Human Rights Committee
A “FORMALISTIC” APPROACH TO JURISDICTION IN THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS’ DECISION ON HUMANITARIAN VISAS: WAS ANOTHER INTERPRETATION POSSIBLE?
A long awaited decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), one that will be discussed for long (see already here, here and here), has not disappointed all the European governments whose efforts are aimed to strengthen border controls on migrants, including asylum claimants. With the decision in the case of M.N. and Others v. Belgium (no. 3599/18), the ECtHR has adopted a self-restraint approach that creates an additional obstacle for those asylum claimants who would rely on international human rights law obligations as the only possible way of avoiding dangerous, sometimes deadly, journeys in order to submit an asylum application in Europe. The ECtHR concluded that States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) do not have any obligation to issue humanitarian visas because the ECHR does not apply in the context of proceedings initiated by individuals through diplomatic representations of a State Party, with which such individuals have no connecting ties like nationality or which does not exercise any sort of physical control (more generally on Article 1 ECHR, see Besson and Milanovic). Whereas some readers may find it unsurprising, in light of recent case law (e.g. Grand Chamber, N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, nos. 8675/15 and 8697/15; and Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary, no. 47287/15) as well as the CJEU’s findings on the same matter from a EU law perspective (X and X v. Belgium, C-638/16 PPU), other readers may qualify the ECtHR’s approach based on the lack of jurisdiction as ‘formalist’ or ‘ineffective’. This is particularly the case when the reasoning adopted by the ECtHR is compared with recent developments occurred not only within its case law but also with positions adopted by universal human rights bodies attempting to expand the applicability of human rights treaties, including via a ‘non-formalistic’ approach (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 12 December 2019, no. CERD/C/100/5, para. 3.44).
In his post on the enforced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary killing of Giulio Regeni, Luca Pasquet quoted the annual report of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), where concern is expressed in relation to what “seems to be a recent pattern of short-term disappearances” in Egypt (UN Doc. A/HRC/30/38, para. 67, emphasis added). However, the phenomenon of “short-term disappearances” is not unique to Egypt and has been the source of concern for international human rights mechanisms at least over the past ten years. In the above-mentioned Annual Report, the WGEID informs that from 17 May 2014 to 15 May 2015 it observed a pattern of “short-term” enforced disappearances being used in a number of countries, and expressed its deep concern in this regard (para. 102). In the same report explicit reference is made to the practice of short-term enforced disappearances in Bahrain (para. 59). In the Annual Report for 2014 (UN Doc. A/HRC/27/49, para. 117), the WGEID observed a pattern of short-term enforced disappearances in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates). Moreover, the WGEID stressed that “there is no time limit, no matter how short, for an enforced disappearance to occur and that accurate information on the detention of any person deprived of liberty and their place of detention shall be made promptly available to their family members” (UN Doc. A/HRC/30/38, para. 102).