Trouble? Remembering the Belfast Agreement in the Brexit Aftermath

Although Brexit resurfaced in the weekend’s newspapers with the revelation that Britain’s exit from the EU could be delayed until 2019, the referendum has largely taken a backseat to other news. Even at the height of the Brexit fervour there was little to no substantive debate on the effect a potential EU exit would have on Northern Ireland (which voted remain by a majority of 56%).

UK Passport

The passport for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

This oversight notwithstanding, Northern Ireland’s ties to the European Union are significant and merit consideration, especially in the context of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Europe has paid £1.3 billion to the Northern Irish PEACE programmes alone since 1995. This figure does not include farm subsidies or the economic gain from Northern Ireland’s food and agricultural exports to the EU. Monetary ties aside, I will focus on the proliferation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Belfast Agreement, the important role it plays in the peace process, and the right to citizenship and self-determination in the context of a post-Brexit border poll. Continue reading

The humanitarian quest for accountability: Examining the role of UNHCR

UNHCR 2015: A difficult crisis

The European refugee crisis has been a difficult experience for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On the one hand, UNHCR has been criticized by civil society and the humanitarian community for not being present on Greek islands. On the other hand, the organization has experienced difficulties in negotiating this access with Greek authorities. In addition to criticism of UNHCRs actions/inactions in Greece, the organization also faced criticism for not doing enough to push states across Europe to admit a bigger responsibility for the refugee crisis, and to accept greater numbers of refugees for resettlement.

In the fall of 2015, there was explicit criticism of previous High Commissioner of Refugees, Antonio Guterres, as it was argued that his ambitions of becoming the new United Nations Secretary General was getting in the way of confronting European states more explicitly to  ensure that they live up to their responsibility as stated in the 1951 Refugee Convention:

“The heads of U.N. agencies with ‘well-nourished careers’ prefer to ‘put out cutesy heart-warming videos’ about individual refugees rather than criticize governments… They want another U.N. job … And they won’t get it if they piss governments off. You have to start shaming governments. That’s how things get done.”

Laying a new path under high commissioner Grandi?

Now things may be changing. Prior to the much debated EU-Turkey refugee deal, the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stated that the potential refugee bottleneck in Greece was a major topic of discussion. And during a February 2016 visit to Athens, he took the opportunity to criticize “the border closures and the inability of European countries to face the refugee crisis with generosity and unity”. Only weeks later (in March 2016), the organization explicitly distanced itself from the EU-Turkey plan, as potentially undermining the tenants of international refugee protection.

Arguably this marks a shift in how UNHCR interprets and enacts its function as a key international actor tasked with the important job of holding states accountable to their commitments to international refugee protection (1951 Convention). And now that the EU-Turkey deal has become is a reality, it is certainly worth noticing that UNHCR was not part of the deal making. Instead, UNHCR is now looking to the future: “Let’s see what the European courts has to say on this,” said Vincent Cochetel, who is leading the UNHCR’s response to the crisis in Europe. A deal might be legal if Turkey overhauls its asylum system and guarantees that those returned are not kept in detention and are given a proper chance of claiming refuge, which is not currently the case, says Mr Cochetel. Other than Europeans, only Syrians have any right to claim shelter in Turkey under its current system. Accordingly, in line with UNHCR’s policy on opposing mandatory detention, the organization has suspended provision of transport to and from detention sites on Greek islands, and has also expressed concern that Greece may have deported asylum seekers by mistake, in violation of international law.

Good Enough Accountability as existential challenge

These contradictory examples illustrate what amounts to an existential challenge not only for UNHCR, but for the humanitarian enterprise as a whole, namely the quest for good enough accountability.  In situations where the host state may be unable or unwilling to protect civilians, humanitarians step in to provide governance, care and protection. With a record-high number of humanitarian emergencies and displaced individuals worldwide, there are more humanitarian organizations doing more things in more places than ever before. They are not elected and are mostly unencumbered by legal obligations towards the communities they proclaim to work for. While the humanitarian sector has developed its own ‘accountability-industry’, humanitarians continue to express concern about how accountability-initiatives are skewed towards donors, at the expense of accountability towards crisis-affected communities and individuals. At the same time, there is deep disagreement about what good enough accountability might look like, how it might be achieved and what resources humanitarians and donors would be willing to invest towards reaching a satisfactory level of accountability.

