European Rights Watch

ICJ Holds Public Hearings Regarding Armenia’s Preliminary Objections to Court Jurisdiction

By: Sarah Sandoval 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – From April 22-26, 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard arguments on the preliminary objections raised by Armenia in the case of Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Azerbaijan v. Armenia). The delegation of Azerbaijan was led by HE Mr Elnur Mammadov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, while the delegation of Armenia was led by HE Mr Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Representative of the Republic of Armenia on International Legal Matters. 

Panel of judges at the International Court of Justice. | Photo courtesy of The Armenian Report.

The case stems from proceedings instituted by Azerbaijan in 2021, alleging that Armenia engaged in ethnic cleansing and discrimination against Azerbaijanis. Azerbaijan accused Armenia of violating Articles Two through Seven of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

In April of 2023, Armenia responded by raising preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the claims. As a result, the proceedings were suspended pending a review of the objections. The hearing pursuant to that review concluded on April 26, 2024. 

In its objections, Armenia claimed that Armenia did not consent to the jurisdiction of the Court for the full scope of Azerbaijan’s claims. Armenia attested that it only submitted to the jurisdiction of the ICJ in regard to disputes arising under the CERD. Armenia stated that First Nagorno-Karabakh War, which Azerbaijan cited, ended before the CERD was in effect and is therefore outside of the scope of jurisdiction as well as inadmissible. Armenia also claimed that the alleged use of booby traps and landmines, as well as environmental harm, do not fall under racial discrimination and are therefore not subject to the CERD. The full written objections, as well as the transcripts of the hearings, can be found on the ICJ website. 

Azerbaijan asked the Court to dismiss the preliminary objections, either on the grounds that they are not valid objections or on the grounds that each should be decided on the merits. The Court will now deliberate on the objections raised by Armenia. The date of the decision will be announced at a later date. 

For further information, please see: 

ICJ – Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Azerbaijan v. Armenia) – Preliminary objections

ICJ – Conclusion of the public hearings held from Monday 22 to Friday 26 April 2024 – April 26, 2024

ICJ – Preliminary Objections of the Republic of Armenia – April 21, 2023

ICJ – The Republic of Azerbaijan institutes proceedings against the Republic of Armenia and requests the Court to indicate provisional measures – September 23, 2021


ECHR Finds Russia Violated Multiple Human Rights Following 2008 Conflict with Georgia

By: Johannah Brown

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On April 9, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered a judgment in the case of Georgia v. Russia (IV), where it unanimously found that Russia had committed multiple violations of human rights following its 2008 conflict between Georgia.  Specifically, Russia violated Article 2, 3, 5 § 1 and 8, Article 1 and 2 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

EU observers at the “administrative boundary line” between Georgia and South Ossetia. | Photo courtesy of Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times.

The conflict began in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia and began occupying the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  What followed is what is referred to as the “borderiszation” process, which restricted freedom of movement between the occupied territories and Georgia and resulted in numerous human rights abuses.

Russia erected physical barriers, installed surveillance equipment and deployed Russian border guards to the new administrative boundary line (ABL). The measures severely impacted the local Georgian population and people living near or trying to cross the administrative boundaries faced arrests, detentions, and sometimes even fatal incidents if found violating crossing rules. These barriers disrupted daily life, caused families to be separated, denied families access to their farmlands, and restricted children from accessing education in their Georgian language.

The Georgian government filed its application with the ECHR on August 22, 2018, ten years after the conflict began. The Georgian Government alleged that systematic harassment, unlawful arrests, and detention of its citizens led to widespread human rights abuses and violations of rights contrary to several Articles in the Convention of Human Rights.

The ECHR examined evidence, including victim lists, testimonies, forensic reports, and international observations and found a broader pattern of abuse that amounted to an administrative practice. In its decision, the Court noted that the complaints fell under an “administrative practice” of human rights violations, meaning a “repetition of acts incompatible with the Convention” that included an element of ‘official tolerance’ by the State.” The Court held that the Georgian Government had established beyond a reasonable doubt that these violations were officially tolerated by the Russian Government, taking note in its decision that the Russian Government had failed to participate in the proceedings and therefore there was no dispute of the facts.

With regards to Articles 2 and 3 the Court, pointed to evidence of the torture and extra-judicial killings of several residents trying to cross the border as well as the killing of seven pensioners trying to cross the ABL to collect their pension. In finding violations of Article 5, the Court pointed to evidence of at least 2,800 cases of arrest and detention for “illegally crossing.”

