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Law in lawless territory - Ukraine, the European Court of Human Rights and the desire to avoid a territorial vacuum in the system of human rights protection

Mörner, Cecilia LU (2015) JURM02 20151
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Sedan våren 2014 har delar av Ukrainas östra territorium kontrollerats av separatister som understödjs av Ryssland. Separatisterna har utropat nya folkrepubliker, som dock inte erkänts som nya stater av det internationella samfundet. På grund av separatisternas territoriella kontroll kan Ukraina inte säkerställa att Europakonventionen om de mänskliga rättigheterna efterlevs och respekteras i regionen. Då Europakonventionen endast är applicerbar på konventionsanslutna stater tycks skyddet för de mänskliga rättigheterna i området vara avhängigt att Europadomstolen kan tillskriva Ryssland ansvar.

Enligt Europadomstolens praxis kan Ryssland tillskrivas ansvar för en region utanför sitt territorium under förutsättning att de utövar kontroll... (More)
Sedan våren 2014 har delar av Ukrainas östra territorium kontrollerats av separatister som understödjs av Ryssland. Separatisterna har utropat nya folkrepubliker, som dock inte erkänts som nya stater av det internationella samfundet. På grund av separatisternas territoriella kontroll kan Ukraina inte säkerställa att Europakonventionen om de mänskliga rättigheterna efterlevs och respekteras i regionen. Då Europakonventionen endast är applicerbar på konventionsanslutna stater tycks skyddet för de mänskliga rättigheterna i området vara avhängigt att Europadomstolen kan tillskriva Ryssland ansvar.

Enligt Europadomstolens praxis kan Ryssland tillskrivas ansvar för en region utanför sitt territorium under förutsättning att de utövar kontroll över området, företrädelsevis genom reguljära trupper stationerade i regionen. Eftersom det oklart om Ryssland har sådana trupper i östra Ukraina framstår det som osäkert om Ryssland kan tillskrivas ansvar. Dock har domstolen visat en tendens att ge konventionsanslutna stater ansvar för en region utanför dess territorium på grund av att de stödjer och har inflytande över en lokal grupp som utövar territoriell kontroll där. Denna tendens har dock kritiserats för att den utvidgar folkrättens regler om statsansvar och skapar en praxis som inte överensstämmer med de tolkningar som Internationella domstolen i Haag gjort av gällande rätt. Möjligheten för Europadomstolen att hålla Ryssland ansvarig, tycks därför bero på om de är villiga att eventuellt avvika från andra auktoriteters tolkningar av gällande rätt.

Vidare har Europadomstolen gjort det möjligt att hålla Ukraina delvis ansvarig under konventionen trots att de saknar territoriell kontroll. Denna strategi kan förstås som ett sätt att säkerställa att ett territoriellt vakuum inte uppstår. Med hänsyn till Ukrainas begränsade makt kan dock detta ansvar framstå som mer symboliskt än reellt verksamt.

Följaktligen tycks domstolen vara villig att utveckla rätten och utöka de konventionsanslutna staternas ansvar för att skydda mänskliga rättigheter. Även om dessa strategier till viss del kan undanröja risken för att ett territoriellt vakuum uppstår så kvarstår vissa problem. Om en separatistregim med territoriell kontroll utövar självständig makt så kan det framstå som otillräckligt att hålla konventionsstater ansvariga. Om staterna är oförmögna att faktiskt skydda individerna i området från kränkningar torde det vara bättre att hålla separatisterna direkt ansvariga under Europakonventionen.

En sådan rättsutveckling försvåras dock av folkrättens starka skydd för principen om territoriell integritet. Då Europakonventionen reglerar statlig auktoritet skulle Europadomstolen genom att hålla separatistregimer direkt ansvariga under konventionen implicera att separatistregimerna faktiskt är stater med laglig rätt att utöva territoriell kontroll. En sådan strategi riskerar därmed att inkräkta på den ursprungliga statens territoriella integritet. (Less)
Abstract
When Ukraine lost control over parts of its eastern territory to separatists in 2014, it indicated that it no longer had the ability to fulfil its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to that area. However, although the separatists have proclaimed their own states, these are not recognised by the international community. Since the ECHR only applies to state parties to the Convention, the European Court of Human Rights can only secure the human rights protection in that region by ascribing responsibility to a Contracting State.

