The Role of Judicial and Non-Judicial Actors
Edited by Lorenza Violini and Antonia Baraggia
Chapter 8: Fundamental rights protection beyond individual complaints: The potential of national human rights institutions in Europe
Human rights are generally conceived as rights inherently pertaining to each individual which need to be respected and protected by states. Human/fundamental rights protection in Europe is accordingly typically examined in light of the avenues that are open to individuals to make human rights claims against state authorities. Across the national democracies in Europe, individuals in the first place have the possibility to initiate human rights related claims against state authorities before the national judiciary which can take legally binding and enforceable decisions. An extra layer of judicial protection for individuals in the area of human rights is provided on the regional level in Europe by the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR) and – increasingly – the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Especially compared to other regions in the world, the European region thus provides a robust system of judicial protection of individuals’ human rights against the state. In addition to individual complaints-handling by the judiciary, many European countries also have a long and widespread tradition of quasijudicial complaints-handling by ombuds-institutions resulting in nonjudicially binding but more flexible remedies. While ombuds-institutions traditionally merely dealt with governments’ mal-administration, an increasing focus on human rights protection has become apparent in this context too. Quasi-judicial handling of individuals’ human rights complaints carries some risks (such as power imbalances) and will not be appropriate in all circumstances, but it appears an increasingly popular avenue to complement the often overburdened judicial complaintshandling mechanisms on the domestic as well as regional level across European
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