Wither Sovereignty? Norway in Strasbourg

MultiRights Seminar with Professor Anne Julie Semb discussing her paper on the Norwegian position during the negotiations to establish the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

One of the most contested issues during the negotiations to establish the European Convention on Human Rights was the nature and scope of the institutions that were to enforce the measures that were included in the final convention. Some states wanted the new human rights regime to include an international court with compulsory jurisdiction as well as a right to individual petition. Other states strongly opposed such proposals.

According to Andrew Moravcsik’s influential study of the origins of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a particular government’s decision to support the establishment of an international court with a right to individual petition was a function of the relative significance of the crosscutting considerations of sovereignty costs, i.e. the perceived risk that such a court could nullify domestic laws in the future, and the need to reduce future political uncertainty. Moravcsik assumes that states’ willingness to accept sovereignty costs was constant or randomly distributed. What caused variations in governments’ support for international enforcement measures was consequently variations in the perceived need for reducing future political uncertainty: Governments that perceived a strong need for reducing the future domestic political uncertainty – typically democratic governments in unconsolidated democracies – could be expected to support international enforcement measures. Conversely, governments that did not fear the domestic political future – typically democratic governments in established democracies – did not perceive that there was a need for locking in favored policies. They therefore tended to let concern for sovereignty costs be decisive and not support the establishment of an international court.

Norway was among a group of well-established democracies, e.g. the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark, that consistently opposed including references to a human rights court in the new convention. Norway is consequently a “most likely case”: If Moravscik’s theory does not get support from the Norwegian case, the confidence in his theory is seriously undermined.

The paper details the Norwegian position during the negotiations to establish the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in general and her attitude to the issue of a European human rights court in particular. It is based on archival material from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, as well as secondary sources.

The MultiRights seminars are organised by the MultiRights project on the multi-level human rights judiciary. They provide a forum for discussions for researchers from various backgrounds, including law, philosophy and political science. The seminars take place on a regular basis on Tuesdays and are open for all.


Tags: Human Rights
Published Feb. 11, 2016 11:30 AM - Last modified May 8, 2018 8:54 AM