Blogposts by Maarten den Heijer


Maarten den Heijer

Maarten is Assistant Professor of International Law at the University of Amsterdam. He is also a post-doctoral researcher in the SHARES Project. His research themes include international and European asylum and immigration law, human rights and state responsibility. Maarten holds degrees in … Read more

1 June 2013

Transfer of vulnerable asylum seeker to Italy not in violation of ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights declared inadmissible a complaint brought against Italy and the Netherlands of an asylum seeker whose transfer to Italy was ordered by the Dutch authorities pursuant to the EU Dublin Regulation (Mohammed Hussein a.o. v the Netherlands and Italy). The Court’s rigorous scrutiny of the treatment of asylum seekers in Italy suggests that it aimed to set a standard for similar cases.

After the European Court had declared the intra-EU transfer of an asylum seeker to Greece in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in January 2011 (the case of M.S.S., see also here), litigation in several Member States shifted to other allegedly unsafe countries for asylum seekers, in particular Italy. Some NGOs highlighted failures in the Italian protection system and advised to refrain from deporting asylum seekers to Italy (see here and here). (more…)

19 March 2013

Prisoner transfer agreements – reverse refoulement?

Refoulement describes the act of removing a person to a country where he or she is in danger of being subjected to serious human rights violations. It is a well-established legal concept in refugee law as well as extradition law and codified in a range of treaties. As transpires from the recent case of Willcox and Hurford v the United Kingdom before the European Court of Human Rights, the reverse scenario may also be possible: the removal of a person from one country to another one, where the receiving country’s responsibility may be engaged on account of previous wrongful conduct in the transferring State.

The Court’s inadmissibility decision sets a human rights standard for the implementation of prisoner transfer agreements. On a more fundamental note, it raises the question whether and in what way the absolute character of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights should allow for taking into account the generally beneficial purpose of Prisoner Transfer Agreements (or PTAs). (more…)

21 November 2012

Judgment on repayment of foreign currency savings by successor states of former Yugoslavia

On 9 November 2012, the European Court of Human Rights rendered its judgment in Alisic and others v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a high profile case concerning lost savings of citizens in former Yugoslavia. The savings were frozen when the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s also resulted in the splitting up of two former state banks, raising complex issues of liability. (more…)

3 July 2012

Europe’s torture watchdog on shared responsibility of Belgium and the Netherlands for Tilburg prison

Belgium has for many years been struggling with significant prison overcrowding. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has in recent years seen its prisons gradually emptying due to a decline in crime, forcing the Dutch government to close eight of its prisons. The two countries came up with the obvious solution, although one never adopted before in Europe: Belgium would rent an already staffed and equipped prison in the Netherlands. The location chosen was Tilburg prison, which is quite close to the border with Belgium. (more…)

30 March 2012

‘Left to die’ boat reveals collective failure to rescue migrants at sea

This week, a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe released a draft resolution and report on the fateful voyage of what has been dubbed the ‘left to die’ boat – a story that was first picked up by The Guardian. The tragedy involved a boat carrying 72 Sub-Saharan migrants who fled from the conflict in Libya in March 2011, but ran into trouble and, despite a distress call by satellite from the ship’s Ghanaian “captain” to an Eritrean priest living in Italy who alerted the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (Rome MRCC), eventually washed up on the shores of Libya 15 days later. By then, only 11 people were still alive. (more…)

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