ECtHR judge ponders on EU/ECtHR dogfight, and recent trends of timidity in the ECtHR

david_thor_bjorgvinssonA Political Decision Disguised as Legal Argument: Opinion of CJEU 2/13 – and other things

Over the summer an interesting article was published by Graham Butler, on his interview with David Thor Björgvinsson, former Icelandic judge in the European Court of Human Rights – see here.

One subject was the CJEU’s refusal to permit accession by the EU to the ECtHR (see my post here) – despite the EU’s commitment to accede via Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty, in December 2009. A Draft Agreement on Accession was concluded in April 2013, but it required the obtaining of an opinion from the CJEU on whether the Agreement was compatible with the EU Treaties – to which the CJEU gave a dusty answer in December 2014.

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Limits of judicial review in international relations underlined

Ministry of Defence (Photo credit: Guardian)

Ministry of Defence (Photo credit: Guardian)


R (Nour) v Secretary of State for Defence [2015] EWHC 2695 (Admin)

How far are the courts willing to go to intervene in matters of foreign affairs in order to protect human rights? Spoiler: they’re not. Continue reading

US court takes important step in resolving human/wildlife conflict at sea

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v Michael Bean, et al, US District Court, Central District of California (September 18 2015) – read judgment

A Californian court has upheld the protection of marine otters over the interests of commercial fishing.

Sea otters are remarkable marine mammals who live their entire lives at sea, giving birth in the water and clutching their cubs to their bellies as they float in rafts of up to a thousand, holding hands while they sleep to avoid drifting off in the ocean’s currents. But they are not just picturesque; they are essential to the health of the seas. A main component of their diet is the ubiquitous sea urchin, which feeds on kelp. As sea otters have been hunted and killed as by-catch over the centuries, their diminishing numbers have led to the proliferation of the sea urchin population and the consequent disappearance of the kelp forests on the seabed. The damage this does to the marine ecosystem has been inestimable.

This somewhat technical judgment, made on a preliminary application for summary judgment by the fishing industry, therefore marks an important step in the judicial response to marine conservation. Continue reading

The Round-Up: Holyrood’s Hard-line, and Sumption’s Long Game

SumptionLaura Profumo brings you the latest human rights happenings.

In the News: 

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, announced last week that it was “inconceivable” that the SNP would support the Conservative plans to scrap the Human Rights Act. Talking to an audience in Glasgow on Wednesday, Sturgeon pledged her unequivocal commitment to block the HRA-repeal. Sturgeon warned that human rights remained a “devolved issue”, meaning that Scottish opposition might well hamper Gove’s forthcoming efforts. Many find sympathy with Sturgeon’s stance. Sturgeon values the HRA as a “careful model” which incorporates human rights protection into UK law, without upsetting our constitutional bedrock, writes Alex Cisneros in The Justice Gap. Continue reading

We are five! And we’re having a party to celebrate

ann-marie-calilhanna-mardigras-party-2012_1514-bannerThe UK Human Rights Blog recently turned five years old, and it would only be right if we celebrated with you, our loyal readers. So, we’re having a party on Thursday 29 October 2015. The full details are below. There will be drinks and some great music.

It’s a free event, but places are very limited so if you want to reserve a place, please email Lisa Pavlovsky ( with the subject heading “UKHRB Birthday Party”. The body text should only include your name, position (e.g. “solicitor” or “student”) and organisation, if you are attached to one.

Full details:

UK Human Rights Blog Birthday Party

Thursday, 29 October 2015

 7pm – 10:30pm

 4th Floor Studios,

255-259 Commercial Road,

London E1 2BT

We really hope to see you there and thanks again for your support over the years.

Is the European Convention Working? Grieve advocates before Faculty of Advocates

crop-dominic-grieve_39562a1Less than 48 hours before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s speech in Glasgow (see our coverage here), another rousing defence of the Convention was launched in Scotland. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve addressed the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh on the 21st September, posing the question “Is the European Convention Working?”, and in reply giving an outstanding analysis of the reasons why the UK must remain within the Convention (full transcript available here).

In the interest of brevity, this post shall skim over the more “standard” defences of the Convention – highlighting the various historical “success stories”, the more serious situations in other states in comparison to the UK, the effective existing dialogue between domestic courts and Strasbourg, problems of EU membership and devolution agreements (of which we have previously discussed here) – and instead focus on the more interesting arguments he makes: namely, the important interactions between the international reputation of the UK and the authority of the Court. Continue reading

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reinforces Scottish opposition to repeal of the Human Rights Act

Nicola-SturgeonYesterday morning, in a speech to civic organisations in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “no responsible government” would consider repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 due to the numerous negative consequences, both in the domestic and international sphere, that would result from such a move – (see a transcript of the speech here).

Proposals for Repeal of the Human Rights Act

It has been a longstanding Tory policy to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Such a policy is motivated by discontent over a handful of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) that have allegedly “undermine[d] the role of UK courts in deciding on human rights issues”. In October 2014, the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced Tory proposals to treat Strasbourg judgments as “advisory” – irrespective of the potential incoherence between treating judgments in such a way and the UK’s obligations under Article 46, ECHR (see John Wadham’s post here). However, the 2015 Tory manifesto included less specific promises to “scrap the Human Rights Act” in order to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights”. Little substantive information has been provided on the development of these plans, apart from an intention, included in the Queen’s speech, to conduct consultations and publish proposals this autumn. Continue reading