The Island of Hope in a Sea of Misery

On 17 January 2020, the Italian Court of Cassation (‘Court’) ruled that Carola Rackete, captain of the Sea-Watch 3, was not criminally liable for hitting an Italian Guardia di Finanza vessel and allowing 40 shipwrecked to disembark in Lampedusa in July 2019. The judgment is remarkable for its unequivocal stance on the right to disembark.

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Muzzling Associations of Judges

Art 88 a of Poland’s so-called “muzzle law” law prescribes that judges must disclose their membership in associations, their functions performed in non-profit foundations and membership in parties before they became judges. The provision applies to memberships in all kinds of associations, including associations of judges. In this form, the provision violates the European Convention of Human Rights as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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Paving the Way for Undermining the Independence of UK’s Media

Two stories made the headlines in the United Kingdom last week. One concerns the exclusion of reporters from a briefing at Downing Street, the other a potential review of the BBC’s funding model. Both raise concerns over a declining culture of respect of media independence in the United Kingdom.

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The Turkish Judiciary’s Violations of Human Rights Guarantees

On 3 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of Parmak & Bakir v Turkey that the Turkish judiciary’s interpretation of the offence of membership of an armed terrorist organization violated Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, being the absolute right to no punishment without law. Although the case deals with incidents from 2002, it shows how Turkey’s post-coup terrorism trials violate Turkey’s obligations under the ECHR.

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The Criminal Conviction of Catalan Secessionist Leaders and European Human Rights Law

In the controversial judgement of the Spanish Supreme Court against the Catalan secessionist leaders, seven defendants were found guilty of the crime of sedition (amongst others) and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 9 to 13 years. An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights is likely but it is doubtful whether it will be successful.

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In Rights We Trust

Cases concerning the execution of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) provide seemingly endless material for new questions of fundamental importance to the relationship of the multiple constitutional layers in Europe. In a barely noted judgment in the case of Romeo Castaño v. Belgium, the European Court of Human Rights has now added an important piece to this puzzle. The judgment indicates that, in the light of other recent jurisprudence of both the Court of Justice of the EU and the ECtHR, both Courts are on their way to find a workable framework to address some of the issues in this field.

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France Criminalises Research on Judges

In March, France made a controversial move and became the first country in the world to explicitly ban research on individual judicial behaviour. It is now a criminal offence to ‘evaluate, analyse, compare or predict’ the behaviour of individual judges. The result is a flagrant violation of the freedom of expression, represents an affront to basic values of academic freedom, and disregards basic principles of the rule of law.

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Caviar, Corruption and Compliance – New Challenges for the Council of Europe

Compliance with judicial decisions often poses challenges, all the more so when international courts such as the European Court of Human Rights are involved. How to react to a failure to abide by judgments of the ECHR has been a question for the Council of Europe for some time. But the suspicious background of a currently unfolding episode involving Azerbaijan may offer an unusually clear justification for a strong reaction even to a single case of non-compliance.

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The Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Copenhagen Declaration – a Reply to Helga Molbæk-Steensig

In her blog post “Is Something Rotten in the State of Denmark?”, Helga Molbæk-Steensig analyses the making of the Copenhagen Declaration; the most important outcome of the Danish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Molbæk-Steensig agrees with most commentators that the declaration does not reflect the Danish government’s “strong discourse of sovereignty and democratic deficit in the Danish debate“. We certainly agree on this point, but we cannot agree with Molbæk-Steensig when she claims that we – Denmark’s national human rights institution – played a passive, or even negative, role during the making of the declaration. We especially disagree when Molbæk-Steensig implies that we somehow legitimise a far-right narrative designed to limit the system of human rights protection in Europe or subscribe to a reductionist concept of democracy.

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Something Rotten in the State of Denmark?

The final version of the Copenhagen Declaration has turned out to be a lot less dramatic than the original draft led many observers to believe. This leaves several questions of why. Why did Denmark, traditionally a frontrunner country, create a draft declaration so regressive it gave rise to harsh critiques from the Council of Europe Assembly, from academia and from civil society? Why was the Danish Minister of Justice glossing over the content of the declaration? Why has the Danish Institute of Human Rights been so relatively quiet throughout the whole debacle?

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