European Court on Human Rights

In an article yesterday on the impact of leaving the EU, someone rather contemptuously asked what the European Court on Human Rights had ever done for us,  A contributor called ‘deoraiocht’ replied:

What has the ECHR done for us? Over 10,000 judgements in 60 years prompting changes to laws in nearly 50 countries.

It has:
Protected domestic servants from forced labour and given illegitimate children equal inheritance rights in France.
Improved conditions in Russian prisons.
Improved the punishment of domestic violence in Turkey.
Forced Cyprus to tackle sex trafficking.
Halted state censorship of TV in Moldova.
Forced Bulgaria to properly care for the mentally and physically disabled.

In Britain it has:
Improved care of vulnerable prisoners.
Regulated the monitoring of employee communications.
Protected the anonymity of journalists sources.
Forced councils to observe proper safeguards during evictions.
Equalised the age of consent for all people, regardless of sexuality.
Rejected former Formula One boss Max Mosley’s privacy complaint.
Enabled BA employee Nadia Eweida to wear her crucifix at work.

Banned fines for immigrants who want to get married: O’Donoghue and Others v the United Kingdom (2010)
A scheme which charged immigrants a fee if they were not planning a Church of England wedding was ruled a violation of the right to marry (article 12).

Protected a child being beaten by their stepfather: A. v. the UK (1998)
When a minor was hit repeatedly and forcefully with a wooden cane by his stepfather, the stepfather was acquitted of actual bodily harm by a jury who had accepted his defence of “reasonable chastisement”. But the ECHR ruled it was a violation of the child’s right not to experience inhuman or degrading treatment (article 3).

Protected siblings from sexual abuse: Z. and Others v. the UK (2001)
After a local authority failed to protect four children from serious physical and sexual abuse by their parents, the ECHR ruled their right not to experience inhuman or degrading treatment (article 3) had been violated and they were given compensation.

Stopped a man being prosecuted for having gay sex: B.B. v. the UK (2004)
When an adult man was prosecuted for “buggery” after having consensual sex with a 16-year-old during the period when the age of consent for homosexual intercourse was 18 years of age, the ECHR ruled that his right to a private life (article 8) had been violated.

Protected the freedom of the press: Sunday Times (No. 1) v. the UK (1979)
The ECHR ruled an injunction imposed on the Sunday Times which prevented them reporting on the thalidomide scandal violated their right to freedom of expression (article 10).

Stopped police keeping the DNA of innocent people: S. and Marper v. the UK (2008)
The court found that storing the DNA of people who had been acquitted or released without charge on police databases was a violation of their right to privacy (article 8).

Helped a disabled woman keep her dignity: McDonald v. the United Kingdom (2014)
After a council reduced the amount of care available to a severely disabled woman overnight, saying she could use incontinence pads and absorbent sheets instead of a night-time carer visiting her to help her use the toilet, the court ruled that parts of the decision had violated her right to a private life (article 8).

Banned the retention of the DNA of innocent people.
The court ruled that indiscriminate retention of fingerprints and DNA failed to balance public and private interests. It said there was “disproportionate interference” with the right to respect for private life and was unnecessary in a democratic society.

Article 2 of the ECHR – the right to life – was used to establish that any failure properly to equip British soldiers serving abroad would constitute a breach of their rights.

The court deals with thousands of cases each year but many (approx 90%) are thrown out due to various reasons, including that the applicant hasn’t exhausted every national legal avenue or that the complaint doesn’t concern a right under the convention.

Over 50% of cases that are given a public hearing come from just four countries: Italy, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia. Just under 50% of critical judgements affect 6 countries: Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.

In just one recent year, 2082 complaints against the UK saw just 12 upheld (2047 were not admitted and in 23 the UK was found to have no case to answer) – that’s less than 1%…

Now that’s what I call a reply.

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