European Rights Watch

EHCR Condemns Greece for Inhumane Treatment of Underage Migrants

By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch News, Europe

PARIS, France – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Greece for their treatment of children refugees in a series of cases dating back as early as 2016.

Unaccompanied minors awaiting processing at detainment center in central Greece. Photo courtesy of Socrates Baltagiannis Photo

In its February 28th decision, the ECHR’s judgment ordered Greece to pay a total of €4,000 to each of nine migrants who were between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time of their detainment. Six of the individuals were from Syria, two were from Iraq, and one was from Morocco.

Investigation discovered the police and border cells that underage migrants and refugees were being held in post-arrival were entirely unsustainable and isolated living conditions, particularly for the period of time they were held there which ranged from 21 to 33 days.

Complainants alleged that while in this period of “protective custody,” they were subjected to overcrowding within cells, a lack of heating, adequate ventilation or lighting, poor food quality, no outside time, and having to sleep on the floor. There was additionally little to no medical care. The migrants were later transferred to the Diavata refugee camp, and later to separate special facilities for minors.

The ECHR determined that given the length of the holding period, the conditions were degrading and constituted unlawful detention.

In its judgment of this matter: H.A. and Others v. Greece, the ECHR unanimously held Greece liable for violations of: 1) Article 3 prohibition on inhumane or degrading treatment; 2) Article 13 ensuring a right to effective remedy for Article 3 violations; and 3) Articles 5 §§ 1 and 3 ensuring a right to liberty and security / a right to speedy decision on the lawfulness of a detention measure.

The complainants also sought remedy on allegations the Diavata camp was similarly uninhabitable. However, the Court concluded the living conditions at the camp had not exceeded the threshold of seriousness necessary for being actionable under Article 3.

The court gave significant deference to a statement from the National Service of Social Solidarity (“EKKA”), a European committee against the torture and detainment of unaccompanied minors. The statement was in regards for living conditions for minority aged refugees: “holding minors for several days or weeks without providing adequate psychological or social assistance was unacceptable and an actionable deprivation of liberty protected under Article 5 § 1.

In rendering this judgment, the court’s reasoning parallels to its 2012 decision in which it condemned Italy for breaching fundamental human rights when the country’s coastguards intercepted Eritrean and Somali migrant vessels and mandated their recourse. This decision communicated that the facets of the European Convention are expected to be applied in the realm of migration control and treatment.

For more information, please visit:

The National Herald- ECHR Orders Greece’s Payment of Judgment to Migrants- March 1, 2019.

INFOMigrants- ECHR Slams Greece & France for its Treatment of Migrant Children- March 1, 2019.

DPA International- France & Greece Condemned For Treatment of Minor Refugees- February 28, 2019.

The Globe Post- Migrant Containment at All Costs- What is Left of European Humanity?- Feb. 14, 2019.

EHCR Rejects Said Mansour’s Request to Block Denmark Deportation

By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch News Reporter

RABAT, MOROCCO- The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously rejected Moroccan Said Mansour’s appeal against being deported from Denmark for his terror-related convictions in fear of being subjected to torture.

 

Said Mansour prior to his deportation from Denmark. Photo courtesy of Carl Redhead

A court in Denmark had previously convicted Mansour in July of 2015 on charges related to the editing and publishing of three books and multiple Facebook posts considered to be terrorist propaganda.

The works were written and distributed by Mansour for the purposes of praising Osama Bin Laden and encouraging readers and followers to join an al-Queada affiliate in Syria known as the al-Nursa Front. Mansour was sentenced to four years in prison and had his Denmark citizenship revoked.

Additionally, the Moroccan ambassador to Denmark has previously stated Mansour is suspected for his alleged involvement in a 2003 terror attack that claimed the lives of 42 people in Casablanca. Since his release from prison, he was deported to Morocco on January 4th.

Mansour’s appeal to the ECHR was premised on Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which he alleged his deportation would directly conflict with.

Article 3 prohibits anyone from being subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment of punishment. Mansour argued that he would be in danger in the north African country, due to his publicized criticisms of its king and the government.

The ECHR rejected this claim unanimously, relying  on international reports that the human rights situation in Morocco has generally improved over several years, and that the authorities have been working to improve and increase compliance with internationally mandated human rights standards.

For more information, please see:

The Local Denmark- European Court of Human Rights Upholds Danish Deportation of Former Citizen Who Incited Terror. February 14, 2019. 

Morocco World News- ECHR Rejects Said Mansour’s Request Against Deportation. February 15, 2019.

Yaabiladi English- European Court of Human Rights Endorses Mansour’s Deportation. February 15, 2019.

European Human Rights Court Orders Italy to Pay Damages to Amanda Knox

By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Italy to pay $20,000 in damages to Amanda Knox, an American student studying abroad who spent four years in an Italian prison before being acquitted for the 2007 murder of her then-roommate, Meredith Kercher.

