Weekend readings I

DSC_6833Today, Esohap is introducing a new weekly section with recommendations for weekend human rights – related readings in several languages. Here is the first selection :

Tom Popper,  Communism is dead, but its spirit lives, Budapest Business Journal, 14 November 2014.

Ondrej Ditrych, Remembering Havel’s dream, EU Observer, 17 November 2014.

Václav Havel, Out of unity, discord, Index on Censorship, 1994 23: 59.

Matt Trevithick, Daniel Seckman, Heart of Darkness: Into Afghanistan’s Taliban Valley, Daily Beast, 15 November 2014.

Joaquin Villalobos, La paz: cerca de La Habana, lejos de Bogotá, El Pais, 20 November 2014.

Tamara Griessar Pečar, Kjer je zid, vztrajajmo, da pade, Časnik, 20 November 2014.

Rick Lyman, Oligarchs of Eastern Europe Scoop Up Stakes in Media Companies, New York Times, 26 November 2014.

Marko Milanović, The Bottom Line of Jaloud, EJIL: Talk, 26 November 2014.

Jernej Letnar Černič, V iskanju Evrope, Ius Info, 28 November 2014.

Jean Monnet Forum on fair trial guarantees in Slovenia


Interesting discussion on fair trial guarantees in Slovenia took place on 25 November 2014 at the Jean Monnet Academic Forum of the Graduate School of Government and European Studies in Kranj with two excellent lawyers : Marko Šorli, judge at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, and Ivan Kukar, attorney at law.

Call for papers “25 Years After Transformation”

Masaryk University has published a call for papers for conference on “25 Years after the Transformation: Law and Legal Culture in Central and Eastern Europe Between Continuity and Discontinuity” to take place 16-17 April in Brno, Czech Republic. The abstract deadline is 31 December 2014.

Fundamental Rights and Migration to the EU – From Rhetoric to Action ?

20141110_143731The Annual Fundamental Rights Conference of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights took place last week in Rome. This year’s conference focused on Fundamental Rights and Migration to the EU. The Annual Conference has again opened and highlighted problems of the ineffective national frameworks for the protections of rights of migrants to the EU. Laura Boldrini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, for instance, noted that »politics has immense responsibility« and argued for »stronger European instruments« to prevent deaths in the Mediterranean. Smaller Eastern and Southern European states are faced with immense burden due to high influx of migrants, whereas the current EU of framework for refugee protections is almost non-existent or to say at least non-efficient. However, it is feared that words will be left again without accompanying actions. Lot of urges and calls have been heard. However, not much is expected to change as politicians, particularly from the Northern European States, have to fulfill wishes of their electorate. The FRA Director, Morten Kjaerum, therefore, observed that »no other topic more important in human rights protection in EU«. He argued that »we cannot ask small states and regions to take large burden« and that »common reception centers and more effective system of relocation could be established across EU”. A move from rhetoric to action is desperately required to prevent further deaths in the Mediterranean.

Strasbourg condemns Spain for the lack of effective investigations into alleged ill-treatment of individuals during incommunicado detention

DSC00907Third Section of the European Court of Human Rights has recently rendered its judgment in the case of Etxebarria Caballero v Spain (74016/12, 7 October 2014, see also similar case of Ataun Rojo v. Spain (no. 3344/13) concerning the lack of effective investigations into alleged ill-treatment during incommunicado detention. The applicant, a terrorist suspect,  was in March 2011 incommunicado detained in Bilbao for 5 days without having access to a lawyer and without being able to inform relatives about her location. She also stated that she was subjected to ill-treatment (abuse, threats and humiliation) during her incommunicado detention. The Court found that the Spanish authorities procedurally violated Article 3 ECHR as they did not provide thorough and effective investigation into the allegations of the applicant. More specifically, the Court noted that :

