The Round-up: Srebrenica veto, and legal aid boycott latest
12 July 2015
In the News:
“Twenty years after Srebrenica, incomplete justice”. This is Human Rights Watch’s conclusion after Russia vetoed a UN resolution to refer to the 1995 massacre as “genocide”. Amnesty go further; calling the veto “an insult to the memory of the dead”. HRW calls for the European Union and the United States to encourage the Bosnian local courts to develop a national war crimes strategy to address the “case backlog” and bring war criminals to justice. Tensions between Serbia and Bosnia remain high; on Sunday the Serbian prime minister was attacked with stones when attending a 20th anniversary commemoration at Srebrenica.
In UK news, the legal aid boycott enters its second week, and has begun to bite. Delays are building up in the magistrates’ courts and police stations. A Bristol murder case has had to be adjourned due to the defendant being unrepresented and Liverpool magistrates’ are reportedly in “chaos”. The Criminal Bar Association is ballotting its members and will decide on Wednesday whether to support the boycott through a ‘no returns’ policy and by refusing new work.
The Ministry of Justice has denied that the action is overly disruptive, although Michael Gove, the Lord Chancellor, has met representatives of ‘striking’ firms and is said to have “listened carefully” and “engaged”. Jack of Kent has written a succinct explanation of the reasons behind the boycott, predicting that “pretty soon the criminal courts may not be functioning at all”. Meanwhile, Parry Welch Lacey has crunched the numbers to explain why the proposed remuneration for legal aid work, the cause of the boycott, is unsustainable. And in an excellent article, criminal lawyer John Briant demonstrates “the reality of legal aid today”.
In Other News:
- China has ordered the detention of about 50 human rights lawyers in a “nationwide crackdown”, allegedly targeting those active on social media. This follows a petition organised by 100 Chinese lawyers last week, protesting the “abduction” of lawyer Wang Yu from her home.
- Chris Grayling’s legacy took another battering as his Secure Colleges project was shelved. Ian Dunt derides the scheme – which had already cost £5.5m – as a “vanity project”, which was opposed by the NSPCC, Royal College of Psychiatrists and penal reform groups. Dan Jarvis (Lab) sets out 10 reasons why this outcome is for the best.
- The UN is accused of ‘not doing enough’ about the ‘unspeakable horrors’ women and girls are facing in South Sudan.
In the Courts
Five year old Cameron Mathieson, who died from cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy in 2012, had been admitted to hospital between June 2010 and August 2011. He received Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but the regulations permitted the government to suspend this on the 84th day of his admission, costing his parents around £7,000 in total. The Supreme Court unanimously found that this suspension breached his human rights (Article 14). While sadly too late for Cameron, the implications are far-reaching for other disabled children in long-term care. His lawyer has analysed these implications here.
In 2010, the Police Service of Northern Ireland was investigating an incident of rioting, and subsequently published a photograph of a 14 year old suspect as part of ‘Operation Exposure’. The boy, now 18, argued this violated his Article 8 right to privacy. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed on the facts that the publication had been justified, but disagreed over the extent to which Article 8 was engaged. The majority decided that Article 8 relates to personal autonomy and thus did not cover the police’s need to identify suspects (although the same photograph published in a different, non-police context might engage the right). The minority, Lord Kerr, disagreed – and argued for a more contextual test. This interesting and nuanced debate is analysed by Panopticon blog and UKHRB’s Jim Duffy here.
The extreme poverty endured by Serbian asylum seekers in Belgium, once evicted from an accommodation centre, was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment). The Court considered that the requirement of special protection of asylum seekers had been even more important in view of the presence of small children, including an infant, and of a disabled child. However, the resulting death of this disabled child did not constitute to a violation of Article 2 (right to life).
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(This Round-up was updated at 8.12am on Monday 13 July to make clear that the CBA was still balloting its members on the legal aid boycott, and to remove an erroneous reference to the International Criminal Court.)