Shifting Centres of Gravity in European Human Rights Protection

Shifting Centres of Gravity in European Human Rights Protection


Conference organised by the University of Iceland Human Rights Institute

Venue: The Nordic House, Sturlugata 5, Reykjavík

The protection of human rights in Europe is at crossroads. The European Union (EU) is increasingly prioritising fundamental rights, for example by giving the Charter of Fundamental Rights the status of primary law and through the treaty-based obligation of accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Accession, once it takes place, expands the mandate of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and is likely to bring about fundamental structural changes to the system of human rights protection in Europe, as decisions of the ECtHR will be binding on the EU and its courts. However, pulling in a somewhat different direction than developments in EU law, the political momentum for bringing the responsibility for the protection of ECHR rights ‘home’ to the member states has been growing ever stronger. This repositioning of the centre of gravity of human rights protection is beginning to take shape in two new Protocols to the ECHR, which emphasise the principle of subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation enjoyed by the member states (Protocol No. 15), and introduce a preliminary reference procedure under the ECHR (Protocol No. 16). Finally, and in light of the crisis created by the overwhelming case-load of the ECtHR, the Brighton Declaration of 2010 has put the long-term review of the Court’s fundamental nature and role on the agenda before the end of 2019. Overall, therefore, the future of human rights in Europe faces major structural changes which could have significant consequences for access to justice and the quality of protection provided to victims of human rights violations.

This conference will explore these themes from the perspective that current developments call for a critical assessment of classical approaches to the three-dimensional relationship between the ECHR, EU law and national law; of the theories and tools utilised to navigate this relationship; and of the effects current developments may have on victims and vulnerable groups.

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