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 14: Solutions for the European Court of Human Rights: The Amicus Curiae Project

Turning Criticism into Strength

Janneke Gerards and Ashley Terlouw


For more than 60 years the European Court of Human Rights (‘the Court’ or ‘ECtHR’) has been the guardian of human rights in Europe. When the Court was established in the late 1940s, the main objective was to prevent the terrors of World War II from reoccurring and to protect Europe against tyranny (and communism). The system created by the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) was meant to function as an ‘alarm bell’ that would allow early intervention in case of threats of tyranny or oppression. Given this relatively specific and limited ambition, it is not surprising that for the first 20 years of its existence the ECHR system had little practical impact and the Court was far from overburdened.2 In the 1970s, however, this changed fundamentally when individuals discovered the potential for the protection of their rights by the European Court. The trickle of complaints grew into a small stream. Many of the new applications pertained to interesting and principled fundamental rights issues, which allowed the Court to develop important general principles as a basis for its judgments and interpretation of the Convention. In this period the Court handed down a number of landmark cases that are still of great importance to the Court’s work. One may think of cases like Handyside and Sunday Times on freedom of expression, Dudgeon and Marckx in the field of private and family life, Winterwerp and Engel on habeas corpus rights, and Golder on access to court. The argumentative power and quality of these judgments allowed the Court to firmly establish its authority as final arbiter in human rights cases.

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