The Extraterritorial Reach of Positive Obligations : the ECtHR Case of S.S. and the Others v. Italy

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202105192281
Title: The Extraterritorial Reach of Positive Obligations : the ECtHR Case of S.S. and the Others v. Italy
Author: Heinänen, Saku
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202105192281
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/330078
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Oikeustieteen maisterin koulutusohjelma
Master's Programme in Law
Magisterprogrammet i rättsvetenskap
Specialisation: Kansainvälinen oikeus
International Law
Folkrätt
Abstract: The thesis is a study of the communicated case ‘S.S. and the Others v. Italy’ (application no. 21660/80) of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The application is on behalf of the victims of an incident in which a migrant boat found itself in distress after having left Libya for Europe. The Libyan Coast Guard failed to rescue all of the migrants and allegedly acted negligently, mistreating those they took onboard, and returned them to Libya, exposing them to continued ill-treatment and some of them also to forced return (refoulement) to their countries of origin. Italy is a State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and has a bilateral agreement, ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU), with Libya (a non-ECHR State). On the basis of the MoU, Italy funds and equips the Libyan Coast Guard. The agreement can be seen as a means to ‘outsource’ border control and to instruct Libya to intercept migrants before they reach Italy and the European Union (EU), thus effectively circumventing the obligations of the ECHR. The research question is in two parts. First, I ask whether Italy had extraterritorial jurisdiction as stated in Article 1 ECHR, and second, if it had, has Italy violated its positive obligations to secure the applicants’ rights. Jurisdiction is a ‘threshold criterium’ for the Court to study the merits of an application. As for the violations, the thesis focuses on Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture; includes also the prohibition of forced return, or refoulement). The methodology is doctrinal in that the thesis aims to examine critically the central features of the relevant legislation and case law in order to create an arguably correct and sufficiently complete statement on the Court’s reasoning and outcome. The main sources are the provisions of the ECHR itself and the relevant previous case law of the Court, together with a literature review. Additionally, there are third-party interveners’ statements and a video reconstruction of the events. The Court’s questions and information requests to the parties, as attached to the application, are used as a starting point. Besides a hypothesis of the argumentation and the decision of the Court, some estimations are made about what could be the consequences of the decision to such bilateral pacts as the MoU between Italy and Libya, and, in general, to ‘deals’ between the EU Member States and third or transit countries. Finally, the thesis reflects on the eventual repercussions on the topical issue of the EU Commission’s 23.9.2020 proposal for the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which appears to encourage the Member States to maintain and develop outsourcing practices.
Subject: Jurisdiction
responsibility
positive obligations
effective control
decisive influence
extraterritorial
human rights
ECHR
ECtHR
refugees
migration
EU
border control
outsourcing
Italy
Libya


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