Published: 30 Mar 2020
EHRAC Winter Bulletin
We have had another busy and productive few months! We have won 5 cases on behalf of 7 applicants concerning: a Georgian politician’s unfair trial, an alleged suicide in the Russian armed forces, the torture of detainees in Russia’s prison system, and enforced disappearances in Russia’s North Caucasus. In addition, we lodged 4 new applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), including: a forced citizenship case in Crimea, a case in which an applicant was banned from entering the Crimean peninsula, a freedom of expression case in Russia, and an application (which has already been communicated by the Court!) submitted on behalf of a transgender man in Georgia who has been denied legal gender recognition.
Unusually for EHRAC, we have intervened in three significant ECtHR cases in recent months, having identified strategic legal issues on which we are able to push the Court to extend its application of the Convention. These cases concern: the categorisation of extra-territorial jurisdiction as applicable in two Nagorno-Karabakh conflict cases; that politically-motivated proceedings should include the trial itself through the application of Article 6 with Article 18 in the case of prominent Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny; and that rape legislation must be consent-based and that the authorities’ response to rape should be examined for discrimination under Article 14 in a Russian case concerning marital rape in a context of domestic violence.
We have intensified our implementation work on Azerbaijan in response to further disbarments of human rights lawyers and the consequent undermining of judicial accountability in the country. We jointly filed a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, with three other NGOs, informing him of the continuing attacks on the independent work of lawyers in Azerbaijan, and also signed a joint NGO statement sent to the Azerbaijani Bar Association (ABA) expressing concern over the initiation of disciplinary measures by the ABA against human rights lawyers Nemat Kerimli and Elchin Sadigov. We have also updated the Committee of Ministers and Court on the situation of two prominent human rights defenders, Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev, who were respectively barred from standing in Azerbaijan’s upcoming 2020 elections on the basis of an unfair conviction, and the subject of a second travel ban.
In November, we welcomed nine lawyers from Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine to participate in an expert roundtable on litigating sexual violence against women. The roundtable was convened in order to provide an opportunity for women litigators from across the region to identify and discuss the problems and gaps in existing sexual violence criminal legislation within our target region. As a result of these discussions, we were also able to prepare a joint third-party intervention with the Equal Rights Trust and Equality in T.V. v Russia on the definition and interpretation of rape and its investigation. In December, we welcomed two of our partner lawyers – Tatiana Glushkova and Marina Agaltsova – from HRC Memorial to our offices.
We are also continuing the pursuit of humanitarian resolution in our enforced disappearance cases, in which we have had successful judgments by the ECtHR, and have sent twelve of these cases to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (‘WGEID’).
We are delighted to introduce four new members of our team: our new Development Officer, Lucy MacEwan; our new Programme Assistant, Chloe Tennant; and our new Lawyer, Margarita Ilieva.
We would like to thank, as always, those who support and work with us, including by contributing to our Blog and case summaries. We hope that you find this Bulletin an interesting read and a valuable resource.
EHRAC Case News
- European Court finds Russia responsible for the torture of prison detainees
- Russia responsible for the disappearances and presumed deaths of twenty people, European Court rules
- Young Russian conscript who died in alleged suicide after savage beating by fellow servicemen was subjected to degrading treatment and the investigation into his death was botched, European Court rules
- Manipulated phone recording causes Georgian politician’s unfair trial
Our ongoing litigation included:
- EHRAC and partners urge European Court to examine discrimination inherent in Russia’s handling of sexual violence complaints
- EHRAC intervenes in Navalnyy case at European Court – “Politically-motivated proceedings should apply to the totality of the criminal justice process”
- Azerbaijan fails to execute European Court judgment as human rights defender is prevented from standing in 2020 parliamentary elections
- EHRAC and Yale Law School submit third-party intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh right to life cases
- EHRAC urges UN Special Rapporteur to act over disbarred Azerbaijani lawyers in joint-submission with three NGOs
- Georgian transgender man denied legal gender recognition lodges application at European Court of Human Rights
- Family of Georgian man murdered by Abkhazia border guard reiterate Russia’s responsibility for his death
ARTICLE 19 and SOVA Center’s new report examines Russia’s problematic implementation of ‘extremism’ related legislation and its failure to comply with international freedom of expression standards.
HRC Memorial lawyer Marina Agaltsova explains how Russia’s new law on “Foreign Agents”, which now also applies to individuals, leaves endless room for interpretation.
EHRAC Legal Director Jessica Gavron raises important questions about the European Court’s controversial ‘friendly settlement’ process. Does it ensure respect for human rights in practice?
Professor Aisha K. Gill, Professor of Criminology at the University of Roehampton, interrogates the structures and ideologies that underpin ‘honour-based violence’ as a form of gender-based violence.
Case summaries: Recent European Court Judgments (non-EHRAC)
- Pastörs v Germany. Criminal conviction for Holocaust denial in parliamentary speech was not in breach of freedom of expression.
- Polyakh & others v Ukraine. Five career civil servants dismissed under Ukraine’s Government Cleansing (Lustration) Act 2014 had their right to private and family life breached.
- J.D. & A v UK. European Court rules that UK’s bedroom tax breached the rights of two applicants.
- Magnitsky & others v Russia. Russia was responsible for the 2009 death of jailed whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, whose case inspired new laws introducing sanctions mechanisms in the US, UK, Canada, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Useful resources for human rights defenders
The European Court of Human Rights deals with the majority of cases on paper without holding an oral hearing. Written witness statements are therefore the most important way of presenting the evidence of victims, or other persons, to the Court. This updated booklet produced by EHRAC in English is a practical guide to preparing detailed witness statements.
We are representing several Azerbaijani human rights lawyers in European Court cases challenging their disbarment and harassment by the authorities. As part of this growing body of litigation, we recently compiled a comprehensive list featuring those who have faced sanctions as a result of their human rights work.
The list has been updated to include the recent suspension and pending disbarment of Shahla Humbatova.