EIN civil society briefing ahead of the CM-DH meeting

On 6th September 2019, EIN held its quarterly civil society briefing, ahead of the 1355th CM-DH meeting. Over 40 participants attended the briefing, including participants from the Permanent Representations to the Council of Europe, the EU representation to the Council of Europe, the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and other CoE staff members.

Presentations were given on the following cases:

GENDERDOC-M v Republic of Moldova (Application No 9106/06), on unjustified bans on Pride marches,

D.H. and others v the Czech Republic (Application No 57325/00), on discrimination in the enjoyment of the applicants’ right to education due to their assignment to special schools between 1996 and 1999, on account of their Roma origin,

McKerr group of cases v the UK (Application No 28883/95), on actions of security forces in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s, with a focus on the Finucane case (Application No 29178/95),

Bekir Ousta and others v Greece (Application No 35151/05) on refusal to register or dissolution of the applicants' associations,

 

The main recommendations on the cases are available here.

GENDERDOC-M v Republic of Moldova (Application No 9106/06)

by Nigel Warner, member of ILGA Europe, and EIN Bureau member

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The case concerns inter alia the violation of the applicant NGO’s right to peaceful assembly arising from the ban on holding a demonstration planned for May 2005 to encourage the adoption of laws to protect sexual minorities from discrimination (violation of Article 11); the discrimination against the applicant NGO on account of the difference in treatment between it and other NGOs which were allowed by the authorities to hold demonstrations in the same period of time, the authorities’ disapproval of the demonstrations which they considered to promote homosexuality, and the unclear reasons adduced by the authorities in rejecting the applicant’s request to hold a demonstration (violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 11).

In May 2019 participants in the Chisinau pride march were able, for the second year running, to take part in an authorised freedom of assembly event and complete the planned route. However, whilst this positive development is welcomed, it is also unclear as to whether it will last. Many of the country’s most senior politicians have adopted a firm public stance against Pride marches.

The Moldovan authorities Action Report of 27 June 2019 invited the Committee of Ministers to close the supervision of execution of this judgment. In July 2019, GENDERDOC-M and ILGA Europe submitted a joint communication, arguing that, in view of the uncertain political situation in the country, and notwithstanding the positive development referred to above, it would be premature to close supervision of this judgment.

The case was presented by Nigel Warner, member of ILGA Europe. His presentation was based on the Rule 9.2 submission of July 2019.

 

Links:

Action Report by the Moldovan authorities (27 June 2019)

Rule 9.2 submission by ILGA Europe and GENDERDOC-M (July 2019)

Power point by Nigel Warner, ILGA Europe (6/9/2019)

 

D.H. and others v the Czech Republic (Application No 57325/00)

by Štěpán Drahokoupil, OSF Prag, and Veronika Bazalová, Lawyer, Office of the Public Defender of Rights, Czech Republic

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In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights decided that there was a systemic discrimination of Roma children in the Czech Republic. The Grand Chamber ruled that 18 Roma children had been sent to special schools and taught a reduced educational programme.

In December 2018, the Ministry of Education proposed changes to the Decree on Education of Pupils with Special Educational Needs. In her presentation, Ms Bazalová underlined that, should they be adopted, these changes would be problematic, as they would lead to:

1.      The decrease of the maximum number of pedagogical staff per classroom

2.      The establishment of special schools for pupils with various kinds of disabilities

In his presentation, Mr Drahokoupil outlined how reforms since the judgment had had a negligible effect on the numbers of Roma children being sent to special schools. In their recommendations, Mr Drahokoupil and Ms Bazalová therefore called on to the Committee of Ministers to monitor the implementation of the D. H. case until there is a drop in proportion of Roma educated in reduced programmes by 2,88 percent points in 5 consecutive years, starting by the school year 2018/2019.

