By: Joanna Curtis


Misconduct in public office – ECtHR reviews foreseeability of common law offence

6 September 2021 by

On 6 July 2021 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published its judgment in the case of Norman v UK (Application no. 41387/17).  The case concerned Mr Robert Norman, an officer at Belmarsh prison, who in 2015 was convicted of misconduct in public office for passing a variety of information to a tabloid journalist in exchange for money. The ECtHR found that, in Mr Norman’s case, the offence itself did not constitute a breach of Article 7 ECHR (no punishment without law): Mr Norman’s conduct was sufficiently serious for it to have been foreseeable that it would constitute a criminal offence. The ECtHR also found that the newspaper’s disclosure of Mr Norman’s activities to the police, and his subsequent prosecution and conviction, did not breach his rights under Article 10 ECtHR (freedom of expression).

Image source: The Guardian

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ECtHR orders Russia to release Navalny from prison

3 March 2021 by

On 16 February 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) granted further interim measures against Russia in relation to political opposition figure Alexei Navalny, requiring that Navalny be immediately released from prison due to the risk to his life and health. 

Alexei Navalny during a court hearing in Moscow in February. Photograph: Reuters. Source: The Guardian

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ECtHR orders Turkey to immediately release pro-Kurdish opposition leader

11 January 2021 by

Selahattin Demirtaş delivering a speech in 2016. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images. Source: The Guardian

On 22 December 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) published a Grand Chamber decision against Turkey, requiring the immediate release of the pro-Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtaş from pre-trial detention (Selahattin Demirtaş v Turkey, Application no. 14305/17). The ECtHR said that Mr Demirtaş’ detention went against “the very core of the concept of a democratic society” and was in breach of Articles 5, 10, 18 and Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the “Convention”).

The decision is particularly significant given Mr Demirtaş’ high profile status and the numerous cases against Turkey that the ECtHR is now hearing, following the attempted coup in July 2016 and the government’s subsequent crackdown on civil society. Shortly after publication of the judgment, the ECtHR website was subject to a cyber-attack and rendered temporarily inaccessible. A group of pro-Turkish hackers claimed responsibility for the attack via a Twitter post.


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Alexei Navalny evacuated to Germany: European Court of Human Rights orders interim measures against Russia

24 August 2020 by

 Alexei Navalny, in an isolation pod, being lifted out of an air ambulance in Berlin. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/AP. Source: The Guardian

On Saturday morning, Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was flown, in a coma, from a hospital in Siberia to Berlin for medical treatment. On Friday, the European Court of Human Rights had granted interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, requiring Russia to grant access to the patient in order to assess his fitness for transport. The Court also ordered the Russian government to inform the Court of the medical treatment Mr Navalny is receiving by noon on Saturday (22 August), and to submit a copy of Mr Navalny’s medical file by 2 p.m. on Monday 24 August.

Mr Navalny fell ill on a plane flight last Thursday, with suspected symptoms of poisoning. The plane made an emergency landing and Mr Navalny was taken to be treated at a hospital in Omsk, Siberia, where doctors said on Friday that he was too ill to be transported elsewhere. Permission for Mr Navalny’s transfer to Berlin came after increased international pressure (from France and Germany in particular), an appeal to President Putin by Mr Navalny’s wife and supporters, and an application to the European Court. Mr Navalny’s family asked the European Court for permission to transport him to the Charité hospital in Berlin for treatment, as otherwise he faced a risk to his life or health, in violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.


