Civil society and the experimentalist turn in the European Convention of Human Rights

Over the past twenty years, civil society mobilization in the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has significantly grown. Civil society actors have engaged in increasing numbers in litigation before the ECtHR, and in the past decade, their involvement has also extended to the phase of judgment implementation. Drawing on a large case law data set of ECtHR judgments, this paper examines how the ECHR regime interacts with states and non-governmental actors to influence domestic human rights change in the area of immigration and asylum. It argues that repeat and strategic litigation, shifting methods of ECHR supervision and state implementation to remedy systemic violations, and above all the growing engagement of civil society and non-governmental actors, have prompted a distinctive trend of human rights experimentalism. The analysis has profound implications for the legitimacy, effectiveness and further reform of the ECHR system.