A knowledge gap: Conceptualizing the history and ‘technologies of accountability’

Despite the key importance of accountability for the legitimacy of humanitarian action, inadequate academic attention has been given to how the concept of accountability is evolving within the specific branches of the humanitarian enterprise. Up to now, there exists no comprehensive account of what we label the ‘technologies of accountability’, the effects of their interaction, or the question of how the current turn to decision-making software and biometrics as both the means and ends of accountability may contribute to reshaping humanitarian governance.

In a recent book, UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability: Technology, Law and Results-Based Management (Routledge Humanitarian Studies series) we explore UNHCR’s quest for accountability by viewing the UNHCR’s accountability obligations through the web of institutional relationships within which the agency is placed (beneficiaries, host governments, implementing partners, donors, the Executive Committee and UNGA). The book takes a multidisciplinary approach in order to illuminate the various layers and relationships that constitute accountability and also to reflect on what constitutes good enough accountability.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: The Quest for an Accountability Cure Katja Lindskov Jacobsen & Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
  • UNHCR and the Complexity of Accountability in the Global Space Niamh Kinchin
  • Advancing UNHCR Accountability through the Law of International Responsibility Maja Janmyr
  • Narratives of accountability in UNHCR’s refugee resettlement strategy Adèle Garnier
  • UNHCR and accountability for IDP protection in Colombia Miriam Bradley
  • Universalizing the refugee category and struggling for accountability: the every-day work of eligibility officers within UNHCR Marion Fresia and Andreas von Känel
  • Accounting for the Past, A history of refugee management in Uganda, 1959-64 Ashley B. Rockenbach
  • How accountability technologies shape international protection: results-based management and rights-based approaches revisited Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
  • UNHCR, Accountability and Refugee Biometrics Katja Lindskov Jacobsen

 

Kristin Bergtora Sandvik is an Associate Professor at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at University of Oslo and a Senior Researcher at PRIO.

Katja Lindskov Jacobsen is Senior Researcher at The Centre for Military Studies at Copenhagen University, Department of Political Science.

Trafficking of Human Beings at the ECtHR: The Importance of Using Article 14 to Broaden the Protection of Women and Girls (Part I)

Two Spanish cases currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights illustrate gaping lacunae in the protections extended to victims of trafficking on the continent.  They also, however, offer a unique opportunity to broaden this protection by recognizing, for the first time, that the trafficking of human beings is a form of slavery and violence that constitutes discrimination against women and girls. By linking trafficking and discrimination (in the same way that it linked domestic violence with gender discrimination in cases like Opuz vs. Turkey), and thereby requiring that States appropriately protect victims of trafficking and refrain from further discriminatory treatment against them, the Court would provide much more robust safeguards for some of the most vulnerable women in Europe.

The insufficient protection to trafficked women under the European Convention of Human Rights

The Convention guarantees basic rights and freedoms and recognizes “the inherent dignity of all human beings.” The enjoyment of those rights “shall be secured without discrimination on any ground.” Trafficking, for its part, has been recognized as a humanitarian crisis. Trafficking is the only organized crime expressly prohibited in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Council of the European Union agreed on a Framework Decision on combating trafficking in 2002, adopting an action plan on best practices, standards, and procedures for tackling the phenomenon in 2005. Further plans have been adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Statistics bear out the fact that trafficking is widespread and well entrenched on European soil. European Commission statistics from 2014 indicate that 30,146 victims were found across the 28 Member States. 80 percent of registered victims are female, and approximately 35 percent arrived from outside the EU. More than 1,000 child victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Yet the Court has only heard twelve cases involving allegations of trafficking since 2005, eight of which were ruled inadmissible. The result is a legal regime that could do more to protect the high numbers of trafficked persons arriving in Europe. With regards to its trafficking jurisprudence, the Court has explicitly recognized three main positive obligations on States, all derived from Article 4.

The first is an obligation to put into place an appropriate legislative and administrative framework. It requires that States “penalize and prosecute effectively any act aimed at maintaining a person in a situation of slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour,” with additional requirements for effectively preventing trafficking and protecting victims. In Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia, the Court elaborated on Article 4’s requirements, holding that member States must “put in place adequate measures regulating businesses often used as a cover for human trafficking,” and that immigration rules must “address relevant concerns relating to encouragement, facilitation, or tolerance of trafficking.”