Links:

Power Point presentation by Mr Štěpán Drahokoupil, OSF Prag, and Veronika Bazalová, Lawyer, Office of the Public Defender of Rights, Czech Republic (6/9/2019)

Rule 9.2 on the D.H. and others v the Czech Republic case, by OSF Prague (Nadace OSF), Amnesty International and Forum for Human Rights (August 2019)

 

McKerr group of cases v the UK (Application No 28883/95), with a focus on the Finucane case (Application No 29178/95),

by Daniel Holder, Deputy Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)

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These cases concern investigations into the deaths of the applicants’ next-of-kin in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s, either during security force operations or in circumstances giving rise to suspicion of collusion with those forces.

 

In his presentation, Daniel Holder focused on the Stormont House Agreement (SHA), calling for a clear timetable in relation to the implementation of the new legacy institutions under this agreement. With regard to the Finucane case, he underlined the urgent need for a fully independent Article 2 public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder. Given the lack of a clear commitment from the UK in response to the UK Supreme Court ruling of February 2019 – which found that no Article 2 compliant investigation had taken place to date - Mr Holder called upon the Ministers’ Deputies to re-open examination of this individual measure.

Links:

Power Point presentation by Daniel Holder, CAJ (6/9/2019)

Rule 9.2. on the McKerr group of cases by CAJ (July 2019)

 



 

Bekir Ousta and others v Greece (Application No 35151/05)

by Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor and EIN Board member

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The Bekir-Ousta and others group of cases concerns Greece’s failure for some twelve years to execute the ECtHR judgments finding violations of the freedom of association of three ethnic Turkish associations. Mr Dimitras underlined that no progress had been made with regard to legislative measures to change the procedure for registration of these associations, in a way that would be consistent with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. Mr Panayote called for the relevant legislative changes to be made – failing which, the Committee of Ministers should issue an Interim Resolution in early 2020.

Links:

Briefing text by Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM)

Rule 9.2. on the Bekir Ousta and others group of case v Greece, by GHM (July 2019)

 

Pictures: EIN Secretariat

 

EIN’s latest training on Rule 9 submissions

EIN and DEJ train young lawyers from Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine on ECtHR judgment implementation

Can you get a good grasp of how NGOs can promote the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR, ‘the Court’) in just two hours? Feedback from EIN’s latest capacity-building event suggests that you can!

Photo: EIN

Photo: EIN

The European Implementation Network (EIN) had the pleasure of welcoming young lawyers from Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine on 9 July, and introduce them to the process of implementation, or ‘execution’, of ECtHR judgments. The participants had been brought to Strasbourg by EIN’s member organisation, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), as part of EHRAC’s annual Legal Skills Development Programme (LSDP). Aside from learning about implementation, their programme saw the participants meet with Judges from the Court, Registry lawyers and staff of the Department for the Execution of the Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (DEJ) to talk about the cases that they are litigating or that they already won in Strasbourg. For the first time, the LSDP also comprised a session dedicated specifically to the Committee of Ministers’ (CM) judgment execution process and ways for NGOs to get involved in it – through Rule 9 submissions and domestic advocacy.

During the two-hour training, the participants heard presentations from Clare Brown, Head of Section within the DEJ, and Anne-Katrin Speck, EIN Co-Director. They were introduced to the key elements of the CM’s supervision of the execution of judgments:

·        The role of the CM and of the DEJ

·        Individual measures v. general measures

·        The grouping of cases into leading and repetitive cases

·        Action Plans v. Action Reports

·        Classification of cases: enhanced v. standard supervision     

·        Timetable and when best to submit your Rule 9

Source: Council of Europe website

Source: Council of Europe website

Anne and Clare both stressed the value of NGO submissions to the CM. They are an important means to ‘set the record straight’ where government submissions are inadequate or misleading. They can provide up-to-date information from the ground that the DEJ, with its limited capacity to conduct its own fact-finding and research, might not otherwise be aware of. And it can help trigger a response from the authorities where they might not otherwise have addressed specific issues.

