New article on non-execution of ECtHR judgments

In 2015, Klaas de Vries prepared a PACE report on the implementation of ECtHR judgments in the contracting parties. In it, he suggested that Article 46(4) of the Convention–the infringement proceeding–could usefully be turned to in order to address non-execution. This provision, which has never been used, provides:

If the Committee of Ministers considers that a High Contracting Party refuses to abide by a final judgment in a case to which it is a party, it may, after serving formal notice on that Party and by decision adopted by a majority vote of two thirds of the representatives entitled to sit on the committee, refer to the Court the question whether that Party has failed to fulfil its obligation under paragraph 1.

The release of that report prompted me and Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (Liverpool) to reflect on the potential usefulness of Article 46(4) and, indeed, the dynamics of non-execution per se. The result of that is a paper forthcoming in 2017 in the International and Comparative Law Quarterly. The paper’s title (at least for now, but we think we will stick with it) is “Mission Impossible? Addressing Non-Execution through Infringement Proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights”. In the paper, we focus on what we deem ‘principled non-execution’ and ‘dilatory non-execution’:

It is essential that any attempt to seriously address non-execution would recognise the dynamics and reasons for non-execution. It is only once the root causes have been identified and considered that solutions can be devised or, indeed, that the insoluble nature of some challenges can be recognised. Thus, we propose here that non-simple non-execution can be broadly said to fall into two categories: principled non-execution and dilatory non-execution. The former can be said to relate to cases where states refuse to execute because of a deep-seated disagreement not only with the outcome but, perhaps more significantly, with the principle of an international court’s decision ‘overturning’ a domestic, democratically arrived at position in respect of a particular matter. There are very few instances of this type of non-execution, which is ultimately related to the fact that disagreement about human rights and about the meaning of a human rights treaty is possible, even when parties truly believe in and are committed to the protection of human rights. The latter relate to cases where States are generally dilatory in their execution of adverse judgments from the Court, so that individual cases of non-execution might be connected to this general pattern of resistance to giving effect to the outcome of international judicial supervision in the area of rights. The vast majority of cases of non-execution would fall into this broadly defined category. Importantly, the same State might well be a principled non-executor in some cases and a dilatory one in others.

Building on this distinction we go on to argue that resorting to the Court to address and resolve non-execution is impractical, futile, and likely to attract backlash. Both common sense and a critical engagement with the dynamics of non-execution illustrate that non-execution is a political problem requiring political solutions. As we argue near the end of the paper:

Not only are the practicalities of using Article 46(4) ECHR so complex as to make its deployment seem unlikely but—and more importantly—the almost certain futility and possible backlash that would flow therefrom make this avenue one in which, we argue, extreme caution should be displayed. If the Council of Europe is serious about tackling non-execution, then it must focus its attention on politics. It must take seriously the reality that, in some cases and at some times, non-execution is the politically popular and advantageous thing for the State to do with an eye to the domestic polity, and that the politics of reputation and peer pressure within the Council of Europe are not sufficiently strong to counter the domestic political ‘payoff’ of non-execution.

We hope to have an open access version of the paper to share soon, but in the meantime do feel free to get in touch directly if you would a copy of the un-typeset, un-finalised version of the paper.

New Essay: Evaluation and Effectiveness of Counter-Terrorism

Last autumn I went to Antwerp to give a lecture at a symposium there about responsible innovation in security technology. I am pleased that many of the papers from that symposium are being brought together in a book, including mine. I have now posted the accepted version of the essay on SSRN where it can be downloaded for free. Here is the abstract:

In spite of their proliferation at national and supra-national levels, evaluation of whether counter-terrorist measures are actually effective is worryingly inadequate or, sometimes, simply non-existent. In this short essay I argue that the expansion of counter-terrorism in the past fourteen years has had, and continues to have, serious implications for human rights (not only of suspected terrorists, but of all of us), for democracy, and for the Rule of Law. As a result, part of assessing the justifiability of maintaining (and expanding) these measures must be to establish that there are not only prospectively necessary and designed with rights concerns in mind (the arguments made in justifying introducing them), but also actually effective and proportionate. In order for us to truly assess the effectiveness of a counter-terrorist measure and the robustness of the underlying necessity claim, we must assess the extent to which they meet both meta-objectives of security measures per se and the specific objectives of these measures in as comprehensive, rigorous, and open a way possible. Current practice is, however, not to do this in a systematic manner, meaning that counter-terrorism continues to expand on the basis of prospective arguments as to its necessity and appropriateness, claims for trust on the part of governments and, ultimately, shaky evidentiary bases.

New Conversation Blog: on GCHQ, data collection, and effectiveness

On Monday a new post from me was published on The Conversation. It is reproduced below.

The release of yet more of Edward Snowden’s leaked files reveals the still-astonishing scale and breadth of government surveillance after more than a year of revelations. These recent papers revealed to The Intercept website discuss a programme within Britain’s GCHQ known as “Karma Police”, in which the intelligence agency gathered more than 1.1 trillion pieces of information on UK citizens between August 2007 and March 2009.

Spurred on by the expansion of intercept warrants under the Terrorism Act 2006, this information is users’ internet metadata – details of phone calls, email messages and browser connections that includes passwords, contacts, phone numbers, email addresses, and folders used to organise emails, but not the actual content of messages or emails. Continue reading New Conversation Blog: on GCHQ, data collection, and effectiveness

Zappone & Gilligan v Revenue Commissioners: a feminist re-writing

7556549414_8ae6e03336_bOver recent years, Máiréad Enright, Aoife O’Donoghue and Julie McCandless have been leading the excellent Northern/Ireland Feminist Judgments Project. This takes the core idea of feminist judging from the original project of Rosemary Hunter, Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley and applies it, with particular variations, to Ireland and Irish cases. Enright, O’Donoghue and McCandless have led the development of a close and intellectually challenging community of feminist scholars from, in and interested in Ireland, developed an excellent website, and edited what promises to be an excellent book bringing feminist judgments, commentaries and critical perspectives together. My contribution to that book was to attempt a feminist rewriting of Zappone & Gilligan v Revenue Commissioners & Ors. Continue reading Zappone & Gilligan v Revenue Commissioners: a feminist re-writing