The second requirement involves the positive obligation to take operational measures to protect victims and potential victims of trafficking. The obligation only arises, however, if State authorities were aware, or should have been aware, of “circumstances giving rise to a credible suspicion that an identified individual had been, or was at real and immediate risk of being, trafficked or exploited…”. The obligation is tempered, so that the Court will not impose an “impossible or disproportionate burden on the authorities.”

Thirdly, and lastly, the Court has held that Article 4 involves a procedural obligation to investigate where there is a credible suspicion that an individual’s rights . . . have been violated.” Any investigation must be effective, meaning that it must be independent from those implicated in events, and must be capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible. The investigation must also be prompt and reasonably expeditious, with urgency attached where the possibility of removing the individual from the harmful situation is available.

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Learning About International Justice on the Ground—The Balkans & War Crimes (Part III)

By Belinda Cooper and Jennifer Trahan

SREBRENICA

The one part of our trip (see Parts I and II for prior travels) that participants are unlikely to forget is a day spent in and around the massacre site of Srebrenica, where 8,300 men and boys were executed in the days starting on July 11, 2005. As we drive to Srebrenica and admire the beautiful mountain scenery and picturesque small farms, it is hard to fathom how ethnic tensions reached that horrible nadir of inhumanity.

Memorial to Serb Victims

Our first visit brings home with great force the stark contrast between Muslim and Serb versions of historical truth—a central concern of transitional justice that most of our students have likely encountered only in the abstract until now. It involves a brief stop at the location of a mass atrocity: the Kravica warehouse, where an estimated 1,000–1,500 Bosnian Muslims were murdered. Because, at that point, we are deep in the territory of Republica Srpska, not a sign marks the spot. Indeed, last summer, the 20th anniversary of the massacre, this site of horror was covered with posters of Vladimir Putin, meant as an anti-EU protest and a call for Russia to veto an upcoming UN resolution on the Srebrenica genocide. By contrast to the lack of commemoration at this site, nearly across the street a large cross looms over a memorial to Serb victims of past wars. Our Bosnian guides always advise caution when we seek to photograph these sites, but last year, due to the tensions unleashed by the 20th anniversary commemorations, we were told not to even leave our bus.

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Kravica Warehouse

 

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Vladimir Putin posters in Republica Srpska

 

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Memorial to Serb Victims

 

In Bratunac, we pass Hotel Fontana—the command headquarters of General Mladic, currently on trial in The Hague, who led the assault on Srebrenica. We have also been able to visit another memorial in Bratunac, this one to Serbs, mainly soldiers, killed around Srebrenica—a further disconcerting example of contrasting “truths” as well as denial on the part of perpetrator societies. The actual town of Srebrenica, where we stop for lunch, is so small that it is hard to imagine it swollen with 40,000 desperate Bosnian Muslim families seeking sanctuary in the so-called UN “safe haven,” which turned out to be neither “safe” nor a “haven.”

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At the Potočari memorial (whose creation was mandated by the international community, since we are still in Republika Srpska, which would have created no such memorial), we lay a wreath to the victims and walk silently among the graves. In the battery factory where men and boys were separated from the women, we tour the memorial room, including the last effects of some of the victims, and read VRS (Army of Republika Srpska) wire intercepts regarding the disposal of “packages” (cynical code for bodies). The use of the word “genocide” throughout the memorial site brings home one powerful legacy of the ICTY: its determination that the massacre at Srebrenica met the legal definition of genocide. The preserved UN (“DUTCHBAT”) barracks, complete with the peacekeepers’ sometimes racist graffiti, provides a graphic reminder of the UN’s powerlessness to prevent that genocide.

As if our visit isn’t devastating enough, we listen spell-bound to a survivor of the column of men who tried to escape the Srebrenica executions by walking through miles of hostile territory. He was one of the few who made it to the Free Territory of Tuzla. We have also had the chance to meet with one of the “Mothers of Srebrenica” who lost all the male members of her family, including her two sons. She returned to Srebrenica, she says, unlike many other Muslims, in order to be reminded of her children by two trees planted in her front yard when they were small. At this point, there is hardly a dry eye in the room–and students begin to understand on a much more fundamental level what, exactly, we are seeking justice for.

