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Prisoners’ voting rights: a success story for the enforceability of the ECHR?

By Emi­ly MacKen­zie, NYU School of Law, (LL.M Can­di­date, 2011)

The last week has seen a tense dis­course in polit­i­cal and legal cir­cles in the UK cen­ter­ing on pris­on­ers’ vot­ing rights. This dis­cus­sion in some sense rep­re­sents the cul­mi­na­tion of five years of debate about the enforce­abil­i­ty of judg­ments made by the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In March 2004 the ECtHR held unan­i­mous­ly in Hirst v UK that the UK’s blan­ket ban on pris­on­ers vot­ing vio­lat­ed Arti­cle 3 Pro­to­col 1 of the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Human Rights (ECHR). Despite the rejec­tion of the UK’s appeal to the Grand Cham­ber, and the oblig­a­tion under Arti­cle 46 ECHR to enforce Stras­bourg judg­ments, the gov­ern­ment has to date failed to enact legal reform to imple­ment this deci­sion. Whilst there has been an ongo­ing con­sul­ta­tion, it is not over­ly cyn­i­cal to describe the process as mere­ly ‘going through the motions.’ The unex­plained delays, refusal to enter­tain the option of allow­ing all pris­on­ers to vote, and the government’s con­sis­tent expres­sion of its dis­agree­ment with the rul­ing all attest to this con­clu­sion.

Repeat­ed crit­i­cisms by the Coun­cil of Europe came to a head when the gov­ern­ment failed to act on any of the pro­pos­als in time to allow pris­on­ers to vote in the June 2010 elec­tion.  Last week, how­ev­er, UK news­pa­pers report­ed that the new coali­tion gov­ern­ment is final­ly going to imple­ment the judg­ment. (See cov­er­age by The Guardian here.)  The exact pro­gram and timescale of reform remain unclear, but it seems to be gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that a change is in the off­ing. The gov­ern­men­tal atti­tude remains, how­ev­er, that such reform is some­thing imposed on the UK by Europe, that it is not some­thing that the gov­ern­ment wants, and that they will apply it as restric­tive­ly as pos­si­ble. In light of this con­tin­ued ret­i­cence, one may ask: why after five years of stalling is the gov­ern­ment final­ly giv­ing in?

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Alvarez on Opinio Juris

NYU Law Professor Jose Enrique Alvarez will be guest blogging this week over at Opinio Juris.  He uses his first post to outline the broad challenges facing the international investment regime.  From the post: When two of the leading capital…

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A Belated Thought on Wikileaks

by Gra­ham Dumas (J.D. Can­di­date 2011)

I am a bit late in writ­ing about the Wik­ileaks issue, but I would like to pro­pose here a slight­ly dif­fer­ent way of view­ing the ques­tion through the lens of sys­tems engi­neer­ing. For a num­ber of rea­sons, Wik­ileaks has pre­sent­ed to mem­bers of the mil­i­tary a sim­pli­fied and seem­ing­ly less painful way to report vio­la­tions of IHL, lead­ing to a break­down in, or rather an excur­sion from, the process the U.S. Mil­i­tary has been using to report, iden­ti­fy, pros­e­cute, and ulti­mate­ly pre­vent vio­la­tions of mil­i­tary law and the law of armed con­flict. To rem­e­dy this prob­lem, the mil­i­tary should inves­ti­gate both the demand and sup­ply sides of the infor­ma­tion pipeline, sim­pli­fy the report­ing process, and ini­ti­ate a cam­paign to edu­cate ser­vice­men of the inter­nal report­ing chan­nels avail­able to them, the need to pre­vent extra­ne­ous leaks to the pub­lic, and the penal­ties for releas­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion.  More after the jump.

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Cohen on Human Rights in China

On Saturday, the New York Times published an interview with NYU Professor Jerome A. Cohen regarding legal developments in China and the country's human rights record.  From the interview: “There are now some 200,000 judges, close to 180,000 prosecutors, roughly…

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