How to use this handbook – Handbook on European non-discrimination law

Handbook on European non-discrimination lawContents

This handbook provides an overview of key aspects of non-discrimination law in Europe, with specific reference to the prohibition of discrimination provided in the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and the law of the European Union, as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The handbook acknowledges that the principle of non-discrimination is very important because it influences the enjoyment of all other human rights. The aim of non-discrimination law is to allow all individuals an equal and fair prospect to access opportunities available in a society.

The handbook is designed to assist legal practitioners who are not specialised in the field of non-discrimination law, serving as an introduction to key issues involved. It is intended for lawyers, judges, prosecutors, social workers, as well as for persons who work with national authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other bodies that deal with legal questions relating to issues of discrimination. The handbook may also be useful for legal research or public advocacy purposes. It is designed to permit practitioners to refer directly to specific sections/topics as required; it is not necessary to read the handbook as a whole.

It is a point of reference on European non-discrimination law, explaining how each issue is regulated under EU law as well as under the ECHR. Where relevant, there are also references to the European Social Charter (ESC), other Council of Europe (CoE) instruments and international treaties concluded under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) relating to non-discrimination.

The ECHR law is described mainly through selected case law of the ECtHR. The law stemming from the EU law is presented through legislative measures (non- discrimination directives), relevant provisions of the EU treaties, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU Charter) and the jurisprudence of the CJEU.

The case law described or cited in this handbook provides examples of an important body of both ECtHR and CJEU jurisprudence. The handbook covers, as far as possible, given its limited scope and introductory nature, legal developments until April 2017, including later developments where possible. The preference was given for more recent case law, although older leading cases are mentioned where necessary. To avoid confusion, the handbook refers to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as CJEU, even for decisions issued before December 2009. Since many cases involve several different aspects covered in the handbook, the choice of section under which a given case is discussed is subjective.

Each chapter covers a distinct subject, while cross-references to other topics and chapters provide a fuller understanding of the applicable legal framework and relevant case law. Each chapter starts with a table outlining the issues addressed in that chapter. The table also specifies the applicable legal provisions under the two separate European systems and lists relevant CJEU and ECtHR case law. The chapter then presents the legal provisions under each system relating to the topic covered. This allows the reader to see where the two legal systems converge and where they differ. Practitioners in non-European Union (EU) states that are member states of the CoE, and thereby parties to the ECHR, can access the information relevant to their own country by going straight to the CoE Sections. Practitioners in EU Member States will need to use both sections as those states are bound by both legal orders.

In addition, key points are presented at the beginning of each section.

The handbook begins with a brief exploration of the two legal systems as established by CoE and EU law. Chapter 1 explains the context and background to European non-discrimination law and outlines the personal and material scope of both systems.

Chapter 2 outlines when differences in treatment are considered discriminatory. The focus is on discrimination categories (such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment or instruction to discriminate, hate crime and hate speech). Chapter 3 then covers possible justifications for differential treatment.

In Chapter 4, the principle of non-discrimination is presented from the perspective of various areas of life including, among others, employment, access to welfare and social security, education, private and family life.

Chapter 5 analyses the discrimination grounds such as sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, race, ethnic origin, national origin and religion or belief.

Chapter 6 examines the procedural issues in non-discrimination law. Special attention has been given to the shift in the burden of proof. Other evidential questions, such as the role of statistics and other data, have also been explained.

The electronic version of the handbook contains hyperlinks to the case law and EU legislation. Hyperlinks to EU law sources direct the reader to eur-lex overview pages, from where one can open the case or legislation in any available EU language. The ECtHR and ESC case law is hyperlinked to the Hudoc database, which is available in English and French. For some cases, translations into other languages are available.


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