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Write On! PluriCourts conference ‘Adjudicating international trade and investment disputes’ (deadline March 1)

The PluriCourts Centre of Excellence at the University of Oslo is organizing a conference titled ‘Adjudicating international trade and investment disputes: between interaction and isolation.’ The conference will be hosted at the Faculty of Law of the University of Oslo 25-26 August 2016. Abstracts are due March 1, 2016.

The conference aims to focus on the relationship, interactions and comparisons between the international trade and investment regimes in the context of adjudication of disputes. The conference will welcome research across the disciplines of law, political science, and philosophy relating to three themes: the new mega-regionals, comparisons and practices, and cross-fertilization and learning. Historically, the global regulation of international trade and investment relations have been closely interrelated; but in the post-war period, international trade law and international investment law developed on largely divergent paths. While international trade regulation has culminated in a multilateral regime with a permanent dispute settlement mechanism, the international regulation of foreign direct investment is primarily governed by 3500 essentially bilateral treaty relationships calling for ad hoc investor – state arbitration potentially to be hosted by a variety of international institutions. Despite these seemingly distinct structures, there is a recent trend that some say signal a move towards regime convergence: most clearly seen in the rise of mega-regional free trade agreements (FTAs) with investment chapters.

This potential convergence may be deceiving, however. The investment chapters of FTAs remain separate from the rest of the agreements and provide for distinct rules and procedures on dispute settlement. Moreover, issues of overlap between trade chapters and investment chapters have not been resolved, which means that the same case could possibly be raised simultaneously in two separate disputes under the same FTA. Legal disputes based on investment chapters in FTAs to date (ie under the NAFTA and DR-CAFTA) appear to interpret the investment protection chapters as standalone agreements with little or no reference to other sections of the FTAs. Despite the limitations to integration that this new generation of trade and investment agreements may represent, there are other areas of interaction between the trade and investment regimes that could provide better evidence of a gradual move towards cohesion. This conference aims to look at the development of the new mega-regionals, but also the ways (or lack thereof) that the trade and investment regimes share practices and cross-fertilize.

For more information and submission procedures, see: Call for Papers – Trade Investment Conference [pdf]

 

Go On! AEL summer courses on Human Rights Law and Law of the EU (deadline April 4)

The Academy of European Law (AEL) holds two summer courses each year, on Human Rights Law and the Law of the European Union.  The 2016 Human Rights Law Course will be held from 20 June to 1 July. It comprises a General Course on ‘The Sources of International Human Rights Law’ by Professor Jean d’Aspremont (University of Manchester and University of Amsterdam) and a series of specialized courses on the topic of ‘The Sources of Human Rights’ by leading scholars from universities all over the world.

The 2016 Law of the European Union Course will be held from 4 July to 15 July. It comprises a General Course on ‘The Global Reach of EU Law’ by Professor Joanne Scott (University College London) and a series of specialized courses on the same topic by leading scholars and practitioners in the Law of the European Union.

The two-week courses are held at the European University Institute, in the hills above Florence, and participants leave with positive memories of the extremely high intellectual standard of the courses, the EUI facilities including the library, the beautiful venue, and the interaction with other participants from all over the world. Some participants come to study at the EUI in later years, and it is not unusual to see participants returning for a second or third summer course.

The deadline for applications  is Monday 4 April 2016. For further information, visit the Academy’s website at http://www.eui.eu/DepartmentsAndCentres/AcademyEuropeanLaw/SummerSchool/Index.aspx

Write On! Call for Papers: Colonial Law Conference, Helsinki (deadline March 1)

eci20ryhmakuva-7-349pxThe Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki has announced a call for papers for the Conference “Law Between Global and Colonial: Techniques of Empire,” to be held from 3-5 October 2016.

