The European Court of Human Rights and its Discontents
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The European Court of Human Rights and its Discontents

Turning Criticism into Strength

Edited by Spyridon Flogaitis, Tom Zwart and Julie Fraser

The European Court of Human Rights has long been part of the most advanced human rights regime in the world. However, the Court has increasingly drawn criticism, with questions raised about its legitimacy and backlog of cases. This book for the first time brings together the critics of the Court and its proponents to debate these issues. The result is a collection which reflects balanced perspectives on the Court’s successes and challenges.
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Chapter 4: Is the European Court of Human Rights on a slippery slope?

Turning Criticism into Strength

Marc Bossuyt


An examination of all judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’ or ‘the Court’) concerning asylum seekers from 20 March 1991 to 30 June 2009 led to the conclusion that the Court is on a slippery slope. Several new developments with respect to asylum cases give rise to additional concern. This includes I) the continuous lowering of the threshold of the prohibition of torture in Article 3 ECHR; II) the recognition of vulnerable population groups in need of special protection; the extension of the applicability of Article 3 ECHR to the living conditions of asylum seekers in member and non-member States; and IV) the attribution of extraterritorial effects to Article 6 ECHR. In addition, the President of the Court himself expressed concern about the ‘alarming rise’ in the number of requests for interim measures. The Court’s growing awareness that the rise of such requests was becoming unmanageable resulted in a sharp drop of the number of interim measures granted from 1,443 in 2010, to 342 in 2011. The number of requests for interim measures also dropped from 3,775 in 2010, to 2,778 in 2011. This development clearly illustrates how the position taken by the Court on a particular issue directly influences its caseload. Other developments also give rise to concern regarding the Court’s practices.

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