Universiteit Leiden

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The European Court of Human Rights reading between the lines

dinsdag 31 januari 2023
Kamerling Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311ES Leiden
A 144


The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is an ‘institution for conflict resolution’ par excellence. Not only does it deal with thousands of cases per year, coming from 46 countries across the continent; in doing so it also seeks to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law at the national level - crucial preconditions for the peaceful resolution of conflicts by domestic institutions. In the course of more than 60 years, the Court has decided leading cases that gave shape and substance to the freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on. In recent years, the Court is confronted with a new kind of cases. They revolve around the question whether there were ulterior motives behind the authorities' actions. Mr. Navalny is arrested time and again when he wants to address his supporters. Is this simply an attempt to maintain public order, or is there a purpose behind these actions, for instance to silence a political opponent of the regime? A Polish judge is disciplined. Should the Court zoom in on the penalty imposed on him, or should it review the case in the broader context of the 'rule of law crisis' prevailing in the country? Similar questions arise in the case of SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation). Cases like these have led to the 'rediscovery' of Article 18 of the ECHR. But they may also draw the Court -- whether it likes it or not -- into highly politically sensitive grounds.

Presenter bio

Rick Lawson is Professor of Law at Leiden University, the Netherlands, and chair in European human rights law since 2001. He served as Dean of Leiden Law School from 2011 to 2016. He is also the Programme Director of the Advanced LLM programme in European and International Human Rights Law, and vice-chair of the Management Board of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) in Vienna. Professor Lawson specialises in European and international human rights law, against the more general background of public international law, international institutional law and EU law. He has published widely on the European Convention of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, and on the protection of fundamental rights in the EU legal order. He has also served on various occasions as an expert before Dutch Parliament and before the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). He was a senior expert of the FRALEX Network of Human Rights Experts, set up by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (2008-2009); member of the Human Rights Committee of the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV), an advisory body to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (2011-2018); member of the board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation (since 2011); member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (since 2013); and a founding member of the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights (2002-2006). Professor Lawson is also a member of the board of editors of the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Mensenrechten, the leading Dutch human rights law review.

About the seminar series

Institutions for Conflict Resolution / Conflictoplossende Instituties (COI) is a research collaboration between Utrecht University, Leiden University, and Radboud University Nijmegen. As part of its activities, the COI research group organises seminars throughout the year for researchers interested in current and innovative topics relating to institutions for conflict resolution. The seminars feature international speakers who present their work, followed by Q&A and discussion. Themes include the evolving role of judges in preventing and resolving conflicts, the role of alternative avenues and non-public actors, and how societal challenges such as climate change or digitalisation affect institutions for conflict resolution. Seminars are hosted on a rotating basis at each of the three universities, and are delivered in a hybrid format: online via Microsoft Teams and in-person, on campus at the host institution.

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