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 15: An all-European conversation: Promoting a common understanding of European human rights

Turning Criticism into Strength

András Sajó


No modern institution can survive exclusively on status-based authority. It is criticism that generates and maintains the self-reflection that enables adaptation and initiative. The European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’ or ‘the Court’) certainly needs and often deserves criticism. Only self-reflection – generated by honest criticism – enables performance improvement both in terms of intellectual integrity and functional efficiency. The Court has to be grateful for criticism and for the efforts of the human rights, academic and political communities dedicated to ‘Court-watching’. This term is derived from ‘bird-watching’, which is based on conservationist principles and aims to protect and assist the life of birds. The methods used in bird-watching are praiseworthy and to be emulated, particularly in contemporary times, as it appears that some of the Court’s critics are more interested in ‘Court-watching’ for the purposes of hunting rather than conserving. This chapter addresses select points related to the current problems facing the Court and some of the potential remedies to those problems.

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