The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched the Human Rights and Democracy- The 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, which aims to provide “a comprehensive look at the human rights work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) around the world in 2011“. The report makes for essential reading for anyone with an interest in human rights at the global level.
The report contains a section devoted to the Arab Spring, which it describes as being “about citizens demanding their legitimate human rights and dignity” and having “no single cause“. The report also comments on the role of human rights protection in safeguarding Britain’s national security and promoting Britain’s prosperity.
yes, indeed, and from today’s perspective, there is no obvious way through that impasse;
(ii) carbon emissions cannot possibly be stalled or reversed until our politicians recognise that continued economic growth is inconsistent with a long-term climate change strategy;
many would agree that we can spend a bit of time deck-chair re-arranging or limiting increases in emissions, but the time will come when the world economies have to stop growing;
(iii) if that direction is not going to come from our politicians, then
those political processes are clearly not fit for purpose.
Does this mean that democracy has failed, and must be sacrificed for authoritarian solutions? The solution may in fact be the polar opposite. A system where failing governance procedures are forced to think long-term does not necessarily require anti-democratic “climate tzars”. Instead, this revolution can be hyper-democratic and guided by human rights.
Climate change represents an enormous threat to a whole host of human rights: the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to development. There is therefore huge scope for human rights courts and non-judicial human rights bodies to treat climate change as the immediate threat to human rights that it is. Such bodies could therefore take government policy to task when it is too short-sighted, too unambitious, or too narrowly focused on its own constituents at the expense of those elsewhere. Fossil fuel mining, deforestation, the disturbance of carbon sinks, and the degradation of the oceans are developments that can be blocked on human rights grounds.
It has been a week of victories for the UK government in deportation cases in the European Court of Human Rights. On the same day as the ECtHR found that Abu Hamza and four others could be extradited to the US on terrorism charges, it also rejected a case of a man facing deportation despite having lived in the UK since the age of three.
The applicant, born in 1986, had a number of criminal convictions. The Court accepted that he had been in the UK since the age of three, although he had only acquired indefinite leave to remain in December 2003. In 2007 he pleaded guilty to possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply. He was jailed for three years and later in 2007, he was given notice that the Secretary of State intended to have him deported to Nigeria, as he is a Nigerian national.
R (o.t.a Guardian Newspapers) v. City of Westminster Magistrates Court, USA as Interested Party, 3 April 2012, Court of Appeal: read judgment
No, not a case about secret trials, but about the way in which newspapers can get hold of court papers in open oral hearings. And, as we shall see, it led to a ringing endorsement of the principle of open justice from the Court of Appeal, leading to production of the documents to the Guardian.
Bribery allegations against a London solicitor and a former executive of a Halliburton company, and extradition sought by the USA and keenly challenged by the defendants. Some lack of clarity as to why the Serious Fraud Office was not prosecuting the defendants. All in all, a tasty morsel for the Guardian to get its teeth into. It was allowed into the hearing, but then not allowed critical documents provided to the courts, including the written arguments submitted by the USA and the defendants, affidavits supporting the extradition, and various other letters and documents put before the court.
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber, has found that five men accused of serious terrorist activities can be extradited from the UK to the US to face trial.
They had argued that their article 3 rights (article 3 prohibits torture, inhuman and degrading treatment) would be violated if they were extradited and convicted. A sixth man’s case has been adjourned pending further submissions from the parties to the proceedings.
A long saga with a very new twist which should make even the most strident critic of international courts think again.
On 12 December 1999, the Erika sank some 60 nautical miles off the Brittany coast, spilling some 20,000 tonnes of heavy fuel which in due course polluted some 400 km of the French coastline. On 24 May 2012, the Cour de Cassation is due to rule on whether Total is criminally liable for the spill. Previous courts (the Criminal Court of First Instance, and the Court of Appeal in Paris) had said that it was. But now Advocate-General Boccon-Gibod has recently advised the Cour de Cassation that Total has no criminal liability. The problem, as often with international environmental issues, particularly criminal ones, is the jurisdiction for the offence charged – can, in this instance, the French prosecute this crime, even though someone can also do so somewhere else? What better reason for the founding of an international environmental court – a forum where one tribunal can seek to enforce common rules against those responsible for major pollution, wherever the pollution occurs and wherever the parties may be resident.
JD (Congo) and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Public Law Project  EWCA Civ 327
The Court of Appeal has considered the test for granting permission at the second stage of appeal in immigration cases, when someone wishes to appeal from the Upper Tribunal to the Court of Appeal. The test requires showing that:
“(a) the proposed appeal would raise some important point of principle or practice; or (b) there is some other compelling reason for the [Court of Appeal] to hear the appeal.”
