European Rights Watch

ECHR Halts Deportation of Iraqi Family Fleeing ISIS, Citing Human Rights Violations

By: Rabiya Shamim

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On 6 February 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a landmark ruling in J.A. and A.A. v Turkey regarding the rights of asylum seekers. The case involves a family seeking asylum in Turkey, fearing persecution and violence if returned to their home country of Iraq.

Convening of the European Court of Human Rights. | Photo courtesy of Bianet.

The applicants, an Iraqi husband and wife with four children, voiced serious concerns over the security situation in Iraq, especially considering that they fled due to ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, and sectarian strife. In support of their claim for international protection, the family highlighted the presence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and the targeted brutality against civilians, especially those perceived to have collaborated with Iraqi security forces.

The ECHR emphasized Article 2 of the Convention, which protects the right to life, as one of the fundamental provisions. Similarly, Article 3 embodies a fundamental principle of the democratic societies forming the Council of Europe. Central to the ECHR’s ruling was the applicant’s claim that their expulsion to Iraq would breach their fundamental rights outlined in Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention, which safeguards the right to life and freedom from torture and inhuman treatment. The Court stressed that these protections are absolute, particularly when people are at genuine risk of persecution or violence upon return to their home country.

The ECHR reviewed the evidence presented by both applicants, and Turkish authorities, acknowledging the complexity of asylum petitions and the difficulties faced by people in substantiating their fears within a short timeframe. The ruling emphasized that states must thoroughly evaluate asylum petitions, particularly in cases where there is a risk of persecution or violence.

Despite the applicants’ diligent efforts to establish the imminent danger they would face in Iraq, the Court found shortcomings in the domestic authorities’ evaluation of their claims. While the Turkish Constitutional Court initially acknowledged the credible basis of the applicants’ fears, subsequent decisions failed to sufficiently address the consequences of the situation in Iraq, especially in the Ninewa region.

The ECHR’s decision reaffirmed the idea that the right to life includes not only protection from immediate harm but also the obligations of states to prevent foreseeable risks to individuals within their jurisdiction. The Court underscored the need to promptly address the plausible threat to the applicants’ safety by granting an interim measure that will prohibit their expulsion until further evaluation.

The ECHR concluded that the applicants’ rights under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention would be violated if they were deported to Iraq without first undergoing a thorough reassessment of the risks they face. The ruling emphasizes the critical role of international human rights law in safeguarding security and dignity, especially in times of conflict and persecution. 

For further information, please see:

Bianet – ECtHR: Deportation of Iraqi Family fleeing ISIS constitutes violation of right to life – 8 Feb. 2024

Council of Europe – European Convention on Human Rights – 1950

ECHR – CASE OF J.A. AND A.A. v. TÜRKİYE- 09 Jan 2024

Syriac Press – European Court halts deportation of Iraqi family fleeing ISIS citing human rights violations – 9 Feb. 2024



ECHR Rules Russia Violated Journalists’ Rights to Life and Freedom of Expression

By: Firdevs Okatan

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On January 30, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia breached fundamental rights of journalists Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev and Khadzhimurad Kamalov, whose murders in Dagestan, Russia highlighted critical systemic failures and underscored the ongoing risks to press freedom.

Media coverage of of the death of journalists Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev and Khadzhimurad Kamalov | Photo Courtesy of Anadolu Ajansi.

The case before the ECHR, which was brought by relatives Mutaelum Akhmednabiyev and Ali Akhmedovich Kamalov, sought justice for the journalists and highlighted systemic failures in the Russian judicial system. Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, Deputy Editor of Novoye Delo and Correspondent for Kavkazskiy Uzel, was included on a death threat leaflet in September 2009. On July 9, 2013, he was assassinated near his home in Semender, Russia. Khadzhimurad Kamalov, founder and editor of the Dagestan newspaper Chernovik was named also in the leaflet that targeted journalists, human rights defenders, and lawyers. Kamalov was murdered in Makhachkala, Russia on December 15, 2011.

In December 2011, Russian authorities initiated criminal investigations into the murders. The investigations sought to uncover the motives behind these crimes, which was seemingly linked to the journalists’ professional activities and their criticisms of local authorities. Akhmednabiyev and Kamalov’s families experienced numerous challenges throughout the legal process, including perceived inadequacies in the investigations’ thoroughness and pace, leading to claims of procedural violations. The investigations were marked by delays, suspensions, and allegations of ineffectiveness, raising serious concerns about the commitment to fully uncover the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The ECHR found Russia violated of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life) in both procedural and substantive aspects of Akhmednabiyev’s case, and only in the procedural aspect of Kamalov’s case. The Court underscored the lack of effective investigation by Russian authorities and the failure to provide adequate protection to the journalists, despite known threats to their lives.

The Court ordered Russia to pay EUR 26,000 to Akhmednabiyev’s family and EUR 20,000 to Kamalov’s, acknowledging the resulting non-pecuniary damage suffered from the state’s failure to protect their rights.

For further information, please see:

Caucasian Knot – ECtHR’s decision in case of Dagestani journalist Akhmednabiev becomes moral victory– 01 Feb. 2024

Committee To Protect Journalists – Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev Killed – 09 Jul. 2013

ECHR – Case of Akhmednabiyev and Kamalov V. Russia – 30 Jan.  2024

European Convention on Human Rights – 1950



ICJ Partially Rules in Favor of Ukraine in Case on Russia’s Activity in Crimea

By: Christina Bradic

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on January 31, 2024, that Russia failed to comply with certain requirements of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (ICSFT) when the government failed to investigate terrorist funding going into Ukraine. However, the Court stopped short of a declaration that Russia violated both the ICSFT and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The court also did not order associated prosecutions, as Ukraine requested.

The flag of the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of the groups named in this case, is displayed during a protest in Ukraine. | Photo courtesy of AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY.

The government of Ukraine brought this case before the ICJ in 2017 based on the 2014 annexation of Crimea and ongoing Russian aggression, including “a multifaceted attack on the people of Ukraine for which the Russian Federation is responsible under international law.” Ukraine’s suit included concerns that, “the Russian Federation has used its control over the Crimean Peninsula to impose a policy of Russian ethnic dominance, pursuing the cultural erasure of non-Russian communities through a systematic and ongoing campaign of discrimination.”

The case against the Russian Federation included evidence of targeted attacks on civilians, systematic oppression of the Crimean Tatar community through banning cultural activities and suppressing its political systems and leaders, and supplying weapons, funding, and training to three pro-Russian terrorist groups in the region, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”), the “Partisans of the Kharkiv People’s Republic” (“Kharkiv Partisans”).

The ICJ voted thirteen to two that the Russian Federation violated Article 2 of the ICFT which bars state conduct where the “purpose of the act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.” The Court also found that Russia violated Article 9 of the ICFT, which states that “upon receiving information that a person who has committed or who is alleged to have committed an offence set forth in article 2 may be present in its territory, the State Party concerned shall take such measures as may be necessary under its domestic law to investigate the facts contained in the information.”

With a vote of ten to five, the Court rejected all other submissions made by Ukraine with respect to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and all submissions made by Ukraine regarding the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

For further information, please see:

American Society of International Law – ICJ Delivers Judgment in Ukraine v. Russia Case Concerning Terrorism Financing and CERD – 31 Jan 2024

International Court of Justice – Press Release: Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian

International Court of Justice – Request for The Indication Of Provisional Measures Of Protection Submitted By Ukraine – 13 Jan. 2017

Jurist – ICJ mostly rejects Ukraine claims of Russia discrimination, terrorism financing – 31 Jan 2024

United Nations – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers its judgment in the case Ukraine v. Russian Federation – 31 Jan. 2024



ECHR Holds French Criminal Defamation Conviction of Workplace Harassment Plaintiff Violates Freedom of Expression

By: Molly Osinoff

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On January 18, 2024 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that a plaintiff’s criminal conviction of defamation following her pursuit of a workplace harassment lawsuit constituted an Article 10 violation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. 

France’s Prime Minister for Labour, Full Employment and Inclusion, on the left, and ILO Director-General on the right | Photo Courtesy of the International Labour Organization.

Earlier this month, the ECHR issued a ruling in the case of Allée v. France. The plaintiff was a French national living in France who was employed at an education association. In 2015, the plaintiff requested a transfer to another position due to harassment by the association’s executive vice-chair. A year later, the plaintiff’s husband wrote to the managing director, accusing the executive vice-chair of harassing and sexually assaulting his wife. The managing director advised the applicant to take sick leave until her contract could be terminated or she could find a new position.

The plaintiff sent an email titled “Sexual Assault, Sexual and Mental Harassment” to the association’s managing director. She then forwarded it to her husband, the State Labor inspector, the executive vice-chair, and her son, who was the association’s spiritual director. The plaintiff’s husband subsequently posted a message to Facebook to amplify his wife’s allegations, calling the situation a “sex scandal.” The message included the name of the executive vice-chair’s family and the name of the association. Later, the executive vice-chair brought claims against the plaintiff and her husband alleging public defamation.

The Paris Criminal Court found the plaintiff and her husband guilty of public defamation of a private individual, and the Paris Court of Appeals upheld the judgment. In the case brought to the ECHR, the plaintiff argued that her criminal conviction of defamation violated the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Article 10, which provides the right to freedom of expression.

