Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 - the year in review

In respect of complaints about sexual orientation discrimination, 2015 was a somewhat quiet year for the European Court of Human Rights, at least in relation to the volume of decisions and judgments given. However, the Court did issue several important judgments that made 2015 a significant year...
In April, the Court issued its judgment in M.E. v Sweden, striking the case from its list. I wrote about the case here, criticising the Court for continuing to 'dodge' the question of whether returning a gay man or lesbian to a state outside of the Council of Europe that criminalizes homosexual sexual acts amounts to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In May, the Court issued a ground-breaking judgment in Identoba and Others v Georgia. I wrote about the judgment being a historic step forward for gay and lesbian human rights because the Court recognised, for the first time, that violent and abusive treatment of individuals assembling in public to peacefully demonstrate about issues relating to sexual orientation amounts to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

In July, the Court issued a further ground-breaking judgment, in Oliari and Others v Italy, in which it found, for the first time, that the inability of same-sex couples to gain some form of legal recognition of their relationships other than marriage, in a country which only offers marriage to different-sex couples, amounts to a violation of the Convention. Simultaneously, the Court rejected the applicants' complaint that their inability to marry was a violation of the Convention. I wrote about the judgment being a significant development in the Court's case law, going beyond the judgment in Vallianatos and Others v Greece - in which the Grand Chamber of the Court found that making 'civil unions' available to different-sex couples but not to same-sex couples amounted to a violation of the Convention - and setting the strong precedent that Council of Europe states that fail to provide same-sex couples with some form of legal recognition (other than marriage) may be in violation of positive obligations under Article 8 of the Convention. However, in my view, the Court's decision to declare the Article 12 complaints manifestly ill-founded sent a very strong message that it has no intention of changing its position that, for all practical and effective purposes, the right to marry does not apply to same-sex partners.

In October, the Court struck the complaint in A.E. v Finland from its list. In doing so, I wrote about how it continued to 'dodge' ruling on the question of whether attempting to return a gay man or lesbian to a country that criminalises homosexual sexual acts amounts to a violation of the Convention. I detailed the history of similar complaints in the Court and asked whether the long-standing refusal to uphold complaints about Council of Europe states who seek to deport gay men and lesbians to countries that criminalise homosexual acts and, in some cases, punish them with death was 'shameful'.
May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read, commented on, and contributed to this blog throughout the year. In the time since I started this blog in February 2013, it has had 83,150 page views and, because of that, I have been put in contact with some fantastic people around the world.

Out of interest, the statistics page shows that readers of this blog come from virtually every country in the world, but the following table shows the Top Ten page views of all time by country:



I wish everyone, most sincerely, a very happy and prosperous New Year. 









Friday, 4 December 2015

Conference on "Fifty Years of Our Right to Apply to Strasbourg" in the UK

I am pleased to be participating in the following conference, to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK recognising the right of individual petition to the European Commission of Human Rights and subsequently the European Court of Human Rights.

The conference is organised by Professor Robert Wintemute and will be held at King's College London.

FIFTY YEARS OF OUR RIGHT TO APPLY TO STRASBOURG:
THE PAST (1966-2016) AND FUTURE OF
ACCESS TO THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM

Thursday, 14 January 2016
Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre, King's Building (ground floor), Strand Campus

9:30-10:00 am - Registration and coffee

10:00-10:30 am - Opening remarks by the Director of the Centre of European Law
Takis Tridimas, Professor of European Law, King's College London

Opening remarks by the Chair of the conference
Sir Nicolas Bratza, Member of the European Commission of Human Rights (1993-98), Judge (1998-2012) and President (2011-12) of the European Court of Human Rights

50th birthday ceremony
Sir Nicolas will cut a birthday cake to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK's 14 January 1966 "Declarations ... recognising the competence of the European Commission of Human Rights to receive individual petitions and recognising as compulsory the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights".

10:30 am-12:30 pm - Should our right to apply to Strasbourg be preserved?  Perspectives from civil society

Nuala Mole, founder of the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe)
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty (National Council for Civil Liberties)
Philip Leach, Professor of Human Rights Law, Middlesex University, Director of EHRAC (European Human Rights Advocacy Centre)
David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation

12:30-1:30 pm - Lunch

1:30-3:00 pm - Should our right to apply to Strasbourg be preserved? Perspectives from the UK Parliament [and the Ministry of Justice]

THE CONSERVATIVES’ PROPOSALS FOR CHANGING BRITAIN’S HUMAN RIGHTS LAWS (3 October 2014):  "... Every judgement that UK law is incompatible with the Convention will be treated as advisory ... During the passage of the British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, we will engage with the Council of Europe, and seek recognition that our approach [judgments are binding on 46 member states but not the UK] is a legitimate way of applying the Convention.  In the event that we are unable to reach that agreement, the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, at the point at which our Bill comes into effect."

Lord Anthony Lester QC, counsel to the UK's first applicants to Strasbourg
Dominic Grieve QC MP, former Attorney General
Keir Starmer QC MP, former Director of Public Prosecutions
[Dominic Raab MP, Minister for Human Rights since May 2015, is unable to attend, but has been invited to send a representative of the Ministry of Justice]

3:00-3:30 pm - Coffee

3:30-5:00 pm - Should our right to apply to Strasbourg be preserved?  Perspectives from academia

Paul Johnson, Professor of Sociology, University of York
Bill Bowring, Professor of Law, Birkbeck, University of London
Elspeth Guild, Professor of Law, Queen Mary, University of London and Radboud University Nijmegen
Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights Law, London School of Economics

5:00-5:30 pm - Closing remarks
Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law, King's College London

5:30-6:30 pm - Reception

To reserve your place please click here