Since the commencement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, different international courts and tribunals have been engaged as means to invoke international responsibility for the various violations of international law that have occurred. As is often the case in international law, however, the proceedings initiated before these tribunals reflect a very particular legal framing of the broader invasion and conduct of hostilities (I wrote on this theme a few years ago in relation to the post-2014 litigation between Ukraine and Russia). This is a consequence of the absence in international law of a single, integrated judicial system with compulsory jurisdiction. Instead, there are many different courts that, for the most part, have limited subject-matter jurisdiction. (more…)
By Prof Steven Greer, Professor of Human Rights (University of Bristol Law School )
Many, including the government, are convinced that ‘extremism’ is implicated in the current terrorist threat and in some of the challenges which arise in the promotion of integration and the maintenance of social cohesion in a society as diverse as the UK. It is, of course, undeniable that terrorism involves ‘violent extremism’. But it is less clear that there is a problem with ‘non-violent extremism’, or at least that it is of such significance that the state and society should be mobilizing to address it. Yet, it is also difficult to deny that the profile of ideas and behaviour hostile to humane values, tolerance and mutual respect has increased in recent years, particularly as a result of the internet and social media. It is against these backgrounds that an independent Commission for Countering Extremism was established by the government in March 2018. At the core of its mission lie three questions: what precisely is ‘extremism’? What kind of threats and risks does it pose? And what, if anything, should state and society do about it? This brief contribution considers the role that human rights might play in finding some answers.
By Dr Jule Mulder, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).
Dr Jule Mulder’s article ‘Dignity or Discrimination: What paves the road towards equal recognition of same-sex couples in Europe?’ has been published in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. The article explores whether the principle of dignity can help advance the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) approach towards same-sex couples’ rights within the EU non-discrimination law framework, considering dignity-based arguments in a comparative perspective.
The European courts’ approach, mostly focusing on the concept of direct discrimination, seems insufficient to ensure the equal treatment of same-sex couples. The comparative experience, successfully invoking the dignity-principle to advance same-sex couples’ rights, challenges us to review the EU non-discrimination law and invites us to reconsider the concept of dignity and its value to foster substantive equality and equal treatment within the EU legal framework. Accordingly, recognising the limited reach of the CJEU current approach that focuses on direct sexuality discrimination only and adheres to the comparator paradigm, the article analyses possibilities to challenge de facto discrimination within the EU legal framework going beyond the concept of direct discrimination. In doing so, the article evaluates the potential of the dignity-centred approach within the context of EU equality law. Hence, the article evaluates whether the CJEU case-law’ limited substantive reach could be remedied by a more detailed engagement with the concept of dignity to provide substantive meaning to the analysis. Ultimately rejecting the usefulness of dignity, the article proposes that a more consistent application of the concept of indirect discrimination could push courts towards legal recognition of rights of same-sex couples. (more…)
After nearly two decades, the case overload afflicting the European Court of Human Rights has finally been reduced to more manageable proportions. However, it is too early to tell if this welcome trend will be sustained. But, if it is, the authors of this article argue it will have been achieved at considerable cost because, in the attempt to defend it, the cherished right of individual petition has, paradoxically, been undermined.They also claim that the Court has been confirmed as a“human rights small claims tribunal”, that structural violations are now more likely to be institutionalised than resolved, and that a golden opportunity to improve the protection of human rights across the continent has been missed.
Greer & Wylde develop these arguments in full in their publication ‘Has the European Court of Human Rights Become a “Small Claims Tribunal” and Why, If at All, Does it Matter?‘ (2017) 2 European Human Rights Law Review 145-154.
A comment on R (on the application of A and B) v Secretary of State for Health  UKSC 41.
The start of June 2017 saw abortion law in Northern Ireland (NI) making the news for several reasons. On June 9th, Theresa May announced that she intended to try and form a government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Members of this radically conservative party from NI have long been vocal in their opposition to abortion. Some feared that restrictions on abortion legislation might form part of negotiations between the two parties. On June 13th, the Department of Health published ‘The Report on abortion statistics in England and Wales for 2016’ which contained details on the number of women who travelled from NI to England to access abortion care. Then, on June 14th, the Supreme Court handed down an important decision on NHS funding for women who travel from NI to England to access abortions. These women, save in exceptional cases, must pay for abortion care privately, notwithstanding their status as UK citizens and (in many cases) UK taxpayers. In this blog we examine the Supreme Court decision and the context within which women travel from NI to have abortions in England.
In 2012 A, a 15-year-old girl, became pregnant. She did not want to continue with the pregnancy and with the support of her mother, B, arranged to have a termination in England. A and B were surprised to find out that as A was resident in NI she would have to pay for the termination in England. Believing this to be unfair B, on A’s behalf, started proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of this policy. Their challenge contained two key claims. First, that the Secretary of State for Health was acting unlawfully in refusing to permit women from NI to access NHS funded abortions [the public law claim]. Second, that women in NI were being discriminated against as compared to other women in the UK [the human rights claim].
By Prof Sir Malcolm Evans, Professor of Public International Law (University of Bristol Law School) and Chair, United Nations Subcommittee for Prevention of Torture.*
In recent years the relative importance of religion as an issue of legal and political significance has increased considerably. For example, it took nearly forty years before the first human rights case concerning freedom of religion or belief came to be considered by the European Court of Human Rights; and in the 1990s official reports of the Council of Europe could express surprise that religion was still proving to be an important political factor in some parts of Europe. Few would advance such a claim today.
Some put this down to the rise in the numbers of religious believers globally; that is, religion is becoming more important simply because there are more religious believers. It is certainly the case that there are now more people with religious beliefs on the face of the planet than at any time in history. But this does not explain the rise in the importance of religion in global politics. Nor does the increase in the absolute numbers of religious believers necessarily undermine the argument – so popular in Europe for so long – that religion is becoming increasingly unimportant to public life. (more…)
By Dr Sofia Galani, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).
On Thursday, 13 April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights released one of the most anticipated decisions in the Court’s history – the Tagayeva and Others v Russia case. The judgment concerned the siege of the Beslan School, North Ossetia by Chechen fighters in September 2004 and the ensuing rescue operation by the Russian forces. During these tragic incidents, 330 people lost their lives, including more than a hundred children. Almost 180 of the victims were burnt to an extent that the identification of the remains and establishment of the cause of death were impossible.
The purpose of this blog is to summarise the key findings of the Court’s 239-page decision and provide a brief overview of the human rights obligations of states in the context of hostage-taking as discussed by the Court. Although this hostage-taking incident was of an unprecedented scale, terrorist groups have never stopped taking hostages within or outside Europe, and as a result European states have been involved in a number of rescue operations. Therefore, this judgment can help clarify the obligations that states have before, during and after a hostage-taking incident occurs. (more…)