Europe

ECHR Rules Supermarket Cameras Don’t Violate Right to Privacy

By: Genna Amick

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor 

MADRID, Spain — On October 17, 2019, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that the right to privacy of supermarket employees was not violated by the supermarket using visible and hidden cameras to record areas of the store where it suspected theft by employees.

The manager of a Spanish supermarket noticed that stock valued at upwards of €20,000 was missing. He decided to install cameras without informing any of his employees. The cameras focused on exits, entrances, and checkout counters. Based on the surveillance footage, the manager discovered that a number of his employees were taking goods without paying for them and helping customers to steal. He fired 14 of his employees, five of which are the applicants in this case.

The applicants argued that they were dismissed unfairly and that their right to privacy was violated by the installation of the cameras without their knowledge. The Spanish Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was valid and that the applicant’s right to privacy had not been violated. After the Spanish High Court affirmed the Employment Tribunal’s ruling, the applicants submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

In January 2018, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that the employee’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention had been violated because they had not been informed of the installation of the cameras. However, the chamber did not find that the applicant’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention had been violated.

The case was then accepted and reviewed by the Grand Chamber which found that applicant’s Article 8 right to privacy was not violated nor was their Article 6 right to a fair trial. Delving into the right to privacy, the Grand Chamber held that employers are not required to notify employees of surveillance equipment if it was installed to protect a “significant” interest.

Applicant’s also argued that the State had a positive obligation to protect their rights against the actions of a private company. The Grand Chamber found that since there were a number of domestic laws in place intended to safeguard the applicant’s right to privacy which they could have sought legal remedies under, the State had acted within its margin of appreciation. The Grand Chamber concluded that the applicant’s Article 8 right to privacy had not been violated.

The Grand Chamber also concluded that applicant’s Article 6 right to a fair trial was not violated. In this case, the applicants attempted to argue that using their former employer’s video recordings of them stealing was inadmissible. The Grand Chamber held that using the videos as evidence did not undermine the fairness of the proceeding for two reasons. First, applicants had the ability to challenge the quality and accuracy of the videos. Second, the recordings were not the only evidence that was used by the Spanish domestic courts.

For further information, please see:

International Justice Resource Center – European Court Holds Secret Surveillance Did Not Violate Employees’ Privacy – 24 Oct. 2019

Warner Goodman – Employment Law Case Update: Lopez Ribalda and others v Spain – 24 May 2018

Man In Turkmenistan Is Missing After Revealing Sexual Orientation

By: Melissa Berouty

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — According to Freedom House’s index of basic freedoms, Turkmenistan is rated below North Korea and only above Syria. Under Turkmen law, the government has the authority to regulate behavior in an attempt to “construct the model Turkmen citizen.” Turkmen authorities exercise its control by brutally punishing any form of religious or political expression that does not align with the Turkmen government. Additionally, the Turkmen government limits the nature of print and electronic media available to its citizens.

The Turkmen government has a long history of enforced disappearances, where individuals’ whereabouts or fates serving long sentences in Turkmenistan are unknown. For more than ten years, the Turkmen government has prohibited loved ones, lawyers, and the outside world access to the imprisoned. Prove They Are Alive, a campaign committed to ending enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan, has reported at least 121 cases of enforced disappearances. Of these 121 cases, many are suspected to be detained in the Ovadanepe prison, which has a reputation for extreme conditions.

On October 24, 2019, it was reported that Kasymberdy Garayev was feared to be missing after allegedly revealing his sexual orientation, under a pseudonym, on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In Turkmenistan, homosexual conduct is a criminal act that can result in up to a two-year prison sentence. Today, approximately sixty-eight countries have laws that criminalize homosexual conduct between consenting adults. According to Human Rights Watch, sentencing in these sixty-eight countries “range from fines to life imprisonment and even the death penalty.” Rachel Denber, the deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, expressed her extreme concern for Garayev stating that “given Turkmenistan’s appalling human rights record, including enforced disappearances, we have every reason to fear for his safety and well-being.”

Kasymberdy Garayev is a 24-year-old cardiologist, who was employed at an elite clinic in Turkmenistan. On October 21, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a narrative, where Garayev allegedly reflected on his life in Turkmenistan stating that “since childhood, I knew that I was gay and it was hard for me to accept.” In 2018, Garayev was allegedly detained by Turkmen authorities upon a scheduled meeting with an online male love interest, which turned out to be a police officer. Here, Garayev allegedly stated that on the way to the police station, officers beat him, used a stun gun, and demanded that he make a statement on camera confirming his sexual orientation.

