Thursday, 28 September 2017

ECHR Papers on SSRN

A number of authors have recently posted interesting ECHR-related papers (either as drafts or as pre-publication forthcoming articles in journals) in the online repository SSRN. These include:


This paper analyses the question of relative authority and separation of powers with regard to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Focus is on the specific processes that might perpetuate and even bolster authority in complex regimes of global governance such as the ECtHR. Building on a previous work on the variable authority of ICs, and notably how contexts shape that authority, the paper is particularly interested in how inter-institutional processes and feedback mechanisms operate in practice and create workable ensembles of institutions exercising relative authority. The chapter’s empirical analysis focuses on four instances of law-politics interfaces in the evolution of the ECtHR. It highlights particular moments in which the authority of the ECtHR has been challenged and how such challenges have either been overcome or resulted in insolvable collusions between the Court and the Member States. The analysis concludes that the current informal system of checks-and-balances in some cases is insufficient for avoiding clashes over the Court’s interpretations of the ECHR. Against the background of the empirical analysis, the paper develops original proposals for institutional reform that might help create better feedback loops in the area of European human rights. These include a different role for the Committee of Ministers, a greater participation and transparency with regard to proceedings before the Court, and the introduction of a form of appeals system. All of these proposals can be introduced in the current system with only minor amendments to the existing framework.


The issue of causation has been surprisingly overlooked in the area of international human rights law. The objective of this article is to fill this gap by investigating how the ECtHR finds causal connections between harm and state omissions within the framework of positive obligations. By engaging with causation, this article seeks to partially address the widely voiced concerns about the indeterminacy that clouds positive obligations in the case law. Four main arguments are articulated. First, assessments whether the state knew, or ought to have known, about the (risk of) harm, whether demanding state action is reasonable and whether harm is caused by state failures, are merged and affect each other in the enquiry as to whether the state has failed to fulfill its positive obligations. Second, the level of state control structures lines of causation. Third, since the question as to how much control the state should have could imply normative judgments in which the Court might not want to see itself implicated, and since empirical and epistemological uncertainly might hamper assessments of causation, the Court has recourse to techniques to avoid direct resolution of these normative issues and uncertainties. Two such techniques are discussed: domestic legality and national procedural guarantees. Finally, even in cases where omissions might be causative to harm, additional considerations might militate against finding the state responsible under the ECHR: reasonableness, no immediacy of the harm and no systemic failures.

* Shai Dothan (Copenhagen University), ‘Judicial Deference Allows European Consensus to Emerge’:

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) searches for human rights policies that are adopted by the majority of the countries in Europe. Using a doctrine known as "emerging consensus," the court then imposes these policies as an international legal obligation on all the countries under its jurisdiction. But the ECHR sometimes defers to countries, even if their policies fall short of the standard accepted by most of the countries in Europe. This deference is accomplished by using the so-called "margin of appreciation" doctrine. Naturally, emerging consensus and margin of appreciation are often conceived as competing doctrines: the more there is of one, the less there is of another. This paper suggests a novel rationale for the emerging consensus doctrine: the doctrine can allow the ECHR to make good policies by drawing on the independent decision-making of many similar countries. In light of that, the paper demonstrates that a correct application of the margin of appreciation doctrine actually helps emerging consensus reach optimal results, by giving countries an incentive to make their policies independently.


An important ‘stress test’ for regional human rights courts would be to see how well such courts perform when faced with authoritarian, human rights-violating regimes that they are supposed to hinder or constrain. These states are not only subjects of the court, but also its masters insofar as they enjoy various forms of control and accountability mechanisms that may constrain the court’s independence. The article argues that, at least in the case of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), its precarious ‘constrained independence’ should be modified to enhance its impact even under such circumstances. Such changes could strengthen the ECtHR’s impartial and independent role without running the risk of turning it into a so-called ‘juristocracy’ - subjecting European states to the arbitrary rule of international judges.


This article discusses to what extent and how the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has initiated and engaged in domestic judicial reforms. It shows that the judgments of the Strasbourg Court, rather than having effects only with respect to the individual whose rights have been violated, have much deeper structural effects in the design and operation of domestic judicial systems. This article argues that this phenomenon goes rather unnoticed, but it has deep implications for both the developing and developed European democracies. To demonstrate this phenomenon, this article assesses the impact of the ECtHR on three judicial design issues. First, it illustrates how the ECtHR has challenged the role of the advocates general. Second, it explains how the ECtHR has gradually curbed the jurisdiction of military courts both over civilians and over military officers, which has brought these courts to the brink of their abolition. Finally, it outlines how the ECtHR in its judgments regarding the disciplining of judges empowers the judiciary at the expense of other political institutions within the State. Based on the analysis of these three judicial design issues, we conclude that the Strasbourg Court is affecting the internal architecture of domestic judiciaries as it gradually endorses the unification of court administration and changes the power structures within the judiciary.

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