Chapter 5: The European Convention on Human Rights and postwar history: why origins matter
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This chapter argues for the enduring relevance of cultural and political history to the genesis of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR’s normative content did not emerge from an overlapping consensus among Council of Europe states on fundamental rights. Nor was political support for the ECHR determined solely by the imperatives of state actors pursuing foreign policy objectives and the stabilization of postwar democracies. Diplomatic and legal questions intersected with controversies over the role of the state in society and a belief in the primacy of Western Christian civilization. An awareness of these ideological origins can improve our understanding of the legal reasoning of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the political circumstances favourable to a strong human rights regime, and the challenges of grounding ECHR law in a European consensus on fundamental values.

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