Laura Profumo considers the latest human rights headlines.
In the News
The High Court in Belfast today ruled that abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHCR) brought the case to extend abortion to cases of serious foetal malformation, rape and incest.
The Abortion Act 1967 does not extend to Northern Ireland: abortion is only allowed there if a woman’s life is at risk, or if there is a permanent risk to her mental or physical health. In this judicial review, it was held that the grounds for abortion should be extended, though it is still to be determined whether new legislation will be required to give effect to the ruling.
Does the current jurisprudence on Article 1 of the ECHR create potential human rights problems in the Syrian conflict?
Reports of two British citizens killed by RAF drone strikes in Syria last week have thrown up a whole host of ethical and legal questions. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has already suggested the decision to launch the attack could be “legally reviewed or challenged”, while Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has made clear that the UK would not hesitate to launch such attacks in the future.
This post assesses the (European) human rights dimension of these targeted drone strikes, particularly in the wake of Al-Saadoon & Ors v Secretary of State for Defence  EWHC 715 (Admin). I must express gratitude to Dr Marko Milanovic, whose lectures at the Helsinki Summer Seminar and excellent posts on EJIL: Talk! greatly informed this post. Any mistakes are, of course, my own. Continue reading
London Borough Tower of Hamlets v B  EWHC 2491 (Fam) 21 August 2015 – read judgment
When a judge waxes lyrical about a child, garlanded with starred GCSEs, their intelligence, their medical school ambitions, you wonder what is coming. It’s the judicial equivalent of those blurred reproductions in the press of murder victims’ graduate portraits. In this case, a sixteen year old girl “B”, the subject of a careful but nevertheless alarming judgment in the Family Division, turned out to be one of the many girls groomed by their family for exodus to Syria; all of whom appear to be:
intelligent young girls, highly motivated academically, each of whom has, to some and greatly varying degrees, been either radicalised or exposed to extreme ideology promulgated by those subscribing to the values of the self-styled Islamic State.
B herself seemed unoppressed by the situation she was in and indeed wrote to the judge in those terms. She and her family refused to give evidence and sat impassively whilst Heydon J gave judgment.
They have betrayed no emotion; they have been impassive and inscrutable as I have faced the challenge of deciding whether their family should be fragmented and their children removed. Their self discipline is striking. They have listened carefully. The mother has taken careful notes. They have revealed nothing in their responses.
These cases differ from the common run of family abuse cases in that these young women, in the judge’s words, have “boundless opportunities, comfortable homes and carers who undoubtedly love them”. But they have been seduced by a belief that travelling to Syria to become what is known as ‘Jihadi brides’ is somehow romantic and honourable both to them and to their families. Continue reading
News of the deaths of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik and the serious injuries of photographer Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier, a freelance journalist reporting for Le Figaro, from a mortar shell that hit the building in Homs, Syria that they were using as makeshift media centre has saddened and shocked reporters and readers. So does a sobering list of more than fifteen of their professional colleagues who have also died reporting the Arab Spring. Worse still are reports that the journalists may have been deliberately targeted by the Syrian government forces. It is a reminder that journalists are offered too little protection by international law.
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: