European Rights Watch

ECHR Rules Russian Removal of North Korean Citizens to the DPRK Violated European Convention of Human Rights

By: Garrison Funk

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On Tuesday, March 19, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Russian Federation violated Articles 2, 3, and 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights in its treatment, and later expulsion, of three North Korean citizens to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin meet in Vladivostok, Russia in April 2019. | Photo Credit Alexy Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images.

While Russia has not been a member of the European Convention since September 16, 2020, the relevant events took place prior to Russia’s separation, therefore granting the ECHR jurisdiction to review the case.

Two of the individuals in the case, referred to as K.J. and C.C., were captured in Russian territorial waters and convicted of illegal fishing in 2019, and sentenced to serve two years and one month in Russian prison. The third individual, S.K., was a student studying at the Far Eastern Federal university in Vladivostok, who later applied for asylum in 2020.

After finishing their prison terms, K.J. and C.C. were both detained for two more years pending expulsion to the DPRK, before finally being released again in 2022. In particular, the ECHR noted that Russian authorities took no steps to verify the reason for their detention. Additionally, foreign nationals detained in Russia pending an expulsion are unable to have their detention reviewed by Russian courts, thereby finding violations of Article 5 § 1 and Article 5 § 4 of the Convention.

Following S.K.’s asylum application in 2020, he was detained by Russian police before being handed over to DPRK consular staff by the Russian Federal Security Service. The same day, the ECHR issued an interim ruling barring the Russian government from expelling S.K. However, S.K. has not been heard from since then. Because of the high risk of torture and failure of the Russian court system to provide an adequate remedy to detainees, the ECHR found that this expulsion constituted violations of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture), as it is presumed S.K. was abducted.

This is not the first instance of North Korean citizens attempting to gain refuge in Russia. Many North Koreans study in Vladivostok, often under the watchful eye of DPRK surveillance, and some attempt to escape to pursue their freedom. However, Russian security forces often assist the DPRK in the return of its citizens despite repeated admonishment from the ECHR and international community. Only a small fraction of the hundreds of North Korean refugees had their applications accepted.  

For more information, please see:

ECHR – Missing Student Risks Torture if Returned to North Korea – Mar. 19, 2024

ECHR – Judgment Concerning the Russian Federation – Mar. 19, 2024

Human Rights Watch – North Koreans Face Repatriation From Russia – Feb. 17, 2022

Crossing Borders – Why North Koreans Don’t Escape to Russia Instead of China – Oct. 16, 2021

Reuters – Russia Wants North Korea’s Money, Not Its Refugees – Jan. 25, 2017

ECHR Rule Change Bolsters United Kingdom Plan to Relocate Migrants to Rwanda

By: Terrence Kane

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

ROME, Italy – A rule-change in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has bolstered the United Kingdom’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. The rule change will raise the threshold required by courts to place an injunction on removal proceedings.

Flight from the United Kingdom to Rwanda grounded amid legal challenges to the removal plan. | Photo Courtesy of BBC.

The Rule Change

The ECHR first announced that it would amend its rules in November of 2023. The changes were sought to bring the rules on interim measures more in alignment with the Court’s established case law. The change involved Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court, which are regarding the procedures on interim measures.

The language of Rule 39 was amended to include the line “imminent risk of irreparable harm” which has raised the threshold to institute interim measures, such as injunction. The amended rule language was announced on February 23, 2024, and went into effect a little over a month later on March 28.

While the rule change wasn’t in reference to any particular case or controversy, it is likely to have a very specific impact on the removal processes of the United Kingdom.

Effect on United Kingdom’s Removal Process

Under its current leadership, the United Kingdom has pursued a program of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda where the asylum seekers are meant to remain until their cases have been properly adjudicated in UK courts. The plan faced a major obstacle when the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that the policy violated international human rights law.

The Supreme Court upheld a Court of Appeals decision that found that the planned removals were unlawful because it lacked proper safeguards to prevent refoulement, or the return of asylum seekers to their state of origin. The Supreme Court held that the removals posed a safety risk to the asylum seekers because the United Kingdom failed to establish that Rwanda was a safe nation. The Court stated there were “substantial grounds” to believe sending asylum seekers to Rwanda would cause them to be unsafe.

The analysis used by the Supreme Court in putting the deportations on hold is likely to be substantially altered as a result of the new language in Rule 39. Rather than simply finding “substantial grounds” of safety risks, courts like those in the UK that put the Rwanda plan on hold, will need to look for evidence that there is an “imminent risk of irreparable harm.” This new standard will make it substantially harder to challenge the Rwanda plan and reduce courts ability to issue injunctive relief.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Supreme Court rules Rwanda asylum policy unlawful – November 15, 2023

The Telegraph – Boost for Rwanda plan as ECHR makes it harder to block deportations – March 28, 2024

Reuters – UK plan to deport refugees to Rwanda to be delayed after new parliamentary defeats – March 20, 2024

ICJ – Press Release – March 28, 2024

ICJ – Rules of Court – March 28, 2024


ICC Office of the Prosecutor Targets Slavery Crimes with Landmark Policy

By: Remy Kane

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On March 19, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor announced that a new Policy on Slavery Crimes is in the works. The policy will mark the first specific action taken by an international judicial institution to combat crimes of slavery. This reflects the ICC’s dedication to achieving justice for victims of such crimes and preventing the future commission of them.

Permanent premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. | Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Modern slavery encompasses sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, domestic servitude, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. To quote Prosecutor Khan, “Slavery crimes are committed against an untold number of persons and populations, including child soldiers, persons forced to migrate or be trafficked, and persons detained, disappeared, or forced into marriage or labor that devolves into slavery.”

As of 2021, 49.6 million people were living in modern slavery per the International Labour Organization. Of those individuals, 27.6 million were subject to forced labor and 22 million were in forced marriages. Twelve percent of those in forced labor were children and more than half of these children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Child trafficking occurs in every country in the world and makes up a third of all human trafficking cases. Human trafficking and forced labor generate roughly $150 billion annually. These numbers are testimony to how slavery crimes are a grave and pressing issue.

The Policy on Slave Crimes will aim to take a survivor-centered, trauma-informed and gender-competent approach, and will be “rigorously implemented” once formulated, according to the Prosecutor. It will be in alignment with other recent policies tackling similar issues, including the 2022 Policy Paper on Gender Persecution, the 2023 Policy on Gender-Based Crimes, and the 2023 Policy on Children.

The Office of the Prosecutor has consulted survivor communities, civil society organizations, national authorities, international organizations, and other justice actors to help shape the Policy. To further aid in the process, the Office is also seeking input from the public. External experts are welcome to offer substantive comment on how the Policy can be best effectuated. Such comments will be accepted via email until April 30, 2024 (see more information about submissions on the ICC website, linked below).

For further information, please see:

ICC – Office of the Prosecutor Launches Public Consultation on Policy on Slavery Crimes – Mar. 19, 2014

ICC – Policy on Children – Dec 7, 2023

ICC – Policy on Gender-Based Crimes – Dec. 4, 2023

ICC – Policy on The Crime of Gender Persecution – Dec 7, 2022

International Labour Organization – Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking – Sept. 12, 2022

Lexology – ICC Opens Consultation for New Policy in Slavery Crimes – Mar. 20, 2024

UNICEF – UNICEF and The Fight Against Child Trafficking – Nov. 9, 2022





ECtHR Rules that Turkey Violated Right to Freedom of Conscience in Cypriot Conscientious Objector Case

By: Gavin Gretsky

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On March 3, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a decision in the case of Kanatlı v. Türkiye, finding that Turkey violated European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article 9 protections of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The violation stems from when Turkey brought criminal charges and punishment against a reservist who refused to comply with the annual mandatory one day of military service because he was a conscientious objector.

Members of the Turkish-Cypriot security forces participate in a military parade. | Photo courtesy of Daily Shabah.

The applicant in this case, Murat Kanatli, is a resident of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and was a member of the Turkish-Cypriot security forces in 2005 as part of the Military Service Act which imposed mandatory military service. Under the Military Service Act, following active-duty service Mr. Kanatli was expected to serve as a reservist by performing one day of military service in military barracks. Mr. Kanatli performed this duty for three years in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Following his service is 2008, Mr. Kanatli became the Cypriot representative for the European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors and was elected to the executive committee of the organization in 2009. A conscientious objector is an individual who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of either moral or religious principles. Mr. Kanatli then refused to serve his one day of mandatory military service in 2009 because of his pacifist and anti-militarist beliefs.

Because of this refusal, the military prosecutor’s office brought criminal proceedings against Mr. Kanatli. Mr. Kanatli challenged the constitutionality of the Military Services Act because it gave no substitute civilian service option for those opposed to compulsory military service. In 2013, the Supreme Military Administrative Court held that the Military Services Act was constitutional and imposed a fine of 167 Euros which could become a punishment of ten days imprisonment if there was a failure to pay. Mr. Kanatli refused to pay and served his ten days in jail. Mr. Kanatli also refused his annual military service in 2010 and 2011, resulting in two more criminal proceedings which were later dropped.

