[Başak Çalı is Associate Professor of International Law at Koç University Law School, Turkey, and a member of the Executive Board of the European Society of International Law]
We, in the ‘from Reykjavik to Vladivostok’ Europe, have grown accustomed to being proud of the European Human Rights System in the last forty or so years. We teach courses on European Human Rights Law that distill over ten thousand European Court of Human Rights judgments
. We start our lectures on European Human Rights Law by pointing out that Europe, despite all its flaws, has the most effective regional system. We note that the European Court of Human Rights has been cited by the US Supreme Court.
We celebrate how the effective rights doctrine has recognised and empowered Irish catholic women trying to divorce
, Cypriot gay men wishing to walk safely on the streets
, Kurdish mothers looking for their disappeared sons
, Bulgarian rape victims
, Azeri journalists
, British children wrongly placed in care
and more, so many more. We underline the importance of the guidance that the European Court of Human Rights has provided to domestic judges, prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and legislators on how to take into account human rights when doing their respective jobs. We also salute the fact that the European Human Rights System has brought those us of who live between Reykjavik and Vladivostok together in a recognition of our common humanity, its frailty and our desire for a common dialogue on human rights regardless of our jurisdictional differences. That is why a judge in Diyarbakır, Turkey has given some thought to Mr. McCann
and the British military operation in Gibraltar in 1988. Why a judge in Scotland has asked herself what does the case of Salduz
mean for her to respect fair trial rights. We also spend long hours in classrooms, courtrooms and parliaments discussing whether the European Court of Human Rights got the ‘margin of appreciation’ right this time.
Now all that celebration and all the hard and painstakingly incremental gains of the European Human Rights System, a system based on solidarity to reach the common purpose of the promotion of human rights of all, is under serious threat. Unlike the debates that have ensued in the last ten years, the danger is not the Court’s famed gigantic case-load
(as has been captured in the cliche of the ‘victim of its own success’) or the slow implementatio
n of its judgments by some of the worst offenders. One political group in one country is out to shake the very foundations of the European Human Rights System.