On October 24, 2019, Turkmen authorities allegedly requested Garayev’s presence for a background check.  From October 24, 2019 to November 6, 2019, Garayev’s whereabouts were unknown. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was also unable to locate Garayev’s family. According to Human Rights Watch, when an individual summoned by Turkmen authorities goes missing, “there is a real risk they could be the victim of an enforced disappearance.”

On October 31, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a video recording of Garayev2 speaking, where he disclosed his real name, expressed his fear of going missing, and begged for his family’s forgiveness.

During the time Garayev was feared to be missing, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, visited Rome. During Berdymukhamedov’s visit, several Italian LGBTQ+ activist groups urged Rome to speak out on Garayev’s disappearance. On November 6th, Italian Senator Monica Cirinna released a statement demanding the government press Berdymukhamedov on the details of Garayev’s disappearance. Later that day, Garayev returned home.

Since then, Garayev denies any communication with Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Garayev claims that the video farewell was recorded for a different purpose and sent mistakenly to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Additionally, after the release of Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty’s narrative, Garayev is no longer employed by the prestigious clinic in Turkmenistan where he once worked. Since Garayev’s alleged return home, several LGBTQ+ activist groups have started campaigns seeking to protect Garayev.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan: Gay Man Missing After Coming Out Online – 1 Nov. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – ‘If I Disappear, Forgive Me’: Missing Gay Turkmen’s Plea – 31 Oct. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – Gay man from Turkmenistan wants to make a statement to start a discussion – 21 Oct. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – The Turkmen President Is Alive, But What About His Prisoners? –  20 Aug. 2019

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan Events of 2018

Human Rights Watch –#OUTLAWED “THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME”

High Court’s Decision in Northern Ireland Puts Pressure on the Legislature to Liberalize Abortion Laws

By: Madison Kenyon 

Impunity Watch Staff Writer 

BELFAST, Ireland — On Thursday, October 3, the high court in Belfast, Ireland held that Northern Ireland’s abortion law violates human rights. Specifically, Justice Keegan, the presiding judge, found that the law is incompatible with the United Kingdom’s human rights commitments. Justice Keegan will hear more submissions before deciding what definitive action to take.

Sarah Ewart and her mother after the October ruling. Photo Courtesy of BBC.

The current abortion law in place in Northern Ireland only permits an abortion in cases where it is necessary to save the life of the mother or prevent permanent mental or physical damage of the mother. There is no exception for rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities. Further, abortion is a criminal offense under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Due to this law, women who seek an abortion must travel outside of Northern Ireland in order to get one. Although England, Scotland, and Wales all legalized abortions in 1967, Northern Ireland did not follow suit.

In June 2018, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission brought a case in the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court challenging Northern Ireland’s abortion law. The court dismissed the case though because it found that the Commission lacked standing and rather the case needed to be brought by a woman who had been denied an abortion. The court did state however, that Northern Ireland’s abortion law was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Following this dismissal, in January 2019, Sarah Ewart brought the present case. Ms. Ewart had previously been denied an abortion in 2013 even though her doctor told her that the child would either die during birth or shortly after leaving the womb. Along with being denied an abortion, she did not receive any advice as to where she could get an abortion or what she should do. Thus, Ms. Ewart had to travel to London in order to obtain an abortion. Justice Keegan found Ms. Ewart’s testimony to be very persuasive and she held that she did not think another woman should have to go through the same trauma that Ms. Ewart went through.

Regarding Thursday’s decision, Ms. Ewart stated, “Today’s ruling is a turning point for women in their campaign against the outdated laws prohibiting against abortion in Northern Ireland.” As Ms. Ewart suggests, this is definitely a step towards liberalizing Northern Ireland’s abortion law however, it is still very dependent on how the legislature reacts to this decision. Yet, this is not the only pressure the legislature has received to change Northern Ireland’s abortion law. Rather, in July 2019, the British Parliament voted on a plan that would decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland if the local government, which stopped functioning in January 2017, did not re-establish itself by October 21. Thus, with an upcoming deadline, the legislature must act fast and in compliance with Thursday’s holding, or the court should expect a lot more cases like Ms. Ewart’s.

