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Too Much of a Good Thing?: The Benefits of the Case Overload at the ECtHR

Thu, November 2, 10:15 to 11:45am, Omni Parker Mezzanine, Harriet Beecher Stowe


The expansion of international human rights systems to incorporate member-states that systematically violate human rights is often considered a risk to their credibility. However, I find evidence that the expansion of international human rights treaties that feature a court with compulsory jurisdiction and mandatory right of individual petition to include human rights violators will have a progressive impact on the system. Specifically, I show that the accession of Eastern European states to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) system counterintuitively contributed to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) development of caselaw and enforcement mechanisms. In my analysis, I distinguish between the newer member-states from Eastern Europe, which generate a constant stream of new cases at the ECtHR concerning grave rights violations and systemic failures of justice, and the older member-states. Through qualitative analysis of its judgments, I find evidence that the ECtHR applied stricter interpretations of the ECHR in judgments against the newer member-states than older member-states; developed precedents in areas of caselaw against the new member-states that were relatively lacking in its caselaw for older member-states; developed new enforcement mechanisms to use against new member-states that interfered more with national sovereignty; and eventually used some precedents and enforcement tools from cases against new member-states throughout its membership.