Although Russia supports the separatists, and thereby enables them to survive, Russia do perhaps not have sufficient troops in the area in order to be held responsible under the... (More)
When Ukraine lost control over parts of its eastern territory to separatists in 2014, it indicated that it no longer had the ability to fulfil its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to that area. However, although the separatists have proclaimed their own states, these are not recognised by the international community. Since the ECHR only applies to state parties to the Convention, the European Court of Human Rights can only secure the human rights protection in that region by ascribing responsibility to a Contracting State.

Although Russia supports the separatists, and thereby enables them to survive, Russia do perhaps not have sufficient troops in the area in order to be held responsible under the Convention in accordance with the ECtHR’s case law. Extraterritorial responsibility under the Convention arises either as a result of control through state agents, or control over an area. When neither can be directly proven, the Court seems necessitated to establish a sufficient link between the separatists having territorial control, and Russia, in order to find that Russia has control over the region and ensuing human rights responsibility towards the inhabitants there. In establishing this link, the Court might have to stretch the law on state responsibility beyond its normal limits. This could result perhaps result in inconsistencies in international law.

Similarly, Ukraine’s de jure authority over the area enables the Court to hold it responsible for the human rights protection to a certain extent. Still, since Ukraine has no actual authority over the region, this might be a purely symbolic responsibility.

Thus, in order to avoid a territorial vacuum in the system of human rights protection to emerge, the Court uses strategies that stretch the responsibility of the territorial state and the outside state beyond what can be perceived as logic or compatible with how other international court’s interpret international law.

The reason for why the Court chooses to expand the legal human rights responsibility of existing states, instead of developing its case law in order for the Convention to apply directly to separatist regimes, can perhaps be understood in light of international law’s strong protection for the territorial integrity of existing states. Considering that human rights are conceptually universal, but in practise a state-centric model of limitations to exercised power, it might be difficult to ascribe legal responsibility for human rights to separatist regimes without perceiving them as states and thereby infringing on the parent state’s territorial integrity. (Less)
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author
Mörner, Cecilia LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM02 20151
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
public international law, international human rights law, ECHR, Ukraine, territorial integrity
language
English
id
5434731
date added to LUP
2015-10-08 14:14:55
date last changed
2015-10-08 14:14:55
@misc{5434731,
  abstract     = {When Ukraine lost control over parts of its eastern territory to separatists in 2014, it indicated that it no longer had the ability to fulfil its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to that area. However, although the separatists have proclaimed their own states, these are not recognised by the international community. Since the ECHR only applies to state parties to the Convention, the European Court of Human Rights can only secure the human rights protection in that region by ascribing responsibility to a Contracting State. 

Although Russia supports the separatists, and thereby enables them to survive, Russia do perhaps not have sufficient troops in the area in order to be held responsible under the Convention in accordance with the ECtHR’s case law. Extraterritorial responsibility under the Convention arises either as a result of control through state agents, or control over an area. When neither can be directly proven, the Court seems necessitated to establish a sufficient link between the separatists having territorial control, and Russia, in order to find that Russia has control over the region and ensuing human rights responsibility towards the inhabitants there. In establishing this link, the Court might have to stretch the law on state responsibility beyond its normal limits. This could result perhaps result in inconsistencies in international law. 

Similarly, Ukraine’s de jure authority over the area enables the Court to hold it responsible for the human rights protection to a certain extent. Still, since Ukraine has no actual authority over the region, this might be a purely symbolic responsibility. 

Thus, in order to avoid a territorial vacuum in the system of human rights protection to emerge, the Court uses strategies that stretch the responsibility of the territorial state and the outside state beyond what can be perceived as logic or compatible with how other international court’s interpret international law. 

The reason for why the Court chooses to expand the legal human rights responsibility of existing states, instead of developing its case law in order for the Convention to apply directly to separatist regimes, can perhaps be understood in light of international law’s strong protection for the territorial integrity of existing states. Considering that human rights are conceptually universal, but in practise a state-centric model of limitations to exercised power, it might be difficult to ascribe legal responsibility for human rights to separatist regimes without perceiving them as states and thereby infringing on the parent state’s territorial integrity.},
  author       = {Mörner, Cecilia},
  keyword      = {public international law,international human rights law,ECHR,Ukraine,territorial integrity},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Law in lawless territory - Ukraine, the European Court of Human Rights and the desire to avoid a territorial vacuum in the system of human rights protection},
  year         = {2015},
}