Europe’s sharp decline in judicial independence – Is there a way out?

This paper is about the sharp increase of judicial harassment of activists in Europe and the absence of credible human rights mechanisms to improve their situation. Drawing from various case studies, it explores how a growing number of governments is vested with far-reaching competences and uses its powers to undermine the judicial process. Azerbaijan, for instance, has a long history of political motivated convictions against regime critics and being reminded by the international community to comply with human rights standards. Yet local courts found the activist Rasul Jafarov guilty of forgery after he had criticized the government at a public event and opted for disbarring the lawyer Khalid Bagirov after he had questioned the impartiality of Azerbaijan’s judiciary. Hence, this paper looks at how judges abuse their powers to punish activists for their human rights work. It concludes with a critical assessment of the current human rights systems to fight judicial misconduct.