ECtHR judgment on case of N.D. and N.T. vs Spain
Expulsions conducted by Spain at the EU’s external borders violate the European Convention on Human Rights
Spanish authorities systematically and often violently expel refugees and migrants at the border with Morocco. This long-standing practice of push-backs at the external borders of the European Union (EU) is unlawful. Automatic expulsions violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) today ruled in Strasbourg.
The judgment came in response to two complaints against Spain brought to the ECtHR in February 2015 by two refugees from Mali and Côte d’Ivoire based on the initiative and expertise of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The Court’s decision states that Spain’s push-back practices at the Spanish-Moroccan border are in violation of Article 4 Protocol 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) ECHR.
ECCHR supports two people from Mali and Côte d'Ivoire in their ECtHR complaint against Spain
N.D. and N.T. (whose names are anonymized for protection reasons) crossed the border fence structure in Melilla and entered Spain on 13 August 2014. The Spanish Guardia Civil apprehended them, along with approximately 70 other individuals from Sub-Saharan Africa who also had overcome the fences, in order to literally “push” them back to Morocco immediately – without access to any legal procedures or protection.
Their complaints are supported by ECCHR in cooperation with Brot für die Welt, and they are represented by ECCHR’s cooperating lawyers in Madrid and Hamburg. In further ECtHR proceedings, ECCHR is supporting the complaints of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan against their unlawful expulsion near Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border.
Victory of N.D. and N.T. vs Spain has impact beyond the individual case
“The litigation against Spain has an impact beyond the individual case. It sets a precedent in order to assert the fundamental right to have rights of refugees and migrants”, said ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck. “The ECtHR judgment clarifies that Spain’s border regime violates human rights, because the Convention also applies at the external borders of the EU.”
ECCHR cooperating lawyer Gonzalo Boye said: “The Spanish government – in particular the Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido – has to act now and repeal the law on the “Protection of Public Safety” (“Ley de protección de la seguridad ciudadana")”. This law, in force since April 2015, stipulates that people who try to cross the border fence structure of Ceuta and Melilla can be rejected, i.e. immediately returned to Morocco.
Arrêt de la CEDH: Les expulsions menées par l'Espagne aux frontières extérieures de l'UE constituent une violation de la Convention européenne des droits de l'HommeND and NT_Communique de Presse_ECCHR_2017.pdf (164.8 KiB)
Video: Not an isolated incident - Push-Back in Melilla at the Spanish-Moroccan border (13 August 2014)
Case Report: Spanish-Moroccan land border in Melilla – a lawless zone of automatic expulsionsCaseReport_Melilla_ECtHR_ECCHR_20171003.pdf (440.6 KiB)
UN and EU bodies confirm complaint against Spain
The claimants position was confirmed in legal briefs submitted in support of the complaint from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and the Spanish refugee organization CEAR.
Spain has been heavily criticized by a number of international institutions and organizations for its longstanding practice of push backs and the implementation of the law which seeks to legalize them. However, the Spanish Interior Ministry has continued to assert that push backs are legal and do not breach national or human rights law.
The preliminary ECtHR’s decision on N.D. and N.T. v. Spain (8675/15 and 8697/15) in July 2015 was a first step and the Court’s questions to the Spanish government addressed heart of the subject, namely the prohibition, under the European Convention, of collective expulsions without individual process.
ECCHR assists applicants before the ECtHR
ECCHR has been working with the two applicants and their communities for several years. At the ECtHR the applicants were represented by ECCHR’s cooperation attorneys, Gonzalo Boye (Spain) and Carsten Gericke (Germany).
Over the past years, ECCHR has also been taking legal action on the practice of illegal push-backs in Ceuta (Spain) and Idomeni (at the Greek-Macedonian border) as well as in so-called Hotspots in Greece.