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 Anne and Clare also shared important tips for ensuring maximum possible impact of submissions to the CM. These are to do with the structure and length of submissions, timing, the types of evidence to be submitted, how best to respond to a government Action Plan or Action Report, and the inclusion of procedural recommendations. They also highlighted the importance of combining Strasbourg and domestic level advocacy, starting early to develop general measures of implementation and, where possible, reaching out to the authorities with a view to influencing the design of the remedies.

Photo: EIN

Photo: EIN

The introductory training confirmed once more that implementation of ECtHR judgments and its supervision by the CM is a complex process, but understanding it is not rocket science. If you, too, want to know how you can promote information by submitting information from the ground to the CM, consult EIN’s Handbook for NGOs, injured parties and their legal advisers, or get in touch with us directly.

 EIN is grateful to Jessica Gavron, Kate Levine and Andrii Gladun from EHRAC for reaching out to EIN and making this training possible. Many thanks as well to Clare Brown from the DEJ, whose insider’s view helped the participants understand the intricacies of the implementation process, and how they can best influence the trajectory of a case before the Committee of Ministers.

Current issues and common challenges for the protection of human rights in Europe, Africa and the Americas

EIN Co-Director Anne-Katrin Speck and EIN Vice Chair, Professor Philip Leach (Middlesex University London, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre), participated in a Conference entitled ‘Current issues and common challenges for the protection of human rights in Europe, Africa and the Americas’, which took place at Travers Smith in London on 14 June 2019. The Conference, which was co-organised by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, the Human Rights Implementation Centre at Bristol University, and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, brought together leading figures from the three regional systems as well as international academics and practitioners.

Challenges relating to the implementation of the judgments and decision of the commissions and courts from the three regional human rights system was a thread that ran through the day-long discussions. The Conference provided a welcome opportunity for comparative review and dialogue, which revealed that implementation challenges stemmed, in part, from the supranational systems’ limited capacity to discern and assess steps towards (or steps going against) compliance with a ruling. In Europe, for instance, a team of only 39 lawyers within the Department for the Execution of Judgments deal with some 5,500 cases pending execution (Donald, Long and Speck, forthcoming). This precludes nearly any possibility for the DEJ to conduct its own in situ fact-finding, and highlights the importance of civil society actors stepping up and bringing shortcomings in the implementation process to the Committee of Ministers’ attention. 

The role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was at the heart of a presentation by EIN Co-Director Anne-Katrin Speck, who set out the key principles for effective advocacy for ECtHR judgment implementation. In an ideal-type scenario, she ventured, NGO involvement aimed at effective ECtHR judgment implementation

·        starts early (specifically, already at the litigation stage);

·        comes in the form of repeated engagement;

·        is built on coalitions between NGOs and other pro-implementation actors (who could be other NGOs, media actors, NHRIs, conscientious parliamentarians or state officials); and

·        is conducted domestically and through the Strasbourg system.

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Anne demonstrated that, regrettably, reality does not match this ambition. Domestic advocacy for judgment implementation would still appear to be in its infancy in most places. This has led EIN to launch an open call for contributions aimed at collecting best practices that will feed into a new EIN resource on domestic advocacy. She also emphasised the need to reverse the downwards trend in the number of so-called ‘Rule 9’ submissions to the Committee of Ministers, which NGOs and national human rights institutions can use to ‘put the record straight’, refute inaccurate claims by governments that implementation had been successful, and call for heightened scrutiny by the Committee of Ministers.

Anne’s presentation concluded with a call for concerted efforts to facilitate civil society involvement in implementation. She urged NGOs to start identifying priority areas for engagement, by mapping the pending leading cases against their country and matching them with the thematic areas they are already working on. NGOs should moreover mobilise other civil society actors to form ‘implementation advocacy coalitions’, and seek out conscientious actors within state authorities to get them to support the cause.

Lastly, it was incumbent of the Council of Europe to undertake a series of measures to make the implementation process truly inclusive, including the following:

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EIN would like to thank the co-conveners, Anthony Wenton, Dr Annelen Micus, Professor Clara Sandoval-Villalbe and Professor Rachel Murray, for the opportunity to inject a civil society perspective into that day’s debates.