Vladislava Stoyanova

År: 2016 // Anslagsförvaltare: Lunds universitet // Område: Rättsvetenskap // Belopp: 1 406 860 kr

Min forskning

Positiva människorättsskyldigheter enligt Europakonventionen: mer förutsägbarhet genom tydligare rättsliga kriterier

Europeiska domstolen för de mänskliga rättigheterna har spelat en stor roll för att konkretisera staters skyldigheter enligt den Europeiska konventionen om skydd för de mänskliga rättigheterna och de grundläggande friheterna. En väsentlig del av dessa framsteg är skapandet av positiva människorätts-skyldigheter. Positiva skyldigheter handlar om de åtgärder som stater måste vidta proaktivt för att säkerställa de rättigheter som skyddas av Europakonventionen. Positiva människorättsskyldigheter är centrala när individer skadas av andra privatpersoner. När staten otillräckligt reglerar vissa farliga verksamheter, som kan medföra miljö- och hälsorelaterade risker, kan staten också anses ha misslyckats med att leva upp till sina positiva människorättsskyldigheter. En genomgång av Europadomstolens domar gällande positiva skyldigheter visar en tendens mot inkonsekvens, oförutsägbarhet och brister i domstolens rättsliga argumentation. Det innebär en ogynnsam situation från många aktörers perspektiv, däribland individer och stater. Stater kan aldrig veta om domstolen kommer att finna att deras agerande står i strid med Europakonventionen, eftersom det råder en viss osäkerhet vad gäller staters skyldigheter. 

Syftet är att genom detta forskningsprojekt föreslå tydligare rättsliga kriterier som kan användas av Europadomstolen i syfte att pröva iakttagandet av och respekten för mänskliga rättigheter på ett mer konsekvent, förutsägbart och övertygande sätt.

 

Research

To critically examine the current state of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR or the Court) case law on positive human rights obligations. To advance proposals as to how the Court could adopt clearer analytical framework when addressing positive obligations and how it could strengthen its legal reasoning so that its judgments are more predictable and transparent. To help the relevant actors, i.e. individuals and state parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), better discern and uphold their rights and obligations. Strengthening of the Court’s legal reasoning and ensuring predictability of its judgments are essential for addressing the current problems that we face in Europe in terms of protection of human rights. 

The ECtHR is arguably the world’s best functioning international human rights adjudicating body. Its leadership in Europe in terms of setting human rights standards cannot be questioned. The ECtHR had made major inroads in concretizing states’ obligations under the ECHR, the bedrock human rights instrument in Europe. The text of the ECHR incorporates abstract rights, i.e. the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to private and family life, the right to freedom of expression, etc. In order for these abstract rights to be elevated into effectively applicable legal standards, there needs to be clarity as to the concrete obligations undertaken by states. Thus, the skeleton norms in the ECHR have to be fleshed out through judicial interpretation conducted in relation to concrete cases reviewed by the Court. By discharging the task of deciding concrete cases, the Court has made important advances for determining the standards set by the ECHR. 

An essential part of these advances is the development of positive human rights obligations under the various provisions of the ECHR. In very simple terms, positive obligations relate to how the rights are to be ensured and what measures states have to proactively undertake in order to ensure the rights protected by the ECHR. For example, positive human rights obligations have vital functions when some individuals are harmed by other individuals. Since the conduct of private abusers cannot be attributed to the state, it is feasible that some private individuals might infringe upon the rights of other individuals, without the ECHR offering remedies. Therefore, there must be legal mechanisms to deal with these cases. For example, domestic violence is a serious problem which can be dealt with my invoking the positive human rights obligations. These obligations might entail a duty on the state to adopt laws prohibiting individuals from infringing upon the rights of others. Crucially, the scope of these obligations is much more far reaching than adoption of relevant criminal law. There scope might extend to the entire national legislative landscape and require states to adopt effective regulatory frameworks in order to effectively protected individuals. This might presuppose a review of the existing national legislation so that it does not lead to situations in which individuals are not protected. This presupposes the adoption of a wide web of state laws and/or regulations in order for states to effectively uphold their positive obligations. 

In addition to cases involving abuses at inter-personal level, positive obligations as developed by the ECtHR could also be essential in other contexts. For example, when the state regulates the services administered by hospitals or other public institutions and these regulations do not adequately protect the interests of individuals, the state could be found in breach of its positive obligations. If the state has not incorporated certain procedural guarantees to ensure that the interests of affected individuals are taken into account in the decision-making process, these procedural failures could provide the Court with the basis for concluding that the state has not lived up to its positive obligations. When the state has not properly regulated certain hazardous activities, environmental and health-related dangers (e.g. mudslides, methane gas explosion on a waste collection site, dangers emanating from chemical factories, etc.), the ECtHR might find the state in violation of the ECHR. The case of Vilnes and Others v. Norway is very illustrative of the far-reaching states’ obligations in adopting protective measures. The applicants, who worked as divers in the North Sea for private companies, complained that Norway did not adopt an effective legal framework incorporating safety regulations to protect the divers’ lives and health. While dismissing most of the divers’ allegations, the ECtHR nevertheless found a failure on behalf of Norway to uphold its positive obligations. The underlying reasons were that the companies were left with little accountability vis-à-vis the state authorities in relation to the usage of decompression tables, which were treated as companies’ business secrets. Norway allowed a situation in which the divers were not informed about the health and life related risks from the usage of these tables. 

The body of case law on positive obligations under the ECHR has been steadily growing. Various issues from various spheres of life have been subjected to scrutiny within the review framework of positive obligations. An overview of the existing judgments demonstrates a propensity for inconsistency, unpredictability and inadequacies in the legal reasoning proposed by the Court. These deficiencies have been noticed in the existing academic literature. Yet, there has not been a recent comprehensive study on the positive obligations under the ECHR. The academic literature has failed to engage with and systematically analyze the deficiencies in the current approach. Most crucially, no proposals have been advanced how the deficiencies could be remedied. No proposals have been suggested for relatively clear legal criteria that could be deployed by the Court so that it structures the human rights law review in a coherent, predictable and convincing manner. These blind spots shall be the focal points of this project.