Strasbourg’s integrationist role, or the need for self-restraint?

2020-03-10T15:37:12Z (GMT) by Edward Bates
In this piece, I argue that claims that the ECHR is an integrationist instrument must be treated with caution, and that prudent self-restraint is required from the Court. I do so in the spirit indicated by former President Luzius Wildhaber, who once wrote, ‘institutions and states will perish, if those who love them do not criticize them, and if those who criticize them do not love them’.1 I also have in mind comments recently made by former Registrar (and Judge)Paul Mahoney, lamenting the absence of ‘self-questioning and openness to criticism’ amongst‘many leading lights of the European human rights movement’.2 He refers to ‘an all too common intolerance in European human rights circles of anyone who dares’ break ranks by questioning Strasbourg - such individuals are viewed as ‘renegades’ or ‘traitors’, not ‘true human rights “patriots”’!3 I hope the reader will not see me in that light, tolerating this piece,even if my arguments are necessarily brief. They might be provocative; however, noting Mahoney’s observations might this be a good thing? My ambition is not to question the legitimacy of the Court, but to contribute to a debate about its role and how far it can go.

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