Human Rights in a Changing Europe – Colliding Spheres of Justice? 15/06/2018

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How will Human Rights be protected in Europe between the Council of Europe and the European Union? Debates on how the two competing courts contributed to Equality and Social Justice (panel one, key note: Evelyn Collins, NI Equality Commission) and to resolving tensions between human rights and criminal justice (panel 2, key note: Daniel Sarmiento, University Carlos III Madrid). For more information check the call for papers(closed), the conference report (HERE), the slides of Dagmar Schiek’s conference summary (HERE), and podcasts of speakers summarising their contributions (HERE). Abstracts and cv’s can be found in the conference folder (HERE)*This was a Bar Council’s recognised CPD event.

Using the image of colliding spheres, this day conference (10 am – 4 pm approx) at the School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast, invited debate on the state of human rights protection in Europe under the legal regimes of the European Union and the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The potential collision of those two system derives from their different legal character as international Treaty under the CoE (ECHR) and a supranational entity whose law has direct effect and supremacy in its Member States (EU), as well as their different coverage of human rights: these are at the heart of the ECHR, whose Court (the ECtHR) specialises in their supervision, while they only gradually gained in importance in the EU, whose Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU) only became legally binding from 2009 on the EU and its Member States (if implementing EU law). The discord and cooperation of the ECtHR and the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg (CJEU) in the field of human rights can be particularly well illustrated in the fields “Equality and Social Justice”, and “Human Rights and Administration of Criminal Justice”. While the EU boasts a wide range of legislation and treaty rights and an expansive body of case law on equality, the CJEU has been reluctant to fully accept collective labour rights and other CFREU social rights. Conversely, the ECHR’s non-discrimination provision only became a free-standing norm through Protocol No 12 (in force for ratifying states from 2005), though the ECtHR has been more proactive than the CJEU in relation to new types of discrimination, such as those based on sexuality or sexual orientation. As regards social justice, the ECtHR has recently embraced collective labour rights as well as other social rights. The question how human rights are protected in administering criminal justice has occupied the EU legislator (lately with Directive 2017/541 on combating terrorism) as well as the two competing courts, which both have delivered rulings on domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as on the adequate role for combating terrorism.


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