Researchers meet the European Court of Human Rights

Blog post by Victoria Skeie on the highlights from the workshop Responding to Legitimacy Challenges: Opportunities and Choices for the European Court of Human Rights.

Researchers meet the court

Earlier this year, PluriCourts arranged a workshop at the European Court of Human Rights together with the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM), Montaigne Centre at Utrecht University, Human Rights Centre at Ghent University, Koc University Centre for Global Public Law, and the Hertie School of Governance. This International Workshop on ‘Responding to Legitimacy Challenges: Opportunities and Choices for the European Court of Human Rights’ brought together a select group of academics and professionals at the Court, including both judges and members of the Registry. This workshop analysed the different challenges that are facing the Court, with opportunities for academics, judges and Registry staff to engage in informal dialogues and exchanges. Vice President Angelika Nußberger and PluriCourts Co-Director Andreas Føllesdal opened the conference and noted the importance of academia and the Court working together.

Subsidiarity and legitimacy challenges

The first panel discussed subsidiarity and legitimacy challenges. Chaired by Janneke Gerards, this panel had a presentation by political scientists Øyvind Stiansen and Erik Voeten, with statistical data on the decision-making by the judges at the Court. This session also examined the reasoning and legitimacy around Article 3, presented by Elaine Webster, and finished with Ed Bates’s presentation on the concept of subsidiarity. After these presentations, Vice President Angelika Nußberger responded to each, and kicked off the discussion and questions from the rest of the room. Several judges joined the workshop and participated in the discussion. 

Dialogue and relations with national judges

After lunch, Basak Cali chaired the panel entitled ‘Dialogue and relations with national judges’. Gregory Davies examined the judicial relation between the UK and Court, and this was followed by Raphaella Kuns, addressing domestic courts and constructive contestation. This presentation drew links to the Inter-American Human Rights System which was also a topic in the discussion afterwards. Judge Paulo Pinoto de Albuquerque delivered comments to both of these papers, which both of the speakers responded to. 

Remedies and compliance with judgements

The final session, ‘Remedies and compliance with judgements’, was chaired by Antoine Buyse, with Judge Ganna Yudkivska delivering comments. The first presenters were Alice Donald and Anne-Katrin Speck, on ‘The developing remedial practice of the European Court of Human Rights and its implications for the legitimacy of the ECHR system’. Lize Glas had written a paper about the Burmych and Others v. Ukraine case, with regards to deviation and repetitive applications. The final presenter, Andreas von Staden presented a paper on improving compliance and the court’s perceived legitimacy with regards to the margin of appreciation. 

Comments from keynote listeners

After the discussion following from these presentations, a new type of panel was organized called ‘keynote listeners’. Selected members of the Court and registry who had joined for the whole workshop and engaged throughout the day responded to the general themes and issues raised. Eva Brems chaired this session and asked insightful questions which led to the panel sharing their own experience from working at the Court. This was valuable for researchers who spend time researching exactly how the Court functions. Judge Robert Spano also responded to what he has, coincidentally, coined ‘the age of subsidiarity’, and expanded on the arguments made in his paper, “Universality of Diversity of Human Rights? Strasbourg in the Age of Subsidiarity”1.  This panel was very stimulating and insightful for all groups, and it was interesting hearing from the head of the Registry, Olga Chernishova. The evening was concluded by a reception at the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence, where the discussion between the different groups continued in an informal setting. 

Future dialogue

The aim of this workshop was to create an informal exchange by these two groups, who otherwise, when meet, do so under more formal circumstances. By illuminating the issues that the Court faces, the workshop hoped to facilitate discussion on possible solutions and remedies. One example included the discussion on tabloids who, effectively, try to delegitimize the Court’s work. One suggestion from an academic included writing more comprehensive judgements that could clarify cases for journalists. In this instance, the judges were able to explain what goes into writing judgements, and their worry that journalists are unlikely to read the full-length judgements. This spurred the discussion to consider the work-load of the Court in balancing incoming applications. This type of free-flowing dialogue and the response from all groups after the conclusion of the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. Several people believed they could benefit from a similar workshop again in the future, which PluriCourts is looking forward to planning. 


1Robert Spano; Universality or Diversity of Human Rights?: Strasbourg in the Age of Subsidiarity, Human Rights Law Review, Volume 14, Issue 3, 1 September 2014, Pages 487–502,

Tags: Human Rights, Legitimacy
Published Dec. 17, 2018 2:27 PM - Last modified July 20, 2020 12:56 PM
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