Court Watch

Equal Rights Trust intervenes in prison sentencing case at the European Court of Human Rights

Yesterday a hearing took place at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v Russia in which the Court will decide whether two men convicted of crimes in Russia have been victims of gender and age discrimination, due to legislation which allows life sentences to be given only to men between the ages of 18 and 65. The Equal Rights Trust was granted permission to intervene in the case, and submitted an amicus curie on the alleged violation of the non-discrimination article (Article 14) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa critical of distribution of free textbooks, finding breaches of the constitutional rights to equality and education

On 2 December 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa held in Minister of Basic Education v Basic Education for All that the failure of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to provide free textbooks to all students in the Limpopo province breached the constitutional guarantees of equality, human dignity, and the right to a basic education. The Court’s powerful judgement is welcomed and is an important declaration that the right to education must be realised for all children in South Africa, including the predominantly poor black children in Limpopo’s public schools. 

European Court of Human Rights rejects “traditional roles” justification of sex discrimination

London, 27 October 2015

On 13 October 2015, the European Court of Human Rights held in Vrountou v Cyprus that Cyprus’s refugee card scheme, which restricted access to benefits based on sex violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found that the scheme, which allowed children with displaced fathers to receive a refugee card and so access a range of benefits but not children of displaced mothers, had no objective and reasonable justification. The Court reiterated that states cannot impose traditions that derive from the man’s primordial role and the woman’s secondary role in the family to justify sex discrimination but that was precisely what the government’s argument sought to do. The unequivocal decision of the Court is welcome. The case is an important reminder that directly gender discriminatory laws and policies are still a reality in many states, a fact which the Equal Rights Trust’s recent research brings to the fore.

Employment Tribunal Finds For Domestic Worker in Important Recognition of Caste Discrimination

London, 7 October 2015

On 17 September 2015, in an appalling case of caste discrimination, a UK Employment Tribunal held in Tirkey v Chandok that numerous employment rights of Ms Tirkey, a woman recruited from India to work in the Chandoks’ home, had been violated. The Tribunal found there had been “unacceptable working conditions” of employment and that the Chandoks had directly discriminated against Ms Tirkey because of her ethnic origin and indirectly discriminated against her because of her religion. 

CJEU Ruling Indicates Discrimination by Bulgarian Electricity Company

London, 31 July 2015

On 16 July 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a preliminary ruling in a case of alleged discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, referred to it by a Bulgarian court. In a welcome decision, the Court provided important guidance on the application of Directive 2000/43/EC (the Race Equality Directive) to a determination of whether an electricity company’s placing of electricity meters in majority-Roma districts at a height where users could not read them was discrimination. In so doing, the Court made comments which indicate its support for a finding that the practice constitutes direct discrimination.

US Civil Rights Act Requires Employers to Reasonably Accommodate Religious Practice

London, 15 June 2015
On 1 June 2015, the US Supreme Court issued an opinion on the case Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Petitioner v  Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. stating that employers have an affirmative duty to accommodate an applicant’s religious practice, even if the applicant has not informed the employer of such need. 

Equal Rights Trust Project in Kenya Assists in Successful Conviction for "Defilement"

London, 13 February 2015

On 10 January 2015, a member of the Migori County Assembly in Kenya was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for defiling (raping) a 13 year old girl. The Court found that Mr Lukas Masa Hura had abused the girl in May 2014, in a location within the County of which he was then a representative. The case is one of many examples of sexual abuse of women and girls that the Equal Rights Trust is seeking to address through its Comic Relief-funded Legal Assistance Scheme Project in Kenya. The victim in the case was supported by the community based organisation (CBO) Mira Residents Association, one of a number of CBOs across Kenya supported by the Equal Rights Trust and our partner, the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA Kenya) under the project.

Romania’s Investigation of Police Violence against Roma Violated Right to Non-Discrimination

London, 12 February 2015

On 27 January 2015, the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Ciorcan and others v Romania, found that Romania violated the rights of a large group of Roma people who had been injured by police forces. The Court found violations of the rights to life (Article 2), freedom from inhuman treatment (Article 3) and freedom from discrimination (Article 14) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). These rights were violated by: (a) the “grossly excessive” deployment of special forces agents to carry out an arrest, agents who proceeded, amongst other things, to shoot “at random” into the crowd; and (b) the state’s failure to carry out an effective investigation, including its failure to comply with its obligation under Article 14 to investigate any racial motivation for the violence.

High Court Rules UK Government’s Planning Process Unlawfully Discriminates against Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers

London, 05 February 2015
On 21 January 2015, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales held that the conduct of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (the SSCLG) in relation to certain planning decisions amounted to indirect discrimination against Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers. The SSCLG had a policy of personally determining appeals by travellers to develop sites on certain areas of protected land which led to significant delays in the hearing of those appeals. The Court concluded that the SSCLG had failed to have any regard to the equality implications of this practice, failing to meet his Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The significant delays also amounted to a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).