Secret Surveillance and a ‘Canadian Genocide’: the Round Up

3 June 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law


Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

The High Court has granted a without-notice injunction which bans protesters from gathering outside a primary school’s gates.

Protesters have been campaigning for weeks against Anderton Park Primary School’s decision to teach its pupils about LGBT issues. The activists argue that the children are ‘too young’ to understand the relationships. Some have also stated that it conflicts with Islamic teaching.

The Headteacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, told the media that she has received a number of threatening messages. The school had to close early for half-term due to the protests.

Birmingham City Council applied for the injunction last week on the basis that the protests were beginning to jeopardise the safety of staff, pupils and parents. The injunction will last until the 10th June.

In Other News….

  • There were a number of human rights stories in the political sphere. The lawyer representing Shamima Begum published a letter in the Times claiming that Sajid Javid’s decision to strip Ms Begum of her citizenship was politically motivated. The letter accuses Mr Javid of “human fly tipping” and demands that Ms Begum’s citizenship is reinstated. Michael Spencer discussed the case on the Blog here. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson was issued with a summons requiring him to appear in the Crown Court. The order came as part of a case accusing him of misconduct in public office. The decision sparked a debate about the proper role of the criminal law, and is covered in Owain Thomas’ post here. Finally, the Equality and Human Rights Commission opened its investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party last week.
  • A report has described the repeated disappearance and murder of Indigenous women in Canada as a “Canadian genocide”. The document took over two and a half years to prepare and was leaked to CBC, the Canadian Broadcaster.  The report estimates that around 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1980, but acknowledges that exact figures will never be known. The report concludes that colonialist attitudes means state inaction is contributing towards the issue.  More from the Guardian here.
  • The Information Commissioner’s office has stated that over 14,000 data breaches were recorded since the introduction of GDPR laws last May. However, whilst fines have increased by 30%, fewer cases were brought during 2018. A number of legal commentators have suggested that both the size and number of fines are likely to increase next year. More from the BBC here.

In the Courts:

The courts have not been sitting since the 24th May. Accordingly, this week focuses on judgments from the ECHR.

  • LIBLIK AND OTHERS v. ESTONIA: The applicants had allegedly been involved in high-level corruption. They complained that the length of the criminal proceedings instigated against them went beyond what was reasonable in the circumstances of their case. Therefore, they said, Article 6 ECHR had been breached. The court rejected this, holding that their cases were of considerable complexity and there were no periods in which the relevant authorities were inactive. However, the court agreed that Article 8 had been breached by secret surveillance which Estonian authorities had conducted on the second and third applicant. The court reiterated that safeguards are required to ensure secret surveillance does not “undermine or even destroy democracy under the cloak of defending it” [130]. In this case, the domestic court had not given adequate reasons when authorising the intelligence gathering, and a retrospective justification was insufficient.
  • UDUT v. RUSSIA: The applicant alleged that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation into her daughter’s death, and that this amounted to a breach of Article 2 ECHR. The court noted that there had been 21 sets of pre-investigation inquiries over a span of four years, yet they all resulted in a decision that criminal proceedings would not be instituted. It emphasised that protracted proceedings strongly indicate a violation of a State’s obligations, unless a compelling reason is provided for the delay. No such reason had been given, and the limited scope of a pre-investigation meant the rigorous requirements of Article 2 had been met. The court awarded the applicant €19,500 of non-pecuniary damage plus €2,200 in costs.
  • ZAMMIT AND VASSALLO v. MALTA: The court ruled that the Republic of Malta had violated the applicants’ rights under Protocol 1 Article 1 (right to peaceful enjoyment of property). The applicants had their property demolished and land appropriated in 1989 as part of a slum clearance project. The court held that the demolition was unlawful. It went on to rule that appropriating the applicants’ land was a measure aimed at creating social housing. It therefore amounted to a legitimate aim in the general interest. However, the programme was not a proportionate one. The amount of compensation owed to the applicants had not been adjusted over time, and it remained unpaid nearly 30 years after the land was taken.

On the UKHRB:

  • Rosalind English wrote about A Clinical Commissioning Group v P (by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor) and TD, which focused on the treatment of a patient in a minimally conscious state.
  • Thomas Beasley explained the Court of Appeal judgement in Kuteh v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, in which it held the decision to dismiss a nurse for improper proselytising did not contravene Article 9 ECHR.
  • Owain Thomas covers the issuing of a summons requiring Boris Johnson to appear in the Crown Court.

On Law Pod:

  • Catherine Barnard discusses what lessons should be drawn from the EU elections.
  • A recording of a recent HRLA event entitled ‘Northern Ireland, Human Rights and Brexit’ (chaired by Lord Kerr).


  • Wellbeing at the Bar?, 6th June with Gresham College. More information here.
  • Brexit’s effect on citizens, human rights and immigration, 11th June at City University. More information here.
  • The Prosecution of International Crimes in the UK, 18th June with the Human Rights Lawyers Association. More information here.
  • Foundational Concepts in Constitutional Theory, 10th – 12 July with UCL Faculty of Law. More information here.

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