Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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My office – my rules?

By Tina Korošec | korosec.tina1@gmail.com

Spending on average more than 40 hours a week at work means that my office colleague is by default the person I see most. I keep my sports gear and medical prescriptions in the office drawer and my planner and pictures of people I care about on the desk. I have a YouTube playlist I listen to at work. In short, my workplace is very home-like and my home is often the office for the weekend.

I am not here to judge whether this lifestyle evolution should be welcomed or rejected but I believe the blurring of divisions between the professional and personal should be observed with due caution. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recognised the difficulties in distinguishing the two and the problems with drawing the lines of human rights protection artificially in the Niemietz v. Germany case, holding that the protection of ‘private life’ under the Convention extends to the workplace. In recent years, the Court has developed considerable case-law on a broad range of workplace-related issues relevant to employees in Europe, who are often unfamiliar with the protection of their rights offered by the Convention. This blog post discusses two aspects of employers’ restrictions on employees in the workplace: dress code and surveillance. Continue reading


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The Horizontal Effect of International Human Rights Law

By Lottie Lane |c.l.lane@rug.nl

This blog post summarises some of the main findings of the author’s PhD thesis, entitled ‘The Horizontal Effect of International Human Rights Law: Towards a Multi-Level Governance Approach’. The findings are taken from an extensive comparative analysis of the extent to which international human rights law is applied to non-State actors (i.e. the horizontal effect of human rights) in jurisprudence at the international, regional and national levels.

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Strategic Litigation Before the African Regional Courts: Great Potential for Progressive Protection of Human Rights

By Nani Jansen Reventlow |hello@nanijansen.org  

The African human rights system is the youngest regional human rights regime currently in operation. The adoption of the in 1981 also resulted in the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1987. The African Commission was charged with the protection and promotion of human and peoples’ rights and the interpretation of the African Charter. In 1998, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted, thereby establishing a complementary counterpart to the Commission that could issue binding decisions.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been operational since 2006 and issued its first judgment on the merits in 2013. According to a recent press release, the Court has received 161 applications (for both individual decisions and advisory opinions) to date, of which it has finalised 32. Thirty countries have ratified the Protocol, giving the Court jurisdiction to assess these States’ compliance with the African Charter. Of these 30, eight countries have an active declarationRwanda’s declaration was withdrawn in 2016 – allowing individuals and NGOs to bring such matters directly before the Court (as opposed to accessing the Court via the African Commission). In recent years, the court has handed down decisions protecting the right to free expression, the right to a fair trial, the right to life and land rights, amongst others.

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The Right to Housing and its Applicability to Asylum Seekers in Europe

By Mareike Hoffmann | s.m.hoffmann@student.rug.nl

Despite its crucial importance for emotional and physiological well-being, the right to housing is often treated as a ‘poor cousin’ in comparison to other necessities.[i] Pointing out the emerging trend to limit the right to housing, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Housing has gone as far as naming it as ‘one of the most endangered rights.’ Asylum seekers are especially at risk of having their right to housing restricted since they essentially rely on the state for the provision of housing. Following the influx of asylum seekers to Europe since 2015, the issue of accommodating them adequately persists to this day. Nevertheless, the right to adequate housing is part of the right to an adequate standard of living and thereby included in a wide array of international human rights instruments. Within this blog post, I aim to identify the relevant human rights provisions applicable to asylum seekers and subsequently analyse the flaws of the current system.

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Contributions from the International Law Department of the University of Groningen to the 6th Conference of the European Association of Health Law

By Yi Zhang, University of Groningenyi.zhang@rug.nl   

On 28 – 29 September 2017, Professor Brigit Toebes, Dr. Marie Elske Gispen and Yi Zhang participated in the sixth annual conference of the European Association of Health Law (EAHL). The conference was organized by the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen, Norway in cooperation with the EAHL, and its theme was health rights regulations and the distribution of health care in Europe.

During the EAHL conference, Professor Toebes gave a keynote lecture entitled ‘International Human Rights Protection and the Distribution of Healthcare’. In her lecture, Toebes discussed the scope of the right to health care at the international, regional and domestic levels. Among other matters, she discussed the authoritative case law of the European Court of Human Rights. As seen in cases such as Sentges v the Netherlands and Vasileva v Bulgaria, the Court is increasingly engaging with health matters, touching in particular on the duty of the State to oversee the quality of healthcare services as well as possibilities for redress. Toebes explained that the right to health care as defined internationally does not provide a comprehensive set of standards when it comes to the distribution of health care. However, the so-called ‘AAAQ’ (i.e. availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality), for example, provides an authoritative set of principles that is increasingly applied in the context of healthcare distribution at the domestic level, as was also evidenced by the presentations from various participants at the conference (e.g. the presentation by Professor Hartlev on personalised medicine).  Continue reading


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Law of Peace(making) and Transforming Children’s Invisibility

By Sarah M. Field, Rights Streamssarah@rights-streams.com

The law of international human rights came into being through an international peacemaking process, in particular the successive processes that gave birth to the Charter of the United Nations. The law as developed affirms children’s legal standing and agency as subjects of human rights. There is a concomitant international obligation to affirm the same in relation to the successive processes of peacemaking and give effect to those rights through the resultant agreements, as recalled by treaty and Charter bodies. Yet children are mostly invisible in such processes. Its extent is laid bare by a cursory review of collections of peace agreements. Of the close to eight hundred peace agreements in the United Nations database, for example, approximately ninety-five include a reference to children. The extremity of their invisibility raises a multiplicity of questions. Is it justified from the perspective of the law of peace(making)? May children’s human rights yield to the pursuance of peace? And if not, why are children (mostly) invisible in peacemaking? These questions sparked and structured a probe of peace processes from a juristic, human rights and child rights perspective. Continue reading


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Building the New Gambia: Why We Should Vote for Women Candidates

From the Trenches: Practitioners’ Perspectives
Although our focus is on academic commentary, International Law Under Construction recognises that law does not exist in a vacuum. We have, therefore, decided to publish opinion pieces on an occasional basis. The first in this series of opinion pieces is by Madi Jobarteh, who has fought for human rights in the Gambia for over 15 years. This post, on gender equality in political representation, is particularly relevant given the Gambia’s upcoming parliamentary elections on April 6.

By Madi Jobarteh, The Association of NGOs (TANGO) | Email: jobarteh.madi@gmail.com | Tel: +31610198089 | Or on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn

Since the historic UN conference on women in 1995 in Beijing there is a universal recognition that ensuring a just society with improved economic well-being for all requires a gender quota in decision-making institutions and processes. As women constitute more than half of the world’s population, yet remain the poorest, with the highest percentage of illiteracy and most politically disempowered, there is a need to include an increasing number of women in centres of decision-making on laws, resource distribution, and wealth creation. It was recognized that in most parts of the world, even in advanced democracies, women face discrimination and oppression in all spheres of life and society. This inequality is being perpetuated by culture, religion, and capitalism, hence, the imbalance between men and women. Continue reading