Mr. Kanatli filed his case against Turkey with the European Court of Human Rights in 2015, arguing that the mandatory military service without the option for civilian service as a substitute violated Article 9 of the ECHR. Specifically, Mr. Kanatli argued that the Military Service Act, and his convictions under the statute, violated Article 9 freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The ECtHR stated that the freedom of conscience was unreservedly protected and was guaranteed by the ECHR. The Court held that Turkey did violate the ECHR because the legislation required military service but did not provide any provisions for conscientious objectors to perform an alternative service and only prescribed criminal proceedings for these individuals.

Because of this violation, the ECtHR declared that Turkey must pay Mr. Kanatli 9,000 Euros in damages and 2,363 Euros in costs and expenses.

For further information, please see:

Cyprus Mail- Turkey Fined Over Cypriot Conscientious Objector- 13 Mar. 2024

ECtHR – Convention Breached by Absence of Legislation Allowing Conscientious Objectors to Opt for Civilian Service as Alternate to Military Service- 12 Mar. 2024

Philenews- Turkey Breaches Rights of Cypriot Conscientious Objector: European Court – 13 Mar. 2024

Stockholm Center for Freedom – EctHR Faults Turkey for Violating Rights of Turkish Cypriot Conscientious Objector – 12 Mar. 2024

Turkish Minute – ECtHR faults Turkey for violating rights of Turkish Cypriot conscientious objector – 12 Mar. 2024

European Commission Passes Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and Human Rights Law

By: D’Andre Gordon 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium – On February 23, 2022, the European Commission adopted a proposal to enact new supply chain legislation, known as the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which aims to increase “corporate sustainability due diligence,” reduce the environmental impact of corporate practices, and advance human rights.

A person holding a sign with a black background with white-colored lettering that reads “Justice is everybody’s business.” | Photo courtesy of Amnesty International.

The EU’s recent approval of the CSDDD is more than a legislative change; it’s a clarion call for economic systems worldwide to reckon with the legacies of exploitation embedded within them. This act, which challenges companies to transparently audit their supply chains for human rights abuses and environmental damage, introduces an ethical dimension to global commerce that holds corporations accountable beyond profit margins.

The directive marks a significant step in redressing the deep-seated imbalances created by a history of colonial practices, where the pursuit of profit too often trampled on the rights of native populations and the natural environment. However, it is crucial to address that the journey toward this legislative milestone was marked by critical discourses reflecting the delicate interplay between ambition and attainability.

Reports from ESG Today and Euronews reveal that the initial robust provisions of the CSDDD were met with political reservations, leading to a version that some consider being watered down. The adoption of the directive, though successful, emerged with raised thresholds for company inclusion and excised requirements that could have extended its reach significantly. Such compromises hint at the complexities and constraints intrinsic to policymaking within diverse political landscapes.

Despite these modifications, the legislative process has been met with measured optimism by watchdogs and social organizations, including Amnesty International, which sees the CSDDD as a vital first step in the right direction. It is an acknowledgment of the necessity for corporate accountability, but also a recognition of the directive’s present limitations. Their perspective serves as a reminder that the pursuit of justice and corporate responsibility is an evolving endeavor, requiring laws like the CSDDD to be living documents, amenable to future enhancements that might expand their scope and fortify their impact.

Other groups are making similar efforts. In Canada, Indigenous communities are engaging in a parallel, yet distinctive struggle, advocating for an economy that supports not just life, but a way of life reflecting their values. Researchers like Solen Roth have detailed the efforts of Northwest Coast artists in reclaiming the commodification of their cultural heritage. Their journey towards a market model that is both less colonial and more indigenous – emphasizing fair distribution and community benefit – mirrors the ethos behind the EU’s new directive.

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – EU: New European business human rights law passes crucial vote – 15 Mar. 2024

DW – EU countries back new human rights supply chain law – 15 Mar. 2024

Euronews – EU Policy: Governments support stripped-down corporate due diligence law – 15 Mar. 2024

ESG Today – Watered-down Supply Chain Sustainability Due Diligence Law Passes First Hurdle in EU Parliament – 19 Mar. 2024

European Commission Database – Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence – European Commission – 23 Feb. 2022

University of Nebraska Press – Can Capitalism Be Decolonized? Recentering Indigenous Peoples Values and Ways of Life in the Canadian Art Market – 17 Mar. 2024