law, (vol. 20, no. 2, 2014) pp. 309-330.

* G. Bianco and G. Martinico, 'Dialogue or disobedience? On the domestic effects of the ECHR in light of the Kamberaj decision' (vol. 20, no. 3, 2014), European Public Law pp. 435-450.

* A. Mowbray, 'Contemporary aspects of the promotion of democracy by the European Court of Human Rights', European Public Law 2014 (vol. 20, no. 3, 2014) pp. 469-498.

Finally, Anton Burkov, one of the key Russian ECHR experts has published an Op-Ed in The Moscow Times on the ECHR as a last resort for Russians, entitled 'Russians Can Only Find Justice in Europe'

Friday, 5 September 2014

Lodging Applications in All Official Languages

The Court has finalized the translation of the applicant pages on its website. The information on how to apply is now available in all the official languages of the state parties to the Convention, ranging from Albanian to Ukrainian, and from Catalan to Estonian. For each language, the pages contain practical information on how to lodge a complaint, on admissibility criteria, and the Convention text. Even some of the explanatory videos have been translated. Paradoxically, this ever-increasing accessibility in practical terms may not bode well for the caseload of the Court. It is therefore encouraging, that the Court also noted earlier this week that great progress has been made in reducing that backlog. In fact, it backlog has decreased from 151,6000 in early 2012 to 84,850 at the end of June of this year. This amounts to a 44% decrease, no mean feat to say the least, even if we consider that the single judge mechanism responsible in combination with new working methods for most of this have been able to do so by dealing with the relatively more straight-forward cases. Although the amounts are still high, the trend for the past two years has at least been going in the right direction. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Two ECHR-related Conferences at Ghent University

The prolific Human Rights Centre of Ghent University is organising two conferences this Autumn, both of which are to an important degree about the ECHR:
 
The first is a seminar on Law and Religion on 23 September. The entire afternoon of the seminar will be dedicated to the Court's case-law on the issue. More information and the full programme can be found here. This is what the conference is about in a nutshell:
 
"The seminar will bring together religious scholars and legal scholars to discuss law's conceptions of religion and its reception of different religious experiences. Speakers will address questions such as: Are the notions of religion underpinning the law inclusive enough to attend to the diversity of religious ways in reality? If not, can and should these notions be legally "stretched" so as to become more responsive to such diversity?

The morning sessions will focus on how law, including human rights law, understands and should understand religion. The afternoon sessions will focus on the ways in which a specific court - the European Court of Human Rights - conceives of and should conceive of religion. Religion scholars presenting in the afternoon will unpack the notions of religion underlying selected freedom of religion judgments and examine the extent to which these notions attend to applicants' religious experiences. Legal scholars, in turn, will look at whether applicants' religious experiences can and should be legally translated more fully."
The second is a conference on conflicts between human rights, to be held on 16 October. The title of the conference is: '(How) Should the European Court of Human Rights Resolve Conflicts between Human Rights?'. Several of the former and current judges, including President Spielmann, will be commentators at the event. According to the organisers, this is what it will be about:
          
"The Symposium aims to evaluate the legal reasoning of the European Court of Human Rights in conflicting rights cases and to propose novel methodological tools and frameworks for the judicial resolution of conflicts between human rights in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In order to tackle these challenges, a number of renowned scholars have been invited to present their views on how (specific) conflicts between human rights ought to be resolved. First, a small number of scholars will set the stage for the debate by outlining their general approaches, frameworks and tests for the judicial resolution of conflicts between human rights in the ECHR context. Following these general presentations, a larger number of panels will address specific types of conflicts. To ensure productive and spirited debate, the participants in the specific panels have been asked to present their views on how certain pre-selected ECtHR cases should be (or should have been) resolved.

In order to increase the practical relevance of the Symposium and to offer the speakers useful feedback on the practicality of their advocated approaches, a number of (former) ECtHR Judges have been invited to comment on the practicality and feasibility of the proposed approaches."

