Published: 23 Oct 2020
EHRAC’s Latest Bulletin (October 2020)
Since our last update, we have won 15 cases at the European Court of Human Rights, relating to: LGBT+ rights and discrimination in Georgia, the persecution of human rights defenders and other critical voices in Azerbaijan, protest rights in Russia, the failure of Russia’s anti-extremism legislation to safeguard freedom of expression, and enforced disappearances in the North Caucasus.
We are continuing our capacity building work and involving our regional partners remotely. Last month, we were thrilled to host eight female litigators, from Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Armenia, for an online expert roundtable focusing on the challenges of litigating self-defence in contexts of domestic violence.
We were also delighted to win Project of the Year in 2020’s Middlesex University’s Staff Awards for our innovative collaboration with digital investigations agency Forensic Architecture (which you can read about here).
We also welcomed our new Lawyer, Toby Collis, and our Temporary Programme Assistant, Anna Wilczynska, to the EHRAC team.
In this issue:
LGBT+ rights and discrimination in Georgia
The European Court of Human Rights found that police ill-treated NGO staff and members of the LGBT+ community during a homophobic raid carried out on Georgia’s first ever LGBT+ organisation in 2009. The Court also ruled that the Georgian authorities’ investigation into the incident was ineffective and discriminatory. The judgment marks a significant victory for LGBT+ rights in Georgia. It received English-language media coverage in Thomson Reuters Foundation, OC Media, and Emerging Europe.
One of our applicants has been granted refugee status in Belgium on the basis of the discrimination that he suffered in Georgia. Together with the Tbilisi-based Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), we represent the applicant, a transgender man, in a case that is awaiting judgment concerning the Georgian authorities’ refusal to grant him legal gender recognition.
Defending human rights defenders and other critical voices in Azerbaijan
In delivering its judgment in June, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Azerbaijan to ensure the “maximum possible reparation” for Khalid Bagirov, a prominent human rights lawyer who was permanently disbarred in 2015 for criticising Azerbaijan’s judicial system.
The Court found Bagirov’s disbarment and earlier suspension to be in breach of his freedom of expression and right to a private life.
Investigative journalist Idrak Abbasov’s case threw a spotlight on Azerbaijan’s human rights record just weeks before Baku hosted the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. He was brutally beaten by state-oil company SOCAR security guards as police stood by and did nothing at a 2012 protest action against forced evictions.
The Court found Azerbaijan responsible for his ill-treatment, and for violating his freedom of expression.
Together with Amnesty International, we have urged the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to call upon the Government of Azerbaijan to end the restrictive situation for human rights defenders in the country, as part of its obligations to comply with legally-binding judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
We recently participated in a European Implementation Network (EIN) briefing given to the Committee of Ministers about the Ilgar Mammadov group of cases—a set of judgments issued against Azerbaijan relating to criminal proceedings against an opposition politician, civil society activists, and human rights defenders. EHRAC’s Director Philip Leach presented to the delegation of diplomats and took part in a Q&A via video link.
Russian anti-extremist law gave prosecutors “unfettered power” to sanction Novorossiysk human rights defenders
The European Court of Human Rights found that Russia’s anti-extremist legislation failed to safeguard the free expression of Novorossiysk human rights defender Vadim Karastelev (pictured above) and his late wife Tamara who were sanctioned following a public protest in 2009.
The Court ruled that the domestic legislation was “formulated in broad terms” and left “too wide discretion” to the prosecutor—amounting to “unfettered power”—and was therefore in violation of the protestors’ right to freedom of expression.
European Court of Human Rights finds Russia responsible for disappearance and presumed death of Ingush woman
30-year-old Zalina Yelkhoroyeva was snatched by armed men near a checkpoint between Ingushetia and North Ossetia in Russia’s North Caucasus region in 2010.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Russia responsible for her disappearance and presumed death, and that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective criminal investigation into her abduction.
EHRAC and Human Rights Watch intervene in Chechnya LGBT+ crackdown case
We filed a joint third-party intervention with Human Rights Watch (HRW) arguing that a case concerning the alleged abduction and torture of a gay man during a crackdown on LGBT+ people should be considered within the context of the “persistent and systemic failure by Russian authorities to conduct effective investigations in Chechnya” as required by the European Convention on Human Rights.
EHRAC Witness Statement Guide now available in FOUR languages
In A legal saga: ‘Mr. N.’s’ journey from the psychiatric hospital to community living via Bucharest and Strasbourg EHRAC Lawyer Constantin Cojocariu tells the story of how a psychiatric patient’s legal battle exposed serious failings within Romania’s forensic psychiatry system.
In The UK’s Global Human Rights Sanctions regime – Regulations with bite, or a toothless tiger? EHRAC Lawyer Toby Collis assesses the scope and potential of the UK’s new global human rights sanctions regime.
We highlight cases which are thematically or geographically relevant to lawyers litigating cases from the former Soviet Union, raise novel legal issues, or set new legal precedents.
EHRAC in the Media:
EHRAC Legal Consultant Ramute Remezaite spoke to OC Media’s Editor-in-Chief about the Court’s granting of an interim measure in the case of Armenia v Azerbaijan, which was prompted by the renewed outbreak of hostilities in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.