48. La Cour insiste par ailleurs sur l’importance d’adopter les mesures recommandées par le CPT pour améliorer la qualité de l’examen médicolégal des personnes soumises à la détention au secret (paragraphe 28 et suivants ci-dessus et Otamendi, précité, § 41). Elle estime que la situation de vulnérabilité particulière des personnes détenues au secret commande que soient imposées par le code de procédure pénale des mesures de surveillance juridictionnelle appropriées et que celles-ci soient rigoureusement appliquées, afin que les abus soient évités et que l’intégrité physique des détenus soit protégée (paragraphe 30 ci-dessus). La Cour souscrit aux recommandations du CPT, reprises par le Commissaire aux droits de l’homme du Conseil de l’Europe dans son rapport du 9 octobre 2013 (paragraphe 32 ci-dessus), ainsi qu’aux observations du tiers intervenant (paragraphe 42 ci-dessus) concernant aussi bien les garanties à assurer en pareil cas que le principe même, en Espagne, de la possibilité de garder une personne au secret.
49. En conclusion, eu égard à l’absence d’enquête approfondie et effective au sujet des allégations défendables de la requérante (Martinez Sala et autres c. Espagne, no 58438/00, § 156-160, 2 novembre 2004), selon lesquelles elle avait subi des mauvais traitements au cours de sa garde à vue, la Cour estime qu’il y a eu violation de l’article 3 de la Convention dans son volet procédural.

However, the Court was not able to find a substantive violation of Article 3 due to the lack of evidence that the abuse of the applicant during her incommunicado detention reached a minimum level of severity. However, it recognized difficulties in producing evidence of such alleged conduct by the state authorities during incommunicado detention. More specifically, it noted that :

57. La Cour est consciente des difficultés qu’un détenu peut rencontrer pour produire des preuves des mauvais traitements subis pendant qu’il était en détention au secret et notamment lorsqu’il s’agit d’allégations d’actes de mauvais traitements ne laissant pas de traces, comme ceux dénoncés par la requérante dans sa requête. Cependant, en raison de l’absence d’éléments probatoires suffisants résultant notamment de l’insuffisance de l’enquête menée, la Cour ne s’estime pas en mesure d’affirmer avec le degré de certitude voulu par sa propre jurisprudence que la requérante a été soumise, lors de son arrestation et de sa détention, aux mauvais traitements allégués.

This case illustrates the dilemma encountered by states in reconciling two conflicting values in contemporary democratic societies. This is whether the prevention of terrorism and the protection of national security may undermine the protection of fundamental human rights, and whether the protection of fundamental human rights may impede the suppression of terrorism and the protection of national security. This case derives from the specific situation in the Basque country and in Spain. As it is historically known, the Basque customs and language were totally oppressed during the totalitarian fascist regime, which partly influenced the emergence of an embryonic armed guerrilla resistance, still continuing today under the auspices of the military terrorist group ETA, which the European Union now includes on its list of persons, groups and entities supporting terrorism. After Franco passed away in 1975, the Basque country was granted broad autonomy, with its own parliament, autonomous government and the delegation of powers in the most important areas, with the exceptions of the areas of foreign policy, defence and justice.

The former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, noted in his 2008 report on Spain that “the violence perpetrated by ETA has taken more than 820 lives since 1968” (para. 47).  However, the Spanish government has adopted counter-terrorism policies to combat radical pro-independence groups. Unfortunately, as this case and other cases and reports illustrate, the Spanish authorities have not paid any significant attention to their obligations under the ECHR and have preferred to give priority to national security considerations. In other words, that national security was given the trump card over the protection of the freedoms of expression and association. Such conduct has led led to the long-term polarization of Basque society between pro-independence and contra-independence political parties and the polarization of Spanish society between the left and the right. The Court has in this cases and others urged Spanish authorities to in the future strike a better balance by assessing the real level of threat to the democratic order and the human rights protection during police detention. It remains to be seen if they will do so.

2014 LegArg Conference Program

We have previously noted  the call for papers for the 2014 Legal Theory and Legal Philosophy Conference on “Legal and Philosophical Challenges of Transnational Law« to take place between 21-22 November 2014 at Bled. Organizers have now published conference program.