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 10: The need for dialogue between national courts and the European Court of Human Rights

Turning Criticism into Strength

Lord Kerr


All those committed to the implementation of an enlightened charter of human rights, who regard the availability of those rights to all citizens as the mark and cornerstone of a mature and compassionate society should be undeterred by criticism of the Strasbourg Court. While debate on the criticism is both topical and timely, we should not overestimate the problems that the European Court of Human Rights faces. It is necessary to be, if not sanguine, at least realistic about the prospect that much of the criticism that is voiced today will be repeated in the future. That is not to say that the Strasbourg Court’s defenders should be inactive or passive in the face of misguided criticism. Rather, they should be sensible about the possibility of silencing forever those who have a stake in condemning the Court’s jurisprudence. It is not extravagant to say that the Court – a supranational court for 47 member States of the Council of Europe – could not be regarded as functioning effectively if its decisions did not occasionally upset, or even offend, some of the organs of state, and especially the press and broadcast media, of some of those member States. Swingeing criticism of the Court’s decisions must be viewed in context. Standing back from the detail of that criticism and looking at the broad historical perspective, the existence of a court to adjudicate on human rights disputes from fully 47 countries represents an enormously ambitious – and also an undeniably worthy – endeavour.

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