Talking to Strangers: Uncovering the Institutional Communication of the ECtHR

During the last two decades, the ECtHR has opened up considerably towards the wider public. This does not only entail greater transparency of the judicial activities in Strasbourg, but also an increased focus on professional communication and improved outreach policies. This contribution seeks to explore how the ECtHR uses outreach and communication practices to engage with state parties and local communities. Based on semi-structured interviews with communication officials, this contribution traces the move from the traditional mode of one-way communication via press releases to the development of modern, multi-faceted, and interconnected two-way communication strategies. Ultimately, it argues that communication is an essential tool for the creation of loyalty in times of backlash.

How Specific Should Judicial Oversight Be?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is often faced with applications that claim a violation of the right to free elections. The court has to assess whether these applications are merited and in doing so it can adopt different strategies of judicial oversight. It also has to take into account the nature of elections, particularly the need for swift and definite determination of winners and losers. The simplest solution for the Court is to review every case according to the information available, without making any assumptions or treating cases differently according to the preliminary assessments of the court. This method is time-consuming and in a world of finite resources may not be optimal. Realizing the limitations of the method, the Court has recently made a “procedural turn”.

The Excellent is the Enemy of the Good: The ECtHR as a Protector of Human Rights rather than the Guardian of Democracy

In the early days of the ECHR, the European Court of Human Rights was not envisioned as a court whose aim is to prevent day-to-day human rights violations. Many of the founders of the ECHR viewed the Court as an institution aimed to prevent scenarios similar to the Weimar collapse. In my paper I first aim to excavate the vision of the ECtHR as a tool for achieving this goal. Second, I compare between the role of the European public in defending the ECHR as it was envisioned by the founders of the Convention, and its role as currently envisioned in ECtHR’s judgments. Finally, I argue that the change in the way the public's role has been envisioned is key for understanding major developments in the adjudication of the ECtHR.

Different rationales for referring to the ECtHR’s publics: European consensus between strategy and principle

This presentation will examine the different ways in which the ECtHR refers back to its publics (or refrains from doing so) in the justification of its judgments, focussing on the ECtHR’s references to European consensus. It will demonstrate, in particular, the tensions between various principled or strategic rationales for these references: the use of European consensus has been justified, for example, by reference to its democratic credentials and epistemological benefits on the one hand, and its potential to increase the ECtHR’s sociological legitimacy on the other. The presentation will discuss the consequences of conceptualising European consensus as a fulcrum of strategy and principle and consider alternative futures for regional human rights which turn away from consensus and instead engage the ECtHR’s publics via dissensus and contestation.