The European Court of Human Rights - based at Strasbourg - has announced that from 1st November 2012 its President will be Dean Spielmann from Luxembourg. He will replace the current President - Sir Nicolas Bratza. Mr Spielmann was born in 1962 and obtained his Bachelor's law degree at the Catholic University of Louvain and went on to obtain a Master of Laws at Cambridge in 1990. He was a member of the Luxembourg Bar from 1989 to 2004, a member of Luxembourg's Advisory Human Rights Commission (2000-04) and a Member of the European Union Network of Independent Experts in Fundamental Rights (2002-04). In June 2004 he became a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Christianity Cases:
At the court, the United Kingdom is now engaged in a number of important cases - see Hudoc. The cases are Chaplin v UK; Eweida v UK; Ladele v UK; and McFarlane v UK. The four cases are brought by practising Christians who complain the the law in the UK does not sufficiently protect their rights to freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination at work. The hearing at the court held on 4th September was to consider the admissibility of the cases and the merits. The court's decision will be announced later.
Ms Eweida, a British Airways employee, and Ms Chaplin, a geriatrics nurse, complain that their employers placed restrictions on their visibly wearing Christian crosses around their necks while at work. Ms Ladele, a Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and Mr McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, complain about their dismissal for refusing to carry out certain of their duties which they considered would condone homosexuality.
A considerable number of bodies and individuals have been permitted to intervene including in the Ladele case a former Archbishop of Canterbury (Lord Carey):
in all cases: Equality and Human Rights Commission, The National Secular Society, Dr Jan Camogursky and The Alliance Defense Fund;
in Eweida and Chaplin v. the United Kingdom: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, The Premier Christian Media Trust, The Right Reverend Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, and The Right Reverend Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn, Associazone "Giuseppi Dossetti: i Valori", Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe;
in Ladele and McFarlane v. the United Kingdom: Liberty, The Clapham Institute and KLM, The European Centre for Law and Justice, The Right Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Carey of Clifton, The Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH, ICJ, ILGA-Europe).
See also Joshua Rozenberg's article on the Ladele case - Religious beliefs should be respected when rights are not impeded. A further good post is to be found at Law and Religion UK - Marginalised Christians? Chaplin, Eweida, McFarlane and Ladele - again.
The Court of Appeal (Civil Division) judgments are:
Ladele v London Borough of Islington  EWCA Civ 1357 - Lord Neuberger MR, Dyson and Smith LJJ
Eweida v British Airways  EWCA Civ 80 - Sedley, Carnwath and Smith LJJ.
Neither case was heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused leave to appeal in Ladele's case on 4th March 2010 (application considered by Lord Phillips, Lady Hale and Lord Kerr) and Eweida's case on 26th May 2010 (application considered by Lords Saville, Walker and Kerr). The Supreme Court website does not offer any reasons for the refusals - it merely states REFUSED. (More recently, the court's website gives short statements about refusal - e.g. here).
A Bluffer's Guide:
David Hart QC has offered a Bluffer's Guide to Human Rights Courts - see UK Human Rights Blog 10th September.
New judges at Strasbourg:
See the earlier post - New "elected" judges at Strasbourg Mr Paul Mahoney from the UK takes up his post on 1st November 2012.
The deadline approaches:
The Commission on a British Bill of Rights second consultation draws to a close on 30th September - see the earlier post. The foreword to the second consultation paper (pdf - 30 pages) states that no decisions have yet been reached by the Commission on the key question of whether to recommend a UK Bill of Rights. The paper also asks whether additional rights should be introduced such as rights to equality, trial by jury, rights for victims etc. The paper concludes by setting out a set of 15 questions upon which views are sought.
The deadline for responses is 30th September 2012. They may be sent to the Commission by email or by post at the address here.
Out of concern for the future of human rights protection in the UK, the British Institute of Human Rights has organised a tour of the U.K. in the period from 17th September to 12th December 2012. The Institute states that:
Human Rights are for everyone.
Human Rights are the result of centuries of struggle, by groups and individuals who suffered persecution or neglect at the hands of an often all too powerful state.
Human Rights became international law after the horrors of World War II when, thanks to the advocacy of civil society, the international community adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights are under attack. Too many of our political leaders and some sections of the media want to go backwards, not forwards. Join the fight back at the BIHR 2012 Human Rights Tour – coming soon to a city near you!
Human Rights go to the heart of the kind of society we want to be. Learn more, and get involved, at the 2012 Human Rights Tour.