The ECHR’s decision comes one year after the Court ordered Russia to pay $134 Million to Georgia in compensation for the 2008 conflict. Georgian Minister of Justice Rati Bregadze commenting on the court’s decision, stated the ruling “underscored Georgia’s territorial integrity and the unlawfulness of the borderization process” and went on to say the ruling was “an important step toward the ultimate goal of achieving the complete de-occupation” of Georgia.

For further information, please see:

European Court of Human Rights – Judgment Georgia v. Russia (IV) – 9 Apr. 2024

European Court of Human Rights – Summary Judgment Georgia v. Russia – 9 Apr. 2024

Georgian Public Broadcaster – Justice Minister: On this symbolic day, Georgia takes another big step towards de-occupation – 9 Apr. 2024

Jurist – ECHR rules Russia violated Georgia citizens’ humans rights following 2008 conflict – 10 Apr. 2024

ECHR Rules that Coercive Methods Used to Recruit and Exploit “Web Models” Constituted Human Trafficking

By: Karla Lellis

Visiting Impunity Watch News Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On March 12, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in the case of Jasuitis And Šimaitis V. Lithuania, finding that coercing women to work as “web models” constituted as human trafficking. This decision highlights the importance of legal clarity and a victim-centred approach to dealing with such exploitation, aligning with Article 7(1) of the Convention.

A person’s hands held up facing the camera in a dark background. | Photo courtesy of Vecteezy.

The proliferation of internet technologies has profoundly transformed the dynamics of human trafficking. The UNODC’s 2020 Global Human Trafficking Report characterizes cyberspace as “digital hunting grounds” for traffickers, who exploit the expansive reach and anonymity of online platforms. Traffickers have skillfully leveraged digital tools to advertise deceptive job offers, promote exploitative services, and identify vulnerable individuals through social media. The rise of webcams and live streaming has further facilitated new forms of exploitation, as traffickers demonstrate a disturbing aptitude for using digital spaces to perpetuate their illicit activities.

This disturbing trend is exemplified in the Jasuitis and Šimaitis v. Lithuania case, where young women were recruited through deceptive online advertisements to work as “web models.” The victims were coerced into performing sexual acts on camera, including nudity and using sex toys, facing threats and psychological manipulation. Police investigation revealed multiple cases of exploitation, with the perpetrators providing equipment and apartments, then demanding debt repayment while closely monitoring and pressuring the women to generate income through long, exploitative work hours. Vulnerable young women facing financial, or family difficulties were specifically targeted and subjected to these abusive practices, leading to legal action against the traffickers.

In their defense, the Jasuitis and Šimaitis applicants argued that their convictions for trafficking were unpredictable, thus violating Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 7 reflects the principle of nulla poena sine lege (no punishment without law), which prohibits criminal sanctions for acts not clearly defined as offenses. The applicants claimed the national courts’ interpretation of trafficking laws was overly broad and lacked clarity, leading to uncertainty about the scope of liability. They argued this lack of foreseeability undermined their right to a fair trial and legal certainty under Article 7.

However, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously rejected this argument. The Court found the relevant criminal law provision, Article 147 § 1 of the Lithuanian Criminal Code, did not give rise to ambiguity, and the domestic courts’ interpretation was consistent and sufficiently precise. Crucially, the Court determined the applicants could foresee that their actions of deceiving victims and exploiting them for pornographic services would constitute a trafficking offense. The Court did not find the application of the law to be overly expansive or lacking in safeguards against arbitrary prosecution.

This ruling reinforces the ability of European states to effectively prosecute human trafficking, even as traffickers adapt their methods to the digital realm. As technology continues to transform the landscape of exploitation, robust legal frameworks and victim-centered approaches will be essential in combating this evolving menace.

For further information, please see:

ECHR – Jasuitis and Šimaitis V. Lithuania, App No. 28186/19 and 29092/19 – 12 Mar. 2024

ECHR, Guide on Article 7of the European Convention on Human Rights – No punishment without law:
the principle that only the law can define a crime and prescribe a penalty31 Aug. 2022

UNDOC, Global Report on Trafficking in Perso, U.N. Doc. Sales No. E.20.IV.3 – 2020

ECtHR Rules Switzerland’s Climate Inaction Violates Human Rights

By: Neha Chhablani

Visiting Impunity Watch News Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On April 9, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on the case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, finding that Switzerland violated human rights due to its inadequate efforts to meet emissions reduction targets. This ruling marks a new era in climate and human rights litigation. 