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ECtHR on state responsibility for the right to life: the pardoning of an ethnically-motivated killing

18 August 2020 by

An Armenian protester holds pictures of Ramil Safarov, left, and Gurgen Margaryan during a demonstration outside the Hungarian embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 2012. Photograph: Petros Karadjias/AP (Source: The Guardian)

Makuchyan and Minasyan -v- Azerbaijan and Hungary (Application No. 17247/13)

This recent judgment from the European Court of Human Rights arises from the 2012 transfer from Hungary to Azerbaijan of prisoner Ramil Safarov, a member of the Azerbaijani army, following his conviction in Hungary for the murder of an Armenian officer in 2004. In particular, the Court considered Article 2 ECHR (the right to life) in the context of (a) when a state can be held responsible for the actions of an individual carried out in a private capacity, and (b) the obligations on a state who transfers a prisoner to see out their sentence in their home state.

RS’s crimes, transfer and release

In February 2004, Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov (RS) murdered Gurgen Margaryan (GM), one of two Armenian participants in a NATO-sponsored English language programme in Hungary, by decapitating him with an axe while he lay asleep. RS then tried to break down the door of the other Armenian participant, Hayk Makuchyan (HM), allegedly yelling, “Open the door, you Armenian! We will cut the throats of all of you!”, before he was stopped by the Hungarian police.

RS was tried and sentenced in Hungary to life imprisonment, with a possibility of conditional release after 30 years. During the criminal investigation in Hungary, RS gave evidence that he strongly disliked Armenians because he had lost relatives in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between the two countries, and that on several occasions during the programme GM and HM had provoked him and mocked both him and the Azerbaijani flag.


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EU border transit zones and deprivation of liberty: Ilias v Hungary

19 March 2020 by

Amid recent news reports of Turkey’s re-opening of migration routes to Europe, clashes at the Turkey-Greece border, and EU countries closing their borders due to Covid-19, this post looks back to a decision from the ECtHR Grand Chamber last November and the applicability of Article 5 ECHR in temporary border transit zones. 

Ilias v Hungary (Application no. 47287/15) was the first case in which the ECtHR considered a land border transit zone between two member states of the Council of Europe, where the host state, Hungary, was also a member of the EU and had applied the safe third country rule under the EU asylum regime. The Grand Chamber held that the applicants’ detention did not breach Article 5 (the right to liberty and security of the person).

Image credit: The Guardian

The applicants, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed, were both Bangladeshi nationals who had left Bangladesh at different times and in differing circumstances. They met in Greece and then traveled together to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, then to Serbia, and then to Hungary. On 15 September 2015 they arrived in Hungary and entered the border transit zone at Röszke. They submitted asylum requests on the same day. Within several hours their requests were rejected as being inadmissible and they were ordered to be expelled from Hungary back to Serbia as a safe third country. The applicants then spent 23 days in the transit zone whilst they appealed this decision. On 8 October 2015, following a final decision of the Hungarian courts which rejected their applications for asylum and ordered the applicants’ expulsion, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed were escorted out of the transit zone and crossed the border back into Serbia.


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Holocaust denial in a parliamentary speech: criminal conviction not a breach of Article 10

11 October 2019 by

Pastörs -v- Germany (Case no. 55225/14))

On 3 October 2019 the European Court of Human Rights dismissed an application by former NDP leader Udo Pastörs that his criminal conviction in Germany for making a “qualified Auschwitz denial” in a parliamentary speech infringed his right to freedom of speech under Article 10 ECHR. The Court held that, although interferences over statements made in parliament must be closely scrutinised, they deserve little, if any, protection if their content is at odds with the democratic values of the ECHR system.

Previous Holocaust denial cases before the European Court have arisen from statements made in various media, including a book (Garaudy -v- France (dec.), no. 65831/01, 24 June 2003), a TV show (Williamson -v- Germany, no. 64496/17, 8 January 2019) and even as part of a comedy routine (M’Bala M’Bala -v- France, no. 25239/13, 20 October 2015). This time the Court was called upon to consider statements made in a parliamentary context. The case involves ultra-right wing nationalist politics, parliamentary immunity from prosecution, the parliament’s ability to self-regulate that immunity, and the courts as final arbiters of such disputes. Although the statements concerned were made back in 2010, 9 years later the case still feels very topical.


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