Alain Zysset

Senior Research Fellow in Legal Theory


I am a Senior Research Fellow in Legal Theory at PluriCourts (2021-23) on leave from my permanent position at the School of Law, University of Glasgow, where I have been teaching and researching human rights law, legal theory and research methods since January 2019. Before joining Glasgow, I was Assistant Professor of Public Law and Human Rights at Durham University (2017-19), and prior to that I held postdoctoral positions at PluriCourts (2016-17), the European University Institute (Max Weber Fellowship, 2015-16) and Goethe University Frankfurt (on a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation, 2014-15). In 2019-20, I was a Visiting Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin (Center for Fundamental Rights) with the support of a Re-Constitution fellowship (funded by the Mercator Stiftung), which helped me start my current research project. 

Research project

'To Defer or to Surrender? The European Court of Human Rights in Populist Times'

This project aims to offer the first comprehensive account of the Court’s actual and potential response to the wave of populism consolidating across Council of Europe states. To address the issue fully, the project combines conceptual, empirical and legal analysis. Conceptually, the project builds upon the fast-growing literature in the social and political theory of populism, which will delineate the populist phenomenon and locate it among an already rich conceptual field (e.g. “backlash”, “democracy decay”, “abusive constitutionalism”). Empirically, the project incorporates recent findings documenting the populist erosion of ECHR-relevant rights at the domestic level with a view to best conceptualizing and designing the Court’s subsequent response at the supranational level. In light of these conceptual and empirical foundations, the project aims to evaluate and inform the Court’s response to populism on three levels of argument: i) whether the Court has already responded to populism; ii) whether it should respond - and if yes, iii) whether and how it is equipped to do so.


Selected publications:

  • ‘Proportionality as Procedure: Strengthening the Legitimate Authority of the UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights’ (with Antoinette Scherz), Global Constitutionalism, accepted, forthcoming 2021
  • ‘Charles Beitz’ Idea of Human Rights and the Limits of Law’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, accepted, forthcoming 2021
  • ‘Human Rights Law and International Criminal Law: A Structural Account’, Ratio Juris, vol. 32, no. 3 (2019), pp. 278–300
  • ‘Freedom of expression, the Right to Vote, and Proportionality at the European Court of Human Rights:An Internal Critique’, International Journal of Constitutional Law, vol. 17, no. 1 (2019), pp. 230–53
  • ‘Right, Crime, and Court: Toward a Political Account of International Law’, Criminal Law and Philosophy, vol. 12, no. 4 (2019), pp. 677-693
  • ‘The UN Security Council, Normative Legitimacy and the Challenge of Specificity’ (with Antoinette Scherz), Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 23, no. 3 (2019), pp. 371–391
  • ‘Searching for the Legitimacy of the European Court of Human Rights: The Neglected Role of “Democratic Society”’, Global Constitutionalism, vol. 5, no. 1, 2016, pp. 14–41
  • ‘Refining the Structure and Revisiting the Relevant Jurisdiction of Crimes against Humanity’, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, vol. 29, no.1, 2016, pp. 23–45
  • The ECHR and Human Rights Theory: Reconciling the Moral and Political Conceptions, Routledge Research in Human Rights Law (London: Routledge), 2016, 249 pp. 
  • Zysset, Alain Fabio & Scherz, Antoinette (2021). Proportionality as procedure: Strengthening the legitimate authority of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Global Constitutionalism. ISSN 2045-3817. 10(3), p. 524–546. doi: 10.1017/S2045381721000071.
  • Scherz, Antoinette & Zysset, Alain (2019). The UN Security Council, Normative Legitimacy and the Challenge of Specificity. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (CRISPP). ISSN 1369-8230. 23(3), p. 371–391. doi: 10.1080/13698230.2019.1565720. Full text in Research Archive
  • Zysset, Alain (2019). Freedom of Expression, the Right to Vote, and Proportionality at the European Court of Human Rights: An Internal Critique . International Journal of Constitutional Law. ISSN 1474-2640. doi: 10.1093/icon/moz002.
  • Zysset, Alain (2017). Book review: The Heart of Human Rights, written by Allen Buchanan. Nordic Journal of Human Rights. ISSN 1891-8131. 86(2), p. 267–273. doi: 10.1163/15718107-08602006.
  • Zysset, Alain (2017). Right, Crime, and Court: Toward a Unifying Political Conception of International Law. Criminal Law and Philosophy. ISSN 1871-9791. p. 1–17. doi: 10.1007/s11572-017-9450-9.

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Published Sep. 6, 2016 2:05 PM - Last modified Sep. 27, 2021 11:32 AM