For further information, please see: 

The Hill – High Court Rules Northern Ireland’s Abortion Ban Violates Human Rights – 3 Oct. 2019

AlJazeera – Northern Ireland Abortion Law Breaches Human Rights, Court Says – 3 Oct. 2019

CNN – Northern Ireland Abortion Law Breaches Human Rights, High Court Rules – 3 Oct. 2019

House of Commons: Women and Equalities Committee – Abortion Law in Northern Ireland – 3 Apr. 2019

 

Belfast Court Finds Abortion Ban Violates Human Rights Obligations

By: Hannah Gabbard

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

BELFAST, United Kingdom — On October 3, 2019, the High Court in Belfast ruled that the abortion law in Northern Ireland, which banned abortion in all cases except when a mother’s life is at risk, violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). Under the abortion law in Northern Ireland, rape, incest, or a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality (“FFA”) are not grounds for a lawful abortion. 

Sarah Ewart, left, leaves the Belfast High Court. Photo Courtesy of CNN.

In 2013, Sarah Ewart, the applicant, travelled to England to terminate her pregnancy after an ultrasound scan at 20 weeks revealed that Ewart’s baby would either die before or shortly after delivery. Ewart was denied an abortion under the law even though her pregnancy was a case of FFA. Due to the law, Ewart was not allowed to bring the remains of her daughter back into Northern Ireland to allow for an autopsy. Ewart claimed that legislation preventing an abortion in cases of FFA violated domestic, human rights and international law and was incompatible with Article 8 of ECHR which guarantees the right to respect for private life. Additionally, she challenged the Departments of Justice and Heath for failing to implement measures to comply with Article 8 of ECHR.

Ewart brought the case after a United Kingdom Supreme Court judgement in June 2018 found that Northern Ireland’s abortion law was inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s obligations under Article 8 of ECHR. The UK Supreme Court could not attach a declaration of incompatibility to the law because the original applicant, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, was not a “victim” of any unlawful act. In Ewart’s case, Justice Siobhan Keegan followed the ruling from the UK Supreme Court that the law was incompatible with human rights. In following the ruling, Justice Keegan’s judgement concerned whether Ewart had standing and if so, whether declaratory relief would be appropriate. 

Justice Keegan found that Ewart had standing because she had to travel to seek an abortion due to the current law and she is at risk to be affected by the law in the future because of her continued risk to have a baby with FFA. Further submissions to the court are required before Justice Keegan will decide on an appropriate relief. 

Abortion rights are highly contested in Northern Ireland due to the religious influences of the Protestant and Catholic communities. Pressure to ease the abortion restrictions had mounted in Northern Ireland after Ireland voted to end the constitutional ban on abortion in May 2018. 

The implications of this ruling are uncertain in Northern Ireland due to the simultaneous legislation proposed in the British Parliament. In 2017, Northern Ireland’s regional government became decentralized when a power-sharing agreement between Protestant and Catholic political parties failed. In July 2019, United Kingdom legislators voted for the Northern Ireland to decriminalize abortion and extend same-sex marriage if the regional government is not restored by October 21. 

This ruling in Northern Ireland contributes to the larger conversation on abortion rights internationally. In the United States, President Trump introduced international version of the “gag rule”  in 2018 where international health clinics that either provide or refer women to abortion services are no longer permitted to receive US development funding. The restriction of abortion services push women to seek abortion in dangerous settings or, in the case of Sarah Ewart, travel overseas to access an abortion.

While acknowledging the pending legislative action in her judgement, Justice Keegan stated that the prospect of upholding the abortion ban would not “serve any benefit” or “be right to ask another woman to relieve the trauma these events undoubtedly cause.” 

For further information, please see:

BBC – Northern Ireland abortion law found to breach human rights – 3 Oct. 2019

CNN – Northern Ireland abortion law breaches human rights, high court rules – 3 Oct. 2019

Judicial Communications Office – Court Delivers Abortion Legislation Judgement – 3 Oct. 2019

Reuters – Court rules Northern Ireland abortion ban violates UK human rights commitments – 3 Oct. 2019

CNN – Women in Northern Ireland to get access to abortion services in Republic – 15 Nov. 2018

 

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.