Social media monitoring and movement tracking of political dissidents. The end of political asylum in the EU?


  • Marcus Michaelsen


  • Petra Molnar
  • Christoph Marchand
  • Sibel Top
  • Botagoz Jardemalie

Organisation: LSTS, VUB

Room: Online 2

Timing: 16:00 - 17:15 on 28 January 2021

The session deals with current challenges to the right to political asylum in the European Union, both from within and beyond its borders. Exiled dissidents who have taken refuge in the EU are threatened with different tactics of transnational repression. Illiberal regimes use digital surveillance, online attacks as well as extradition requests and Interpol red notices to target political emigrants outside their territory. But the EU itself also exercises extraterritorial power against asylum seekers: migrants are subject to social media monitoring, movement tracking and other forms of border management before they even enter European territory. And finally, internal dissenters lack political protection too, as illustrated by the cases of whistleblowers and separatist movements. From different angles, the panel highlights the pressures on fundamental human rights in the 21st Century, resulting from the impacts of globalization and digitalization.

• How is the right to political asylum in the EU currently challenged and undermined?
• What role do digital technologies play in threats against the human rights of political refugees?
• What are the legal obligations of governments in the EU to protect political refugees on their territory?
• How to protect and strengthen asylum seekers against digitally enabled threats to their rights?


Marcus Michaelsen

LSTS, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (BE)

Marcus Michaelsen is a researcher in the Law, Science, Technology and Society (LSTS) research group at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He holds a PhD in Media and Communication Studies from the University of Erfurt (Germany) and his research interests include digital technologies and political activism, authoritarianism, and media and politics in the Middle East. In 2018-19, Marcus was a Senior Information Controls Fellow with the Open Technology Fund. From 2014 until 2018 he has worked as a lecturer and researcher in the Political Science Department of the University of Amsterdam, primarily in the research project “Authoritarianism in a Global Age”.


Petra Molnar

York University Toronto (CA)

Petra Molnar is a lawyer and researcher at the Migration and Technology Monitor and the Refugee Law Lab, investigating the human rights impacts of migration management technologies.

Christoph Marchand

Juscogens (BE)

Christophe qualified as an attorney in 1996 and completed his legal training with a Master in International Law (2006) and a Master in European Union Law (2020), both from the University of Brussels, where he is currently assistant chargé d’exercices in public international law. Christophe has extensive experience in litigating international extradition cases, including at Interpol or other international level, representing e.g. Julian Assange, the Catalan Govern in exile or President Rafael Correa and former members of his government or persecuted political groups.

Sibel Top

Fundamental Rights Research Centre, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (BE)

Sibel Top is a PhD student at the law faculty (Fundamental rights center) and Institute for European Studies (Migration, Diversity and Justice cluster). Her research focuses on the legal relevance and actual application of the political offence exemption in European extradition law.

Botagoz Jardemalie

Human rights defender, Licensed Attorney in the State of New York (US)

Ms. Bota Jardemalie (Kazakhstan/Belgium) - a Kazakh human rights defender, licensed attorney in the State of New York and outspoken critic of the Kazakh regime, who was granted political asylum in Belgium in 2013. As a lawyer, she defends dissidents as well as opponents to the Kazakh regime. Bota also advocates for release of Kazakhstan’s political prisoners with various international political institutions. For years she has been facing continuous harassment by Kazakh authorities in an attempt to intimidate, silence, and punish her for her work as a lawyer, activist and human rights defender.