The conference proposes to discuss the legal languages and techniques through which colonial powers ruled non-European territories and populations throughout the modern age. The aim of the conference is to examine in detail the juridical practices and discourses of colonial powers when they exercised their supremacy over colonial subjects and disciplined them. Although the focus of the conference is historical, its theme resonates in the present. With the great numbers of people moving about in Europe, Asia and Africa as migrants, guest workers, refugees and displaced persons, territorial states have often used methods and techniques that resemble those with which colonial populations once were treated. With research showing a sharp rise in world inequality, the conference poses the question whether legislative techniques and institutions inherited from the imperial past, once again see the light of day in the present.

The conference will close the four and a half-year period of the Finnish Academy research project on “International Law, Religion and Empire” at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki. Members: Martti Koskenniemi, Paolo Amorosa, Mónica García-Salmones, Manuel Jimenez and Walter Rech.

Abstracts are due by March 1. For more information, see the full Call for Papers at http://www.helsinki.fi/eci/Events/Call_for_Papers_Colonial_Law_2016.pdf.

 

The beginning of the end of border-free Schengen?

With Austria, Germany and Slovenia reintroducing or rather strengthening border controls amid the refugee and migrant crisis following the suit of other European countries like France, Sweden, Denmark and Norway many of us are now questioning: is this the beginning of the end of border free-Schengen?

Two weeks ago in his speech at the European Parliament, the President of the European Commission expressed his concern by bluntly saying: “Internal borders, Erasmus and the Internet generation, these are things that do not go together. (…) The price of a European Union with internal borders is very high. (…) We must do everything to save the Schengen area, knowing that this requires a well-controlled European policy of lawful migration.”

Why is Schengen so important for Europe? Let’s reflect. The Schengen Agreement was a result of the willingness of European states to move into the creation of a single area where European citizens and third nationals alike would move freely the so called, Schengen Area. On the 14 June 1985 France, Germany and the Benelux countries signed in Schengen, an Agreement of the Gradual Abolition of Checks at their Common Borders. This initial stage was depicted as an important path towards the construction of the common territory of a supranational entity. Italy, Portugal, Spain Greece and Austria later adhered along with Sweden, Finland and Denmark. In 1999 a cooperation agreement was signed by Iceland and Norway and later with Switzerland. The 1985 text was later supplemented with the 1990 Schengen Convention, which proposed the abolitions of internal borders and a common visa policy. The Schengen Convention was the incubator of the European Community because it allowed Member States to achieve the “communitarian” or better said, the European states “community objective” without compromising or transferring their sovereignty to the community institutions. In 1997 the Amsterdam Treaty incorporated the Schengen treaties into European Union law (despite providing opt outs for countries like Ireland and the United Kingdom) meaning that – free movement of persons- became not only one of the primary achievements of the European Union (EU) but also part of the EU’s identity and citizenship. Today, under the Lisbon Treaty, Schengen rules are subject to both parliamentary and judicial scrutiny. As most Schengen rules are now part of the EU acquis, it has no longer been possible for accession countries to ‘opt out’ since the EU enlargement of 1 May 2004.

The unprecedented flux of refugees and migrants into Europe and other on-going challenges such as climate and demographic change has served to underline the inextricable link between external border management and free movement inside those external borders. But more than that, the erosion of the border-free Schengen means millions of financial losses and consequently a rise in unemployment within a continent, which is slowly resurrecting from a financial crisis. As the Dutch take over for the next six months the European Union Presidency, Mark Rutte the Dutch prime minister, has stated that the EU has “six to eight weeks” to save border-free Schengen. The programme of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union clearly prioritises, among others, the need for a comprehensive approach to migration and international security: “The current priority is to control Europe’s external borders effectively, improve the initial reception of refugees in Europe and in the region, and share the burden fairly.” The programme also outlines that “conflicts and human rights violations are major factors in instability, and are causing long –term challenges in the area of security, the humanitarian situation and socio-economic development” The Dutch also say, they are committed to link “internal and external policies more effectively and use the EU´s broad range of instruments and diplomatic efforts on the part of the High Representative and the Member States.” More importantly, they are “determined to contribute to the speedy elaboration and implementation of the migration package presented by the Commission and the early completion of the strategic review of EU foreign and security policy.”

Whatever actions are taken in the next few months to it is important to highlight that border free Schengen will only survive if it rightly addresses the migration situation. In other words, if the European Union Member and Schengen States are able to manage a security and border- control agenda together with a human rights one. Without the focus on the protection of the human person during all phases of displacement i.e. before, during and after displacement occurs the Schengen-border area is likely to become defunct.

