2014 has been a very active, intense, and fruitful year for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), the ACLJ’s international affiliate in Europe. Based in Strasbourg, France near the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, ECLJ continued advocating for the protection of Human Rights, in particular for the family, life and religious freedom before the European Institutions, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and the United Nations.
In the field of Religious freedom, ECLJ continued to advocate at the United Nations for the liberation of American Pastor Saeed Abedini who is imprisoned for his faith in Iran: ECLJ intervened at the United Nations in Geneva, during the Universal Periodic Review on the 16th of September with an oral intervention before the Human Rights Council (here). It was an opportunity to recall the dramatic situation of Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – and to maintain international focus on his case. Representatives of the ECLJ met with several ambassadors and their representatives to inform them of, and update them on, Pastor Saeed’s condition and encourage them to address the issue with an Iranian delegation present, at that time, at the United Nations.
During 2014, ECLJ continued its judicial activity by supporting and intervening on behalf of over ten cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
ECLJ defended freedom of conscience and of religion in Fernández-Martínez v. Spain in which the Grand Chamber reaffirmed the principle of the institutional autonomy of religious communities with regards to the State. ECLJ continues to defend the autonomy of religious communities, before the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Travas v. Croatia. In this case, ECLJ is defending the right of the Church not to employ, as a professor of religion, a person opposing publicly its teachings on divorce and marriage. Regarding the issue of the Christian converts in Iran, ECLJ submitted a brief to the Grand Chamber in F.G. v. Sweden. The issue in the case is whether the conversion to Christianity of an Iranian living in Iran constitutes a serious human rights violation.
ECLJ defended the right to life at its end in Gross v. Switzerland in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights struck down a previous and highly controversial ruling reached by only four votes against three, by which the Second Section of the ECHR decided on 14th May 2013 that Switzerland violated the private life of the woman, finding that the national law was not clear enough for the applicant to know whether she can have access to the lethal drug. Fortunately, this ruling is no longer making case-law on the matter.
Regarding abortion and eugenics, ECLJ has been very active in the two important cases of A.K. v. Latvia and M. P. and others v. Romania. In those cases, the ECHR refused the wrongful life and wrongful birth actions introduced by the parents of children born with disabilities. The parents complained in their name and in the name of their children, of the fact that the handicaps were not diagnosed before birth, otherwise they would have aborted the children.
In Cooperation with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), the ECLJ participated in many events with other NGOs, In Particular, the ECLJ participated in a Debate in the Romanian Parliament on Human Trafficking and Family Values drawing the attention on the importance of the defense of family and marriage, at national level.
In the European Parliament, with MEP Peter Van Dalen the ECLJ had the opportunity to organize a conference on “The Exploitation of Women and the International Justice System: Preventing Forced Marriages, Conversions and Rape” in the European Parliament. The ECLJ also testified before several committees of the European Parliament.
On abortion, the ECLJ published a memorandum in support of a bill, adopted by the Spanish Council of Ministers in December 2013 and aimed at reducing abortion. The bill, named “the protection of the life of the unborn and the rights of the pregnant woman”, was seeking to protect both the life of the unborn child and the rights to life and to health of the pregnant woman. The ECLJ memorandum analyses the main provisions of the Spanish Bill, comparing the law in force in other European countries as well as the case law of the ECHR. Following the introduction of this bill, the Spanish Government faced strong international pressure leading to the dismissal of the Minister of Justice and to the withdrawal of the bill.
On the issue of late term abortion and newborns surviving abortion, the ECLJ launched a large campaign, leading over 160,000 citizens calling officially the Council of Europe to affirm that all newborns have the right to life and to health care. This call follows oral and written statements and applications submitted to the United Nations in 2014 against late term abortion, accusing late term abortion to be a kind of torture.
Before the European Union, Grégor Puppinck, Ph.D., Director of the ECLJ, led the largest ever European official petition, representing almost 2 million citizens asking the European Union, through the European Citizen Initiative “One of Us”, to stop financing abortion and activities that “presuppose the destruction of human embryos”. Dr. Puppinck testified, nearly four hours before the European Parliament, in what was a very intense hearing, and during two hours before the European Commission. On the 28th of May, the former “Barroso Commission” vetoed the Citizens’ Initiative “One of Us”, refusing to submit the One of Us legislative proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council. On July 25th 2014, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) One of Us lodged an application before the General Court of the European Union (Luxembourg), asking for the annulment of the European Commission decision. The case is now pending before the Court of the European Union.
The ECLJ also wrote and published academic legal studies on the “right” to assisted suicide and euthanasia, on surrogacy, on ‘The dilution of the family in human rights” on the cases of Vallianatos & Others v. Greece, of Mennesson v. France and Labassee v. France, on abortion, and on freedom of expression in the field of abortion.
This report was prepared by the ECLJ.
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