But these test cases were of special interest, because they involved situations where the appellant has succeeded before the First-Tier tribunal but failed in the UT after the Secretary of State’s appeal succeeded, or where the appellant was unsuccessful at both levels, but the FTT had made a material error of law and the UT made the decision afresh. Previous authority showed no clear approach in these circumstances. The Court stressed that the test for permission at the second stage of appeal is higher than the first stage test. Continue reading →
Cases T-439/10 and T-440/10, Fulmen & Mahmoudian v. Council of the European Union, read judgment
Fulmen, as many of you will know, means thunderbolt in Latin. So it must have seemed when this Iranian company had its assets frozen. This case is a good example of how general principles of European law were applied to annul measures taken against these Iranian applicants. The measures were part of EU policy to apply pressure on Iran to end nuclear proliferation. Fulmen was said to have supplied electrical equipment on the Qom/Fordoo nuclear site and Mr Mahmoudian is a director of Fulmen. Hence they were both listed in Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP. The upshot was that all of their assets were frozen by the EU.
This is the third in a series of posts analysing the UK’s draft “Brighton Declaration” on European Court of Human Rights reform.
Although not a “supreme law bill of rights”, the Human Rights Act 1998 is a significant constraint upon the political-legislative process. In this post, I argue that the extent of that constraint would likely diminish were the draft Brighton Declaration implemented in its present form.
At present, the Human Rights Act (HRA) serves two distinctive and important “bridging functions”. On the horizontal (national) plane, it operates as an interface between legal and political notions of constitutionalism: although the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty is formally undisturbed, the HRA reduces the political scope for legislative interference with rights by making the ECHR a benchmark by reference to which legislation falls to be judicially assessed – and condemned, via a declaration of incompatibility, if found wanting.
It is testament to the eagerness with which these reforms are awaited—and the weaknesses which have been detected—that the Open Society Justice Initiative has launched a petition against the direction these proposals are taking.
This is the first in a series of posts analysing the UK’s draft “Brighton Declaration” on European Court of Human Rights reform.
Much of the criticism directed toward the European Court of Human Rights over the last year or so, in this country at least, has been that it is too ready to overrule decisions made by the competent United Kingdom national authorities. It is said that British courts have already addressed the relevant human rights arguments under the Human Rights Act, so it is quite wrong that Strasbourg should now ‘overrule’ them.
Why should we bother with the European Convention on Human Rights? Many of those that would never contemplate leaving the ECHR still question whether we should abide by controversial decisions such as those on prisoners’ voting rights or deportation. UCL’s Professor Richard Bellamy attempted to answer this question at the Statute Law Society’s talk on Monday evening. He said that the UK should abide by the ECHR, which gains its legitimacy by being the best way for democratic states regulate their relationships and protect their citizens’ rights.
The talk was entitled ‘The Democratic Legitimacy of International Human Rights Conventions’ (IHRCs). Although perhaps not in such terms, this is a topic that exercises many every week: from those questioning who exactly decides which human rights are the ones that count, to those asking why ‘unelected judges’ in Europe can tell a democracy how to govern itself. Professor Bellamy started by noting that mature democracies are generally less keen on IHRCs; at the post-war inception of the ECHR, he said it was Germany and Italy showing most enthusiasm. Even now, many ‘democratising’ countries show less opposition to Europe’s human rights structures.
Hirsi Jamaar and Others v. Italy (Application no. 27765/09) – Read judgment
The European Court of Human Rights has held that a group of Somalian and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya fell within the jurisdiction of Italy for the purposes of Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights . The return involved a violation of Article 3 (Anti-torture and inhumane treatment), Article 4 of Protocol 4 (collective expulsion of aliens), and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). The patrols that returned migrants to Libya were in breach of the non-refoulement principle.
The applicants were eleven Somalian nationals and thirteen Eritrean nationals who were part of a group of two hundred migrants who left Libya in order to reach the Italian coast. On 6th May 2009 Italian ships intercepted them 35 miles south of Lampedusa and returned them to Triploi, in Libya. During the voyage the migrants were not told where they were going (they assumed they were being taken to Italy), nor were they identified.
It is clear from the many tributes to her that Ms Colvin was an extraordinary person: a woman of verve, replete with humanity, she was fearless in the face of carefully assessed and weighed risk. In 2001 after losing an eye in a grenade attack by a Sri Lankan government soldier whilst reporting on the Tamil Tigers, she wrote:
Stott v Thomas Cook Operators and British Airways Plc  EWCA Civ 66 – read judgment
If you need reminding of what it feels like when the candy-floss of human rights is abruptly snatched away, take a flight. Full body scanners and other security checks are nothing to the array of potential outrages awaiting passengers boarding an aircraft. Air passengers in general surrender their rights at the point of ticket purchase.
The Warsaw Convention casts its long shadow. It was signed between two world wars, at the dawn of commercial aviation, when international agreement had to be secured at all costs. These strong interests survived the negotiation of the 1999 Montreal Convention, now part of EU law as the Montreal Regulation.
Yet so powerful is the desire to travel, and so beleaguered it is now with the threat of spiralling aviation fuel prices and environmental taxes, that we are happier to surrender our freedoms at airports than we are anywhere else – hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, schools, and even on the public highways.
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