The ECHR held in the plaintiff’s favor, explaining that the plaintiff’s defamation conviction could have a chilling effect, ultimately discouraging people, and women specifically, from reporting experiences of workplace sexual harassment or assault. It concluded that the restriction on the plaintiff’s right to freedom of expression was disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, and that the plaintiff had suffered a violation of Article 10.

This case is not the only headway made in workplace combating harassment in France. On April 13, 2023, France officially ratified the International Labour Organization Violence and Harassment Convention’s 2019 standards (C190) for preventing and responding to workplace violence and harassment. France was the 27th country in the world, and the 5th in the European Union, to ratify C190. The Minister of Labor at the time said that “the world of work must not be a source of anxiety or insecurity for women.” The Convention affirms the right to a workplace free from violence and harassment and provides the first globally agreed upon definition of violence and harassment at work, including gender-based violence. While France was a driving force behind the Convention, it did not ratify C190 until four years after the convention.

For further information, please see:

ECHR – The Applicant’s Criminal Conviction for Public Defamation Following Claims of Mental and Sexual Harassment Breached Article 10 of the Convention – 18 Jan. 2024.

Human Rights Watch – France Ratifies Treaty to End Violence and Harassment at Work – 20 Apr. 2023.

International Labour Organization – France Ratifies Convention C190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work – 13 Apr. 2023.



European Court of Justice Finds Women Escaping Gender-Based Violence Qualify for Refugee Status

By: Christina Bradic

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

LUXEMBOURG – On January 16, 2023, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that women facing gender-based violence, including forced marriage, honor killings, and female genital mutilation, are eligible for asylum and can be granted refugee status and international protection.

A woman holds a sign during a rally against violence towards women in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, The Columbus Dispatch

The Geneva Conventions and European Union Law state that a condition to obtain refugee status is persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership to a specific social group. The recent CJEU decision classifies all forms of physical and mental violence as persecution and declares women, as a collective whole, a specific social group. The court found that having a ‘common concept’ will provide greater protection for women facing physical and mental violence in their communities.

The case began when a Turkish woman fled to Bulgaria after her family forced her to marry at age fifteen. She faced regular violence and death threats from her husband and immediate family members during her marriage. Subsequently, she left Bulgaria to live with a relative in Germany where she filed for international protection. Germany ruled that the violence she experienced, as well as the death threats from her husband and her family, could not be linked to reasons for persecution laid out in the law on asylum and refugees. The case then moved up to the European Court of Justice.

The court considered two pieces of international law in this case: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Istanbul Convention and as European Union law. Both confirm a commitment to prevent and protect against gender-based violence. While ‘necessary protections’ are encouraged, this case highlighted the need for clarity around language to determine what international protections can be applied, especially when it comes to seeking asylum or refuge in a new country.

The ability to seek asylum hinges on the definition of a ‘particular social group’ and how it applies to women experiencing violence. The court started with the accepted fact that “a group is to be considered a ‘particular social group’ where two cumulative conditions are satisfied. First, the members of the relevant group must share at least one of the three following identifying features, namely an ‘innate characteristic,’ a ‘common background that cannot be changed’ or a ‘characteristic or belief that is so fundamental to identity or conscience that a person should not be forced to renounce it.’ Second, that group must have a ‘distinct identity’ in the country of origin ‘because it is perceived as being different by the surrounding society.’”

The court found that this definition can apply to women fleeing violence on the basis that:

  • Women that have escaped from a forced marriage or, for married women, have left their homes, may be regarded as a ‘common background that cannot be changed’ within the meaning of that provision.
  • It is clear that women may be perceived as being different by the surrounding society and recognized as having their own identity in that society, in particular because of social, moral or legal norms in their country of origin.

In cases where women do not meet the necessary conditions for refugee status, they also “may qualify for subsidiary protection status, in particular where they run a real risk of being killed or subjected to violence.”

This decision has been widely praised by international NGOs and leaders of European Union States. However, it has been noted that, in order for this ruling to have maximum benefit, women need to be aware that honor killings, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and similar forms of violence qualify them for protection under international law.

For further information, please see:

Deutsche Welle – EU court rules gender-based violence ground for asylum– 17 Jan. 2024

EUR-Lex – WS v Intervyuirasht organ na Darzhavna agentsia za bezhantsite pri Ministerskia savet – 16 Jan. 2024

InfoMigrants – Women suffering from gender-based violence can qualify for refugee status, says EU court of justice – 16 Jan. 2024

Irish Legal News – CJEU: Women can claim asylum due to gender-based violence – 18 Jan. 2024