More information on this second conference can be found here.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

New Book on EU Accession to the ECHR

In Hart's Legal Publishing series on Modern Studies in European Law, Vasiliki Kosta, Nikos Skoutaris and Vassilis Tzevelekos have published the edited volume The EU Accession to the ECHR. This wide-ranging volume includes over twenty chapters, a few of which were published in a slightly different form before in the European Journal of Human Rights (see my earlier notification here). Tables of case-law, legislation and treaties render this book accessible for those who search for information on a particular issue, much more than edited volumes normally do. The full table of contents can be found here. This is the abstract:

Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides that the EU will accede to the system of human rights protection of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Protocol No 9 in the Treaty of Lisbon opens the way for accession. This represents a major change in the relationship between two organisations that have co-operated closely in the past, though the ECHR has hitherto exercised only an indirect constitutional control over the EU legal order through scrutiny of EU Member States. The accession of the EU to the ECHR is expected to put an end to the informal dialogue, and allegedly also competition between the two regimes in Europe and to establish formal (both normative and institutional) hierarchies. 

In this new era, some old problems will be solved and new ones will appear. Questions of autonomy and independence, of attribution and allocation of responsibility, of co-operation, and legal pluralism will all arise, with consequences for the protection of human rights in Europe. 

This book seeks to understand how relations between the two organisations are likely to evolve after accession, and whether this new model will bring more coherence in European human rights protection. The book analyses from several different, yet interconnected, points of view and relevant practice the draft Accession Agreement, shedding light on future developments in the ECHR and beyond. Contributions in the book span classic public international law, EU law and the law of the ECHR, and are written by a mix of legal and non-legal experts from academia and practice.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

New ECHR Readings

Here is another selection of recent academic writings on the European Convention of Human Rights. The newest issue of the Human Rights Law Review (vol. 14, no. 3, September 2014) has been published. Its contents include:

* Robert Spano, 'Universality or Diversity of Human Rights?: Strasbourg in the Age of Subsidiarity'
* Ed Bates, 'Analysing the Prisoner Voting Saga and the British Challenge to Strasbourg'
* James A. Roffee, 'No Consensus on Incest? Criminalisation and Compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights'

Earlier in the month, the EJIL Talk! blog reporter on the Yukos case's just satisfaction: 

* Dr. Conor McCarthy ‘The ECtHR’s Largest Ever Award for Just Satisfaction Rendered in the Yukos Case’ 

Finally, the newest issue of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparativ​e Law (vol. 3.2, 2014, pp. 407-443) includes:

* Vladislava Stoyanova, 'Article 4 of the ECHR and the Obligation of Criminalizing Slavery, Servitude, Forced Labour and Human Trafficking'. This is the article's abstract: 

This article addresses the interaction between international human rights law and national criminal law as exemplified and revealed in relation to the abuses of slavery, servitude, forced labour and human trafficking (THB). First, I point out the mismatch between the interpretative techniques of international human rights law and national criminal law. The reportedly low numbers of prosecutions and convictions for abuses against migrants has gathered increasing attention. As a reaction it has been suggested that the definitions of THB and of slavery, servitude and forced labour (where the latter have been specifically criminalized) have to be expansively construed. These suggestions ignore basic criminal law precepts. Criminal law has to remain faithful to the principle of legal certainty and to the rights of the accused which ban expansive interpretations. It is human rights law which celebrates liberal interpretations of concepts for the purpose of holding states internationally responsible for their failures to protect. Despite the difference in their interpretative standpoints, there is a clear interaction between these two fields of law. A manifestation of the interaction is that the ECHR obliges states to criminalize the abuses falling within the material scope of Article 4 of the ECHR. I argue that many states have failed to fulfil this obligation since the focus has been predominantly placed on the criminalisation of THB. This leads to failures to address abuses where there are no elements of recruitment, transportation, transfer etc. by means of deception/coercion. I also demonstrate that Article 4 of the ECHR obliges states to incorporate in their domestic criminal laws clear definitions of crimes intended to address the abuses falling within the scope of Article 4. An obligation which many states have failed to fulfil since they have directly copied the international definition of THB and/or the human rights definitions of slavery, servitude and forced labour, without further establishing the elements of the crimes at domestic level. Finally, I suggest that there needs to be a better articulation of the distinctions between different crimes meant to addresses abuses falling within the ambit of Article 4 of the ECHR.

