Is the fact that the majority of the population in the Middle East belongs to Islam actually the reason why human rights in Muslim-majority countries appear to be so difficult to work out and enforce? Are Islam and human rights not basically compatible? Historically it cannot be disputed that the thought of human rights first took shape in the European and Western context. Over the course of several centuries, it became widely accepted, and finally the thought of human rights also became a political reality as they were implemented in democratic states and constitutions. However, it would be a wrong conslusion, as for instance has been emphasized by Heiner Bielefeldt, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, to say that the ability to implement human rights, in particular thoughts about freedom and the equality of all people, is a one-sided affair and can only occur in the Western-Christian context. As far as Heiner Bielefeldt is concerned, this historic development, however, justifies neither the assertion that it had to happen as it did, nor does it justify Western representatives’ taking sole occupation of considerations relating to human rights thinking. Viewed from this perspective, human rights cannot boast a “Western” origin or a “Christian” character in a way that they would be incompatible with notions justified by Islam. Having that said, one is still to a large degree able to recognize a desolate situation in matters relating to human rights in Muslim-majority countries. But conflicts between Islam and human rights do not arise automatically out of the religious affiliation of a majority of the people. They certainly do stand out in those places where for political decision-making authorities Sharia law ranks higher than human rights and the granting of human rights is made dependent upon a traditional interpretation of the Sharia. Apart from the societal advocacy of human rights, there is the question as to the framework within which theological assessments of human rights questions occur. The following article aims at pointing to three discernable positions about human rights in the context of Islamic theologians, the a) the inclusive position, b) the pragmatic position, and c) the progressive position.
The principle of nullum crimen sine lege expresses an old idea that only the law can prescribe a particular act as punishable. It is commonly understood as a requirement of sufficient definiteness of an offence, in particular – of a statutory description of an offence before it has been committed (lex scripta, lex praevia), and of clarity and precision in criminal provisions so as to enable an individual to conform with them (lex certa), as well as their strict interpretation (lex stricta). Nowadays the principle is an internationally recognized human right to foreseeable criminalization, guaranteed by, inter alia, Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the European Court of Human Rights seems to formulate two slightly different requirements on its basis, namely that the application of criminal law must be foreseeable for an individual and coherent with the “essence of an offence”. One may question whether this can serve as an adequate “shield” from arbitrariness on the part of State authorities. Nevertheless, the core aim of such a flexible approach is not to promote legal security for potential perpetrators, but to achieve better protection of human rights in general.
I address the question of Marx’s understanding of the role and function of religion in social life. Marx’s pronouncements on this topic are few and far between. Yet relying on them I undertake to examine the proposal ostensibly made by Marx that it was possible, or even necessary, to purge religious institutions and religious attitudes from social life. I point to a number of inconsistencies and errors that Marx committed in making such proposals.
Despite the universal condemnation of torture, the prevention of appalling practices of ill-treatment has not been achieved in the 21st century. The repugnant practice persists and even increases because of the disingenuous interpretations of the definition of torture and the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms. Notwithstanding the cogency of the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture, particularly regarding the treatment of detainees, nowadays corporal punishment as a punitive measure is arguably a recurring phenomenon in several former British colonies and in States where the legal system is based on Islamic Sharia. While several legally binding universal and regional instruments prohibit torture in general terms, with no specific definition, the scope of the Convention against Torture definition was narrowed down by the lawful sanctions clause. The universality of the definition has been undermined by the inclusion of this clause, since different States have different practices when it comes to lawful and unlawful sanctions. The intractable problem of the interpretation of the definition by the State-Parties and the lack of effective control mechanisms has perennially posed the greatest challenge with respect to compliance with International Human Rights Law. In light of the above, this article seeks to critically dissect the lawful sanctions clause within the context of corporal punishment.
In the 21st century ageism is becoming the most widely spread phenomenon. It has become so extensive that presently many more seniors in Europe are exposed to ageism than other people to sexism or racism. Contrary to other vulnerable groups, the elderly do not enjoy any binding instrument that could protect them and their dignity against ageism in the same way that women and racial groups are protected against sexism and racism. Unfortunately, the UN General Assembly resolution, supposed to be a first step to drawing up such a convention, was adopted with a significant number of abstentions, leaving the fate of a potential treaty on the rights of the elderly uncertain. On the other hand, in 2014 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a new recommendation, and in June 2015 members of the Organisation of American States adopted a treaty protecting the elder’s rights. Taking into account these new circumstances, the idea underlying this article is to investigate the ability of international instruments to limit ageism and protect older persons’ dignity, as well as to indicate existing gaps.
This article provides an overview of “memory laws” in Europe, reflecting upon what may be called the “asymmetry” of such laws. It then looks at the special case of Poland and its troubled experience with memory laws; it considers the question of whether, in the eyes of the law – genocide, and in particular the Holocaust – is so “special” that its public denials warrant legal intervention. It also looks at the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and its (not necessarily coherent) “doctrine” on memory laws and their consistency, or otherwise, with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (and in particular with freedom of expression as laid down in Art. 10). The article concludes by asserting that even if we take the law as an indicator of European public memory, there is no consensus on the past, except perhaps for the special case of the Holocaust. The main challenge lies in determining whether memory laws, defined by some as social engineering and the imposition of “imperative” versions of memory, are consistent with the principles inherent in open, democratic and free societies in Europe. This challenge remains unmet.
This article attempts to discover the key elements of the democratic principle, as described by the judges sitting in Luxembourg and Strasbourg, whose case law reveals the underlying idea of democracy at the supranational level. Until recently the debate on democracy was limited to the national level. But things are changing, and this article shows the gradual emergence of a process led by supranational courts, in which the application of the democratic principle finds multiple grades and variations. In this way the supranational/international courts have opened a new chapter in the process of constitutionalization of international law.
The judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Nashiri v. Poland and Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Poland highlight the potential tension that may arise between states’ broad reliance on national security grounds to withhold disclosure of secret files and compliance with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The present article examines the above-mentioned judgments, focusing, in particular, on how (and to what extent) the withholding of secret information may infringe on the right to the truth and, as far as proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights are concerned, the state’s duty to cooperate with it.
This article examines the phenomenon of internal displacement from the perspective of the existing legal framework and those measures which should guarantee protection for internally displaced populations worldwide. With this aim in mind, the article begins by assessing the role of international law and try to ascertain which legal norms are applicable to protect internally displaced persons. As a second step, it analyzes the question of responsibility for the protection of internally displaced persons, i.e. whether this lies with the state of origin through its national law, or rather with the international community, and examines the relevant provisions of international law. While concluding and identifying the existing gaps in the current legislation, the article demonstrates that internally displaced persons should become the objects of a specific system of law and legal protection. At the same time, the text intends to contribute to the contemporary debate promoting efforts to strengthen the protection of internally displaced persons and to disseminate knowledge about this vulnerable group of people.
This article is in tended to provide a legally sound explanation of why and how the contemporary International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law legal frameworks offer tools to address the uncertain ty, lack of in formation, and the consequences thereof in relation to missin g persons and victims of enforced disappearances in the context of armed conflicts which predated the adoption of such frameworks. To this end, three scenarios will be examin ed: the contemporary claims of the families of those who were killed in the Katyń massacre in 1940; the claims for in formation and justice of the families of thousands who were subjected to enforced disappearances durin g the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939; and the identification efforts concernin g those reported missin g while in volved in military operations in the context of the 1944 Kaprolat/Hasselmann in cident which took place durin g the Second World War. The analysis of these scenarios is conducive to the development of more general reflections that would feed in to the debate over the legal relevance of the distant past in light of today’s in ternational legal framework.