ECHR Reviews Disappearance, Private and Family Life, and Freedom of Expression in Recent Judgments

ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights issued a number of decisions this week and last against a number of States, including Poland, Slovakia, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Albania, Romania, Italy, Serbia and the United Kingdom. Several of these recent judgments involved individuals who had been internally displaced by conflict or unrest, while others involved rights protected by Article 8 of the Convention (pertaining to private and family life).

In Gulmammadova v. Azerbaijan and Hasanov v. Azerbaijan, the applicants alleged the international responsibility of Azerbaijan for failing to enforce an eviction order in their favor, against the internally displaced individuals who were living in their apartment after having fled regions under the control of Armenian military forces.  In both cases, the Court found violations of Article 6.1 (fair hearing) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (property), and ordered the State to enforce the eviction order within three months.


In Khatuyeva v. Russia, one of three disappearance cases brought against Russia and decided last week, the applicant’s husband was detained in 2004 by Russian security forces in a settlement for internally displaced persons from Chechnya, where he had been living.  He was taken into custody and was never seen again.  The investigations into the whereabouts of the disappeared individuals  led nowhere and, despite requests from the Court, Russia would not disclose any related documents.  In each of the three cases, the Court found Russia had violated Article 2 (life), Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 5 (unacknowledged detention), and Article 13 (effective remedy).

The Court also decided several interesting cases related to other topics, including Ciubotaru v. Moldova, in which it found Moldova responsible for violating Article 8 (respect for private and family life) when the existing procedure did not enable an individual claiming Romanian (rather than Moldovan) ethnicity to change his government identification card to reflect his ethnicity.  In the somewhat related case of Tanase v. Moldova, the Grand Chamber held this week that the Moldovan “provisions preventing elected [members of parliament] with multiple nationalities from taking seats in Parliament to be disproportionate and unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1” (press release).

ECHR

In Moretti and Benedetti v. Italy, a case concerning the rights of a foster family, the Court held that the bond between the foster parents and infant – which developed during their 19 months together – amounted to “family life”, protected by Article 8 of the Convention.  Because the Italian authorities had failed to adequately examine the foster parents’ request to adopt the child and, in the meantime, allowed her to be adopted by another family, Italy was responsible for a violation of Article 8 (decision in French here).

And, in Fatullayev v. Azerbaijan, the Court asked Azerbaijan to release a journalist who is currently serving a prison sentence for publishing controversial and critical articles because his conviction violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) and the principles of presumption of innocence and judicial impartiality because the Prosecutor General had publicly and unequivocally stated that the applicant’s article amounted to a terrorist threat and the same judge who had examined the civil proceedings against the applicant also presided over the criminal proceedings.

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