Monday, 25 August 2014

New Edition of Jacobs White & Ovey ECHR Handbook

This summer also witnessed the publication of a new version of one of the other widely used handbooks about the ECHR: Jacobs, White & Ovey, The European Convention on Human Rights. This revised sixth edition was edited by Benadette Rainey (Cardiff University), Elizabeth Wicks (University of Leicester) and Claire Ovey (from the Court's Registry) and published with Oxford University Press.

The book's case-law has been updated until October 2013. For any further developments occurring between the publication of this version and a future one, the publisher offers an online resource centre, offering case-law and legislation updates (including on the half year since October 2013) as well as a set of useful links (including to this blog).

The book is the slightly less voluminous sister to Harris, O'Boyle and Warbrick handbook (around 650 pages vs 1000). It may therefore be a more palatable choice for students as an introduction into the ECHR at the beginner's level. This is all the more true as it includes at the end the full text of the Convention and the relevant Protocols. At the same time, the structure and level of detail make it an excellent work of reference for scholars and practitioners. Thus, deciding which of the two recently revised books to use is a question of taste (also because the difference in price is very small) - I have been using both for many years now.

This is the book's backcover blurb:

"Over fifty years after its founding, the European Court of Human Rights has dispensed more than 16,000 judgments and affects the lives of over 820 million people. The sixth edition of Jacobs, White & Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights is a clear and concise companion to this increasingly important and extensive area of the law.

Examining each of the Convention rights in turn, the text lays out the key principles relevant to both students and practitioners. Cutting through the ever-expanding web of cases, authors take you to the pivotal cases in each area and examine the principles that underpin the Court's decisions. A focus on the European Convention itself, rather than its implementation in any one member state, makes Jacobs, White & Ovey essential reading for all those interested in the work of the Strasbourg Court."

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

New Edition of ECHR Handbook Harris Warbrick and O'Boyle

As announced last week in a guest post, the newest, third edition of the classic Harris, O'Boyle and Warbrick, Law of the European Convention of Human Rights has been published with OUP by Harris, O'Boyle, Bates, and Buckley. It is always an enormous endeavor to update books covering such large fields of law, with a constantly increasing flow of new jurisprudence. This is reflected in the faster need to update. Between the original edition of the book (1995) and the second (2009), the time span was much longer than between the second and current third edition. The new edition slightly exceeds 1000 pages, making its handy and precise index all the more crucial as well as an alphabetical list of cited case-law with page references at the start of the book. The only small downside is that the authors have chosen in the references to only add application numbers to the Court's decisions and not to the judgments, but for most cases this should not be too much of a problem to retrieve them. New case-law is taken into account up to the end of October 2013. The preface is a succinct and very useful short update of the key changes in the ECHR system since the last edition and on the discussions surrounding the Court. 

The book is divided into three parts: (I) the Convention 'in context', (II) the 'enforcement machinery' and (III) the 'rights guaranteed'. The first part is a very good introduction into the backgrounds and current status of the Convention system, making it also useful for historians and political scientists. The other two are of a more technical, yet well-structured nature, aimed more at legal researchers and lawyers. All key topical issues (EU accession, pilot judgments, reform Protocols 15 and 16) are included. Although the Convention itself is not printed in full, its provisions are highlighted in grey all over the book, as well as key case-law excerpts - for the quick and impatient browser these provide a good first impression before diving into the minutiae which will be of more interest to those seeking information on a specific issue. It is a great achievement that in times of increasing pressure in academia to produce articles in journals, experts still commit time and effort to compile such handbook overviews, which are among the most useful of all academic work for both students and researchers. 

Congratulations to all authors with this new edition of a classic!