Can Yeginsu instructed by UN High Commissioner to intervene before the ECtHR Grand Chamber in Semenya v. Switzerland

Can Yeginsu has been instructed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, to intervene before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Caster Semenya v. Switzerland.

The case concerns Ms. Semenya, a professional athlete and winner of two Olympic gold medals and three World Championships in the women’s 800 meters. In 2018, Ms. Semenya was barred by World Athletics from competing in the female category of international track and field competitions, because she refused to undergo treatment to lower her natural testosterone levels. She challenged the relevant regulations, without success, before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) in Lausanne and, subsequently, before the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

The matter went before the European Court of Human Rights, which found – by a four to three majority – that the regulations, the compulsory nature of CAS arbitration, and the inadequate consideration of her Convention rights by the CAS and the Federal Supreme Court, violated her Convention rights (Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8, as well as Article 13 in relation to Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8).

A copy of the judgment from the ECtHR’s Third Section, given on 11 July 2023, is available here. The case has now been referred to the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber and will be heard in May 2024.

One of the key issues before the Grand Chamber will be the scope of a Council of Europe State’s positive obligations to secure a victim’s human rights in cases of compulsory arbitration. This issue is also the focus of the United Nations High Commissioner’s submissions in the case. The High Commissioner is represented before the Grand Chamber by Can Yeginsu, together with Mr. Paul Oertly, Senior Legal Policy Adviser to the UN High Commissioner.

For more information on this case, see:

  • The referral to the Grand Chamber by the Court – link here.
  • Reuters’ coverage of the referral to the Grand Chamber
  • France 24’s coverage of the case – link here.

The High Commissioner is the principal human rights official of the United Nations, with a mandate to promote and protect human rights internationally.

Can Yeginsu is the current International Arbitration Junior of the Year for both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500. He is ranked in Band 1 for his practice in international human rights, public international law, administrative law and human rights, as well as international arbitration. He has acted in over 40 cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Professor Yeginsu also teaches international human rights law at Columbia Law School in New York, and international investment law and arbitration at Georgetown Law in Washington DC.

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