At a time where, according to the Frans Timmermans who currently serves as the First Vice-President of the European Commission, 60% of arrivals in Europe from the Middle East and Africa are economic migrants and not asylum seekers fleeing war, it becomes apparent that the protection of the human person merits other solutions that are currently not catered by Europe’s current migration policies, neither the 1951 Refugee Convention and its additional Protocol or the complementary protection measures within the European states. Besides facilitating national and local development projects or other types of bilateral, regional or international cooperation agreements with developing countries, facilitating well-managed mobility and labour migration or other forms of temporary protection from degraded and impoverish areas with Europe, could potentially represent an effective strategy to avoid displacement and help mitigate the current migration crisis. If anything, the next European Union migration package needs to be “migrant centred”: addressing migrants’ group vulnerabilities, employment aspirations, and family situations, and increase skills and provide equal treatment that respects, protects and fulfils their human rights. Migration can be used as a source of transcultural capital to create and promote mutual business for sending and receiving countries and should always avoid the negative effects of loss of human capital or “brain drain” from developing countries. Only time will tell whether or not European states are up for this challenge. Jean Monnet’s celebrated words in 1978 that “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted in those crisis,” continue to be as timely as ever.

Go On! ESIL-ECtHR conference ‘The European Convention on Human Rights and the Crimes of the Past’ (deadline 19 Feb.)

logo2The European Court of Human Rights and the European Society for International Law have organized a one-day conference on “The European Convention on Human Rights and the Crimes of the Past on February 26 in Strasbourg, France. The deadline to register for the program, which will include presentations by ECtHR judges and international law scholars, is February 19. To register, email ESIL-ECHR-Conf2016 [at] echr.coe.int.

Greater clarity on intermediary liability may not be a win for free expression online

The Delfi v. Estonia decision, issued in June of 2015 by the European Court of Human Rights, marked a low point in that court’s caselaw regarding freedom of expression on the Internet. This week, a new European Court ruling slightly qualifies and narrows the scope of Delfi. The outcome of the new decision is not as detrimental as one could have anticipated; however, it looks to be another step toward requiring European Internet intermediaries to monitor user-generated content on their sites.

Background: The Delfi decision of 2015

In Delfi, the Grand Chamber ruled that holding an online news portal liable as the publisher of unlawful comments posted by its users was consistent with the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It distinguished a similar ruling by the First Section of the Court, which upheld the imposition of liability for comments that were deemed defamatory. For the Grand Chamber, the comments rose to the level of hate speech and incitement to violence, which were clearly unlawful and particularly harmful forms of speech.

The Grand Chamber declined to inform its Delfi analysis with caselaw interpreting the EU E-Commerce Directive and other relevant international instruments on the right to freedom of expression. According to these materials, a broad range of intermediaries should be shielded from liability for content that they transmit or host. The E-Commerce Directive and other materials indicate that intermediaries should not have a duty to monitor user-generated content on their sites, and decisions regarding liability should examine whether the intermediary had actual knowledge of unlawful material.

Although the European Court’s jurisdiction is limited to interpreting the European Convention and its protocols, I have argued in a forthcoming piece that the Delfi decision undermines legal certainty regarding intermediary liability in Europe and is problematic for the right to freedom of expression (see similar views here, here and here). The Court specified that its reasoning in Delfi only applied to “a large professionally managed Internet news portal run on a commercial basis which published news articles of its own and invited its readers to comment on them,” excluding most social networking services. Nevertheless, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish intermediaries on the basis of whether they provide or “edit” content.

The Court’s latest decision on the liability of an online intermediary

In Magyar Tartalomszolgaltatok Egyesulete and Index.hu Zrt v. Hungary (MTE), the Fourth Section of the European Court qualified Delfi and explained that Internet content providers will be held to the highest standards of conduct when hate speech or incitement to violence is posted on their sites. Because the comments in question in this case were merely defamatory, Hungary’s decision to hold the applicants – a self-regulatory body of Internet content providers and a major Internet news portal – strictly liable constituted a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention (a welcome contrast to the First Section’s holding in the 2013 Delfi decision).

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