Just Like Any Other Court: The European Court of Human Rights as a Political Institution
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This dissertation argues that, like national judicial institutions, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is a judicial and political institution with the ability to make policies. Prior research on the ECtHR has focused on national institutions for understanding why member states’ governments comply with the ECtHR rulings is too narrow a focus. The majority of the literature has focused on compliance with the European Court of Human Rights rulings, but this skips the Court finding a member state in violation of the Convention—which is a policy choice. By expanding the view of compliance to incorporate the judgment, it becomes impossible to ignore the European Court of Human Rights’ involvement in this process. After all, when the focus is only about member state compliance to the ECtHR, this limits the inquiry to states that have been found by the Court to be non-compliant with the Convention. Therefore, an expanded view of compliance that considers when states are first found non-compliant with the Convention may lead to a clearer understanding of compliance with both the ECtHR as well as the Convention.
An expanded view of compliance with both the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) as well as the European Court of Human Rights necessitates considering the ECtHR as a political institution. Member states do not act in a vacuum; rather, they are reacting to the Court’s decision that originally found the member state non-compliant with the Convention. Therefore, the decision-making of the Court and its judges becomes more important. The judgment by which the Court finds a member state in violation with the Convention may, in turn, provide insight into member state compliance with this judgment. In other words, the Court’s ability to make decisions influences which member states even have the opportunity to show that they can be compliant with the Court (as well as the Convention). This project suggests that by focusing on the European Court of Human Rights, its judgments, and compliance with those judgments, it is possible to assess the Court’s overall behavior as a judicial and political institution.