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Picture copyright: Ellen Wuibaux ©Council of Europe


Since its establishment in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered more than 10,000 judgments. Verdicts are rendered on State parties that, having ratified the European Convention of Human Rights, have nonetheless violated the civil and political rights set in this international Treaty and its protocols. Through her ERC research, Prof. Eva Brems questioned the accountability and reliability of this supranational court. Is it fit for purpose?

How does the ECHR deal with the increasing pressure on human rights and current rights inflation? How do judges rule on claims referring to conflicting or competing human rights? What about the rights of non-dominant and minority groups? For Prof. Brems, in the past years the ECHR has shown increasing signs of weakness. The dynamic interpretation of the Convention has led to inconsistent case laws, undermining the credibility and persuasiveness of the Court's reasoning.
To strengthen the European Human rights protection system, Prof Brems identified new technical solutions and tools, combining an empirical and a normative approach. With the support of the ERC, she provided an extensive critical analysis of consistency and transparency issues in the Court's judgments. With her ERC team, she also developed new legal tools for the accommodation of the particularities of non-dominant groups, a framework for minimum and maximum approaches to human rights protection, a script for a consistent approach to conflicting human rights and an analysis on the delimitation of the scope of human rights and of the ECHR. Several normative proposals were presented to the Court for adoption.
The project methodology was also novel. To analyse the ECHR case law, the team used NVivo - a qualitative data analysis computer software package – combined with qualitative social science methods – such as interviews and focus groups - and discourse analysis.
The research project triggered significant public and media attention. Six international expert seminars and one international conference were organised and various journal articles, papers and books have been published from it.