Photo of the ECtHR Grand Chamber Hearing of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and others v. Switzerland. | Photo courtesy of the European Court of Human Rights.

The case was filed by 2,000 members of KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz (Senior Women for Climate Protection), who claimed that global warming threatens their health and living conditions. Four members of the group submitted an additional complaint that climate change-induced heat waves exacerbate their health problems. KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz had taken its case to multiple national courts and eventually to the Swiss Supreme Court, which dismissed its appeal on May 5, 2020. On December 1, 2020, KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz submitted its case to the ECtHR. A public hearing took place on March 29, 2023, with the final decision released a year later on April 9, 2024. 

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz’s complaint contained three primary points:

  1. Switzerland’s weak climate policies violated Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
  2. The Swiss Supreme Court’s dismissal of their case violated their right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR.
  3. Swiss National Courts did not sufficiently explore the contents of their case, violating Article 13, the right to an effective remedy. 

The ECtHR ruled that Switzerland violated Article 8 in a 16-to-1 vote and unanimously voted that it violated Article 6. The court dismissed the complaint related to climate change-induced heat waves, stating that four complainants did not meet victim-status criteria (high intensity of exposure to the adverse effects of climate change and a pressing need to ensure individual protection). The court did not examine potential violations of Articles 2 or 13 given their similarity to those of 6 and 8.

The Court found that Article 8 of the ECHR “encompasses a right to effective protection by the State authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life.” Furthermore, it found significant gaps between Switzerland’s legislative goals regarding emission reduction and its actions such as failing to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, quantify greenhouse gas emission limitations, or establish other domestic regulatory frameworks.

Pursuant to Article 6 subsection 1, which states that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable timeframe, the Court found that Switzerland did not take KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz’s case seriously, failing to consider scientific evidence and unjustly dismissing the case’s merits.

The Court’s decision is legally binding; the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers will supervise Switzerland’s implementation of emission reduction frameworks to redress its violation of the Convention’s Articles.

This ruling not only pressures European governments to reduce GHG emissions but effectively intertwines human rights protection with climate change action; this was the first climate case heard at a regional human rights court. The precedent set by the outcome of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland strengthens numerous pending climate-based cases at the ECtHR. Ultimately, the ruling sets new standards for human rights protection and climate action.

For further information, please see:

Climate Change Litigation Database – KlimaSeniorinnen v Switzerland – 12 Apr. 2024

European Court of Human Rights –  Judgment Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland: Violations of the Convention for failing to implement sufficient measures to combat climate change – 9 Apr. 2024

European Court of Human Rights – European Convention on Human Rights – 12 Apr. 2024

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz – Climate Action – 12 Apr. 2024

Reuters – Climate verdict for Swiss women a warning for European states, oil industry – 12 Apr. 2024



ECHR Rules Poland Violated Rights of Asylum Seekers

By: Cynthia Achieng

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

 STRASBOURG, France – On Thursday, April 4, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland, in its expulsion of four Tajikistani nationals back to Ukraine, had violated Articles 3, 4, and 13 of Protocol No. 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Refugees crossing into Poland from Ukraine. | Photo courtesy of Al-Jazeera.

The individuals traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border on at least four occasions between 2016-2017. On each occasion, they expressly stated their wish to apply for international protection stating that they were at risk of political persecution in Tajikistan. Administrative decisions were issued denying them entry into Poland on grounds that they did not have documentation to support their claim of risk of persecution.

The ECHR noted that sending the applicants to Ukraine without examining whether the receiving State was safe for them, whether they would have adequate asylum procedure there, or whether they would be exposed to the risk of a chain of refoulement was a violation of the procedural limb of Article 3 of the Convention. The action of the Polish officials amounted to expulsion of aliens which is a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.

The Court further awarded the applicants damages in the amount of EUR 13,000 each against Poland.

This decision comes at a time when the refugee crisis is hitting Europe and applications for asylum especially from Ukrainian and Syrian refugees are multiplying.

For further information, please see:


EDAL – Communicated Cases against Poland (Application No. 54029/17), the Netherlands, and Russia – 22 Jan. 2021

Case of SHEROV and Others V. PolandIUS INFO – Case of SHEROV and Others V. Poland – ND