Category Archives: European System

New Council of Europe Guidance on Rights of Trafficking Victims

Credit: GRETA via Council of Europe website

The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has published new guidance for States on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection. See Council of Europe GRETA, Guidance Note on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection, GRETA(2020)06, June 2020. In particular, GRETA’s new guide explains when trafficking victims are entitled to international protection in countries where they are not citizens or permanent residents, and identifies the kinds of services and treatment those countries must provide. [COE Press Release] Relying on various international and regional human rights instruments, including the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence, as well as the principle of non-refoulement, the guide is intended to assist Council of Europe (COE) Member States in meeting their obligations. The guide builds on the guidelines from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and elaborates on the scope of application of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. [COE Press Release]

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March 2020: UN Treaty Bodies, Human Rights Council, and Regional Bodies in Session

European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: Council of Europe

In March, 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 and country visits. Five United Nations treaty bodies and two pre-sessional working groups will be in session to assess States’ progress regarding economic, social and cultural rights; children’s rights; civil and political rights; the rights of persons with disabilities; and, migrants’ rights. The Human Rights Council will continue to hold its first of three regular sessions in 2020. Seven UN special procedures will conduct country visits in March. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. Regionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold public sessions. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will also hold a Grand Chamber hearing.

The UN treaty body sessions, the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber hearing, and the public hearings of the IACtHR and the IACHR may be watched via UN Web TV, the ECtHR’s website, and the IACtHR’s Vimeo page and the IACHR’s YouTube page, respectively. Civil society members wishing to attend sessions should monitor updates related to the spread of the COVID-19 (Corona) virus, which may result in cancelled sessions or meetings and/or additional health checks.

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

European Court Allows Spain’s “Push Back” of Undocumented African Migrants

Delivery of Judgment, European Court of Human Rights
Credit: ECtHR

Overturning a previous chamber decision, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that Spain’s summary expulsion of two would-be migrants from Africa did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights because they were part of a large group that scaled the Melilla border fence between Morocco and Spanish territory. See ECtHR, N.D. and N.T. v. Spain [GC], nos. 8675/15 and 8697/17, Judgment of 13 February 2020, paras. 242-243. The judgment is the first time the Court has considered a migrant’s unauthorized entry to be relevant in this way, holding that the applicants were not entitled to protection from mass expulsion because of how they entered Spain. The Court relied on Spain’s assertion that the applicants could have sought asylum at a consulate or border crossing, despite evidence that Moroccan authorities prevented sub-Saharan migrants from reaching those places and that Spanish authorities did not actually have the relevant procedures in place at the time. Various third-party interventions in the case called on the Court to apply the Convention’s prohibition of collective expulsions, and human rights groups have criticized the Court’s ruling as “ignoring the reality at European borders” and of authorizing “violent push-backs everywhere in Europe.” [The Guardian; ECCHR; Amnesty] This is the Court’s first ruling on the issue of forcible return of migrants from a land border, adding to the European Court’s doctrine on collective expulsions. See ECtHR, Factsheet – Collective expulsions of aliens (Feb. 2020).

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European Court: Lithuania Must Investigate Online Homophobic Hate Speech

Judges of the European Court of Human Rights
Credit: ECtHR

In its first judgment to directly consider the issue, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that the State authorities’ failure to investigate online hate speech against a gay couple violated the couple’s rights to private and family life and constituted discrimination on sexual orientation grounds under the European Convention on Human Rights. [ECtHR Press Release] In the case of Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania, a same-sex couple posted a photo on Facebook of them kissing, and other individuals posted hundreds of homophobic comments in response, including threats of violence. See ECtHR, Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania, no. 41288/15, Judgment of 14 January 2020, paras. 6-11. The Court found that State authorities had refused to launch a pre-trial investigation, even though they were aware of the hate comments, in part due to their expressed disapproval of the applicants’ sexual orientation. See id. at paras. 16-23, 121. The Court held that the State failed to meet its positive obligation to investigate hate speech that could incite violence, resulting in harm to the applicants’ “psychological well-being and dignity” and constituting a violation of their rights to private life and non-discrimination. See id. at paras. 113, 117, 129. Because the Lithuanian authorities had routinely failed to address increasing homophobic hate speech, the Court also found a violation of the applicants’ right to an effective domestic remedy (Article 13). See id. at paras. 151-56. The Court’s judgment advances protections for LGBTI individuals, and has been perceived as a victory by LGBTI rights activists. [ILGA-Europe] 

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January 2020: UPR Working Group and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Human Rights Council UPR Working Group
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

In January, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through country visits and the review of individual complaints. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Five UN special procedures will conduct country visits in January. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be holding public sessions.

The UPR session may be watched via UN Web TV, and the public hearings of the IACtHR and the ECtHR may be watched via the IACtHR’s website or Vimeo page and the ECtHR’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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Council of Europe Adopts Recommendation on Guardianship for Unaccompanied Children

Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
Credit: Council of Europe

In a new recommendation to the Member States of the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers warns that “unaccompanied and separated children are among the most vulnerable persons in the migration context,” and emphasizes that effective guardianship structures are necessary to protect the rights and best interests of unaccompanied children in migration. See Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on effective guardianship for unaccompanied and separated children in the context of migration, CM/Rec(2019)11, 11 December 2019. In accordance with international and European legal standards, the Committee of Ministers outlines 18 principles in the recommendation, calling on Member States to implement a guardianship framework for unaccompanied and separated children; review national legislation and policies to ensure that the recommendation is implemented; translate and disseminate the recommendation to all relevant stakeholders; create a European “platform of experts” to assist and support States in strengthening their guardianship systems and facilitating cross-border cooperation; and, ensure that the Committee of Ministers monitors the guardianship system at the State level at regular intervals. See id. The principles seek to address the need for additional protections and assistance for children in migration. See id. at II, para. 1 (f); III.

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December 2019: UN Treaty Bodies & Regional Bodies in Session

European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: ECSR

In December, 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 and country visits. Two United Nations treaty bodies will be in session to assess States’ progress regarding the prevention of torture and the elimination of racial discrimination. Seven UN special procedures will conduct country visits in December. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. Of the regional bodies, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be in session.

The UN treaty body sessions, the AfCHPR public hearings, and the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber hearings, may be watched via UN Web TV, the African Court’s YouTube channel, and the ECtHR’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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