 

Amanda Knox during the the 2009 trial. Photo courtesy of AP News P.P Cito.

A seven-judge panel of the ECHR concluded Italy was at fault for failing to provide Knox a lawyer during the initial police interrogation beginning on November 1, 2007. The court specifically referenced Knox’s vulnerability at that time as a foreign young woman, very new to the country, and not fluent in the language.

Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were the initial suspects in the sexual assault and murder of Kercher, a London native who was placed as Knox’s roommate while also studying abroad in Perugia. The pair was convicted of sexual assault and murder in 2009, but Knox was convicted of an additional charge for the malicious accusation of Diya Lumumba- a local bar manager, for alleging his responsibility for Kercher’s murder. Knox retracted these statements shortly after, but police did not strike it from their records and the conviction still stands.

In her complaint to the ECHR, Knox alleged she was subjected to gross and inhumane treatment while in police custody, citing specific instances where she was slapped, deprived of sleep, food, and water, and was forced to speak at times under extreme psychological stress and pressure without an attorney present despite her requests.

Knox’s initial complaint during the trial was dismissed by the court as being unsubstantiated, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to prove the maltreatment she was alleging. The initial interrogation went on for 53 hours over a period of five days, without a lawyer, and solely in Italian.

Ivory Coast native Rudy Hermann Guede was later convicted for Kercher’s murder, after DNA linked him to the crime, and is serving a 16-year sentence. While Italy’s Court of Cassation overturned Sollecito and Knox’s convictions citing lack of evidence in May of 2015, Knox’s charge for malicious accusation remains and is the subject of a pending appeal.

The court held that Italy’s failure to provide either a lawyer or professional interpreter negatively affected the legal proceedings and accuracy of the information she was giving during the interrogation. The award was comprised of €10,400 in damages, and €8,000 for legal costs and related expenses, approximately $20,000.

Attorneys for Knox hopes this ruling will be persuasive in their appeal of the malicious accusation charge.

For more information, please visit:

NPR- Italy ordered to pay damages to Amanda Knox- January 24, 2019.

Daily Mail UK- European court awards Amanda Knox damages for having her rights violated in her murder trial- January 24, 2019.

POLITICO- Court orders Italy to pay damages to Amanda Knox- January 24, 2019.

European Court of Human Rights Judges that UK Surveillance Violates Freedoms

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France – In the case of Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom, the Chamber voted that some parts of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 violated human rights.  This is the latest occurrence in a five-year challenge directed towards the UK’s surveillance policies.

European Court of Human Rights rules that UK policies towards surveillance violate right to privacy and expression.  Photo Courtesy of European PhotoPress Agency. 

Applicants lodged complaints about the bulk interception of communications, obtaining data from communication service providers, and intelligence sharing with foreign governments.  Advocates such as Big Brother Watch note, “Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the UK has adopted the most authoritarian surveillance regime of any Western state, corroding democracy itself and the rights of the British public.”

The Chamber found that the bulk interception strategy violated Article 8 of the Convention that states individuals have a right to a private life without interference by a public authority.  The judges deemed that there was not enough oversight on filtering who was selected for interception or what communication data was read.  It is important to note that the Court did not find the idea of a bulk interception regime a violation of human rights but rather the way in which the UK was handling the strategy.  Additionally, using communication service providers to obtain data was found as a violation of privacy.

Both of these aspects were also found to violate Article 10 as well, which protects freedom of expression.  The Court ruled that there are no safeguards in place for the protection of the data that is collected.

Intelligence sharing was not found to violate Article 8 or 10.

This case involved three joined applications: Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom, Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Alice Ross v. the United Kingdom, and 10 Human Rights Organisations and Others v. the United Kingdom.  Those included were Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, Bytes for All, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Legal Resources Centre (South Africa), Liberty and Privacy International, Open Rights Group, English PEN and Dr Constanze Kurz.

Of the case decision, activist Carolina Wilson Palow says, “Today’s judgment rightly criticises the UK’s bulk interception regime for giving far too much leeway to the intelligence agencies to choose who to spy on and when. It confirms that just because it is technically feasible to intercept all of our personal communications, it does not mean that it is lawful to do so.”

The Chambers decision is not final.  During the next three months either side has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Grand Chamber of the Court.  There is the possibility of appeal as many activists believe that the decision did not go far enough in condemning bulk surveillance.

For more information please visit:

Amnesty International – Campaigners win vital battle against UK mass surveillance– 13 September 2018

European Court of Human Rights- Press Release: Some aspects of UK surveillance regimes violate Convention- 13 September 2018  (link to download press release)

European Court of Human Rights: Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 

EURACTIV – UK guilty of human rights abuse, ECHR finds in groundbreaking surveillance case -14 September 2018