The accession of Central and East European States into the European Convention of Human Rights system was both a threat and a promise to the system. The threat resulted not only from the substantial increase of the number of Contracting States and that of the case-load, but also from the demise of a consensus which was, originally, presupposed by the system of protection of human rights in Western Europe: original members of the Council of Europe were ‘like-minded’ and the Convention system did not represent a challenge to their internal patterns of human rights protection. This article, however, focuses on a promise: a possibility for the European Court of Human Rights to abandon once and for all the fiction that it is merely a sort of super-appellate court which scrutinises individual decisions rather than laws in Contracting States. This shift towards a quasi-constitutional role, going beyond the simple identification of wrong individual decisions so as to point to systemic legal defects, was triggered by systemic problems within the new Contracting States, while also facilitated by collaboration between the European Court of Human Rights and national constitutional courts. The emergence of so-called ‘pilot judgments’ is the best and most recent illustration of this trend. The way in which a national court may form a de facto alliance with the European Court effectively ‘pierces the veil of the State’, and positions the European Court as a quasi-constitutional judicial body at a pan-European level.Also in this issue of HRLR, two extensive case law commentaries:
* Sangeeta Shah, 'From Westminster to Strasbourg: A and others v United Kingdom'
* Steve Foster, 'Reluctantly Restoring Rights: Responding to the Prisoner's Right to Vote'