Issue nr 1, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia was one of the states that decided to inform the Secretary General of the Council of Europe of the health-related emergency situation in Estonia and noted, with reference to Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that some emergency measures may involve a derogation from certain obligations under the Convention. The Government’s considerations proceeded from the unprecedented scale of the sanitary crisis and the scope of extraordinary measures taken to tackle it. Importance was attached to the fact that the Court has never before assessed health-related exceptions allowed in some of the articles of the Convention in a situation which affects the whole nation – not to mention the articles of the Convention which do not set out any exceptions at all. Article 15 of the Convention, on the other hand, is designed to be applicable in public emergency situations threatening the life of the nation.
The issue of online hatred or cyber hate is at the heart of heated debates over possible limitations of online discussions, namely in the context of social media. There is freedom of expression and the value of the internet in and of itself on the one hand, and the need to protect the rights of victims, to address intolerance and racism, as well as the overarching values of equality of all in dignity and rights, on the other. Criminalizing some (forms of) expressions seems to be problematic but, many would agree, under certain circumstances, a necessary or even unavoidable solution. However, while the Court has long ago declared as unacceptable bias-motivated violence and direct threats, which under Articles 2, 3 and 8 in combination with Article 14 of the ECHR, activate the positive obligation of states to effectively investigate hate crimes, the case of Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania presented the first opportunity for the Court to extend such an obligation to the phenomenon of online verbal hate crime. This article will first address the concepts of hate speech and hate crime, including their intersection and, through the lens of pre-existing case law, identify the key messages for both national courts and practitioners. On the margins, the author will also discuss the issue of harm caused by verbal hate crime and the need to understand and recognize its gravity.
The ultra vires judgment of the German Constitutional Court on the debt security purchasing of the ECB system sent shockwaves throughout Europe. Some scholars see the legal framework, specifically the principle of the supremacy of the European Union in danger. This article argues that the judgment is a challenge for Luxembourg; however, there have been warning signs from the Czech Republic and Denmark that constitutional courts will not shy away from criticizing, when the ECJ oversteps its jurisdiction. The author argues that the judgment may weaken the overall normative power of the court and will assess whether a similar judgment could occur in the field of data protection and national security exceptions. The only way back to normality will be for the court to ensure it does not overstep its jurisdiction and the European Institutions unconditionally backing the ECJ in the expected upcoming conflict with the constitutional courts of Member States.