The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has heard argument in the case of MN v. Belgium (appln no. 3599/18). The case is the latest stage in long-running litigation which has already resulted in a judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union: Case C-638/16 PPU X and X. The case concerns a family of Syrian asylum-seekers, resident in Aleppo. They travelled to Beirut in the Lebanon. There, they made an application at the Belgian Consulate for EU visitor visas. The purpose of the application was for the family to travel to Belgium, where they would then make applications for asylum. The family returned to Aleppo and the applications were refused by e-mail shortly afterwards.

The family claimed that the refusal of the visas exposed them to prolonged Article 3 ill-treatment in Syria. The question, therefore, was whether, when making the visa applications in the Belgian consulate in Beirut, they were within the jurisdiction of Belgium for the purposes of Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case is extremely significant for the purposes of fixing the limits of jurisdiction under Article 1 of the Convention. 11 contracting states to the Convention intervened, all to oppose the argument that the applicants were within the jurisdiction of Belgium. A number of NGOs intervened to support the applicants’ position. At the hearing, the United Kingdom presented a joint position on Article 1 jurisdiction with France, Norway and Latvia.

The webcast of the hearing can be found here. Press coverage of the hearing can be found here.

David Blundell represented the United Kingdom, led by First Treasury Counsel, Sir James Eadie QC, and the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC MP.”

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