Democratic transition and human rights: the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights

A substantial regime change can raise a range of human rights issues that typically arise in transition processes. The ban of retroactive effects in criminal law has effects on the criminal liability of persons in charge of the former regime. Often, those persons are subject to restrictions of their political activities or of their professional life, which may also raise human rights issues. Furthermore, the dealing with decisions – legislative, administrative or judicial – of the former regime that are retrospectively seen as injustice is not only a political and democratic question but has to be done within the framework of human rights. A substantial body of case-law of the European Court of Human Rights after the end of communism in Eastern Europe examined transitional justice from the perspective of the ECHR. On the basis of that case-law, general comments on the human rights framework for future democratic transitions provided by the ECHR can be developed.