A “Living Instrument” For Everyone: The Role of the European Convention on Human Rights in Advancing Equality for LGBTI Persons – Conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights – Date 8 October 2020, livestream

A “Living Instrument” For Everyone: The Role of the European Convention on Human Rights in Advancing Equality for LGBTI Persons – Conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights – Date 8 October 2020, livestream

Location Seminar Room, Human Rights Building (avenue de l’Europe Strasbourg
F-67075 France)

Digital: livestream:



*For smartphones and tablets: application Kudo Live and ID 111111789326


The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European
Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950, is perhaps
the most successful and illustrious international legal instrument in the history of humanity. It enshrines the
view that common understanding and observance of human rights, together with an effective political
democracy, are prerequisites for ensuring justice and peace on the European continent. The Convention
catalogues the fundamental rights and freedoms that represent the core values of a liberal democracy and
establishes a mechanism to hold the High Contracting Parties accountable at a supranational level for the
violations of these rights imputable either directly or indirectly to a State.

This supervisory mechanism (“the Convention mechanism”) is a shared responsibility between the State Parties
and the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”), established on 21 January 1959 “to ensure the
observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties in the Convention and Protocols
thereto”. The Court’s approach to the exercise of its powers to interpret the Convention is based on the premise
that the latter is “a living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions and of the
ideas prevailing in democratic States today” in a manner “consistent with the general spirit of the Convention,
an instrument designed to maintain and promote the ideals and values of a democratic state”. Over the course
of the past seven decades, the Convention has evolved to reflect the rapid evolution of societal norms and
attitudes in every area of human life, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are aspects of who we are. To be denied the effective enjoyment of the
right to freedom of private and/or family life, of expression, or of assembly, to be ostracised or assaulted on
account of one’s perceived failure to fit in the strictly construed societal mould of gender roles is to be denied
the opportunity to exercise autonomy over one’s life.

Equality, pluralism and tolerance are notions inherent in a democratic society. Seeing democracy as one of the
most progressive achievements of humanity, the Court has consistently put a strong emphasis on the need to
protect an individual from the oppression by the majority. In the Court’s own words, “although individual
interests must on occasion be subordinated to those of a group, democracy does not simply mean that the views
of a majority must always prevail: a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of
people from minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position”.

The Convention mechanism is undeniably far from perfect. However, notwithstanding multiple limitations
inherent in the functioning of a supranational arbiter, an application to the Court remains a powerful – and, in
some instances, the only – tool to assert a claim to equality that has its practical uses. LGBTI persons within the
jurisdiction of a Member State of the Council of Europe seeking redress against alleged violations of the rights
and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention have a vested interest in accessing information on examples of a
successful litigation of a case involving a SOGIESC element.

The primary purpose of the Conference is to celebrate the achievements in advancing equality for LGBTI persons
with a view to bringing a SOGIESC issue before national jurisdictions and before the Court. It is addressed both
to legal professionals and members of the general public interested in the topic. Another important aim of this
Conference is to bring together a wide range of actors, including Judges of the Court, representatives of various
bodies of the Council of Europe, and representatives of civil society with a view to approach the themes under
discussion in a transversal manner.

The Conference will focus on three major topics: (i) the situation of transgender persons; (ii) same sex civil unions
and equal marriage; (iii) hate speech directed at LGBTI persons.


October 2020



Seminar Room (Human Rights Building, rez-de-jardin)

9.20 a.m. – 3.10 p.m. Central European Time

9 a.m.

Registration of the participants present on-site

9.20 a.m.

Screening of a short film

Testimonials by applicants

9.30 a.m.

Opening remarks

Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Marialena Tsirli, Deputy Registrar and Registrar-elect of the ECHR

9.45 a.m.

Keynote speech

Robert Spano, President of the European Court of Human Rights

Panel I

The long road to ensuring respect for human dignity of transgender persons:
Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom and the Court’s subsequent case-law


Jeroen Schokkenbroek, Director of Anti-Discrimination, Council of Europe

The Christine Goodwin judgment was a remarkable success when it was adopted
in 2002. It gave momentum to an important reform at the national level that
resulted in the adoption of the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004. Moreover, this
judgment played a pivotal role in the success of the litigation brought by Ms Lydia
Foy before the Irish courts, which, in its turn, led to the adoption of the Irish
Gender Recognition Act 2015. However, the Christine Goodwin judgment was a
milestone on the long road, not the end of it. Has Europe made further advances
as regards equality for transgender persons?

10.30 a.m.

Michael Farrell, First Vice-Chair, European Commission against Racism and
Intolerance; Counsel to Ms Lydia Foy

10.40 a.m.

Clare Brown, Head of Section, Department for the Execution of Judgments of the

10.50 a.m.

Masen Davis, Interim Executive Director, TGEU

11 a.m.

Panel discussion

11.15 a.m.

Questions and Answers

11.30 a.m.

Break: disinfection of the room

Panel II

Oliari and Others v. Italy – a success story in the field of recognition and
protection of same-sex civil unions


Breifne O’Reilly, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the Council
of Europe

The Oliari and Others judgment and the Legge Cirinnà adopted in response to it
give a brilliant example of the capacity of the Convention human-rights protection
mechanism to bring about an important societal change in a relatively short span
of time through close cooperation between various actors responsible for the
mechanism (in particular, the Court itself, the Department for the Execution of
Judgments of the ECHR, and the national authorities). Could this successful
example be reproduced in the Member States of the Council of Europe that have
not granted legal recognition to same-sex couples?

11.45 a.m.

Yonko Grozev, Judge and Section President, European Court of Human Rights

11.55 a.m.

Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, King’s College

12 noon

Matteo Fiori, Lawyer, Department for the Execution of Judgments of the ECHR

12.05 p.m.

Giuseppe Maria Mezzapesa, Counsellor, Italian Court of Audit, and expert of
UNAR – Italian Equality Body

12.15 p.m.

Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, Adviser, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights

12.25 p.m.

Panel discussion

12.35 p.m.

Questions and Answers

12.45 p.m.

Lunch break

Panel II

Hate speech directed at LGBTI persons: a new frontier. Cases of Beizaras and
Levickas v. Lithuania and Lilliendahl v. Iceland


Nina Nordström, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the
Council of Europe

Freedom of expression is undoubtedly one of the essential foundations of a
democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and for each
individual’s self-fulfilment, but does it include the right to verbally attack another
person solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity? In 2020, the
Court’s answer is an emphatic ‘no’. In two recently adopted ground-breaking legal
acts, the Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania judgment and the Lilliendahl v. Iceland
decision, the Court took a stand against hurtful and hateful online comments
directed at LGBTI persons.

2 p.m.

Egidijus Kūris, Judge, European Court of Human Rights

2.10 p.m.

Arpi Avetisyan, Senior Litigation Officer, ILGA-Europe

2.20 p.m.

Patrick Penninckx, Head of Information Society Department, Council of Europe

2.30 p.m.

Panel discussion

2.45 p.m.

Questions and Answers

3 p.m.

Concluding remarks

Jeroen Schokkenbroek

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