Thursday, May 01, 2008

Recent European Court decisions

Thought I'd include some links about a few recent important cases from European Courts.

There are of course two different European Courts which often get confused.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is the Court that decides on the application of EU law, whereas the European Court of Human Rights (as the name implies) is a Court which rules on the European Convention on Human Rights for states who have ratified it.

The ECJ sits in Luxembourg and the ECHR sits in Strasbourg.

The recent ECJ case was a ruling against Germany for failure to respect non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation as regards pension rights (where these relate to pay and therefore the sphere of employment) for same sex couples. Good link on the ILGA-Europe site.

Summary of judgment here.

The most recent ECHR case was a ruling against two UK sisters who claimed they should be given the same treatment as Civil Partners in the exemption from inheritance tax.

I blogged about the case at an earlier level where there was a 4-3 judgment against. The hearing of the full court found against them 15-2. BBC report here.Also summary of the case on the ECHR website here.

This case cuts two ways. One cannot, looking at the case, avoid there being a sense of unfair treatment that ought to be remedied. To do so by a Human Rights ruling would have had massive implications for tax law in particular the ability of siblings and other relatives to evade inheritance tax.

But it would also have meant that there was a broader Human rights protection for all couples (inlcuding same sex couples without formal legal protections) in the case fo death of one of the 'partners'.

Although the ruling was massively against the two sisters I do think there is a potential argument there that a future Court might want to return to and in the meantime something that Parliament should try to remedy in some way.

In the mean time it is interesting that the European Court of Human Rights is continuing to develop its thinking on the topic of same sex partnership which will be important in future rulings on same sex partnership rights.


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