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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
November 2023
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Creative Common License - CC Creative Common License - BY Creative Common License - NC Creative Common License - ND
This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Book description

When international courts are given sweeping powers, why would they ever refuse to use them? The book explains how and when courts employ strategies for institutional survival and resilience: forbearance and audacity, which help them adjust their sovereignty costs to pre-empt and mitigate backlash and political pushback. By systematically analysing almost 2,300 judgements from the European Court of Human Rights from 1967–2016, Ezgi Yildiz traces how these strategies shaped the norm against torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. With expert interviews and a nuanced combination of social science and legal methods, Yildiz innovatively demonstrates what the norm entails, and when and how its contents changed over time. Exploring issues central to public international law and international relations, this interdisciplinary study makes a timely intervention in the debate on international courts, international norms, and legal change. This book is available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘Between Forbearance and Audacity meticulously explains how and why the European Court of Human Rights has expanded the prohibition on torture from a narrow negative interpretation that bans government agents from using torture during interrogations to a broader understanding that includes positive government obligations to prevent torture and protect victims in multiple contexts, such as domestic abuse and medical settings. However, the Court has not always followed an expansive approach. Using in depth interviews and a systematic content analysis, Yildiz demonstrates that pushback from Western European governments has at times curtailed the Court, such as on cases involving refugees. Deeply rooted in both law and political science, this is a masterful book that should be of interest to those interested in human rights, international courts, and the development of international legal norms.'

Erik Voeten - Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Justice in World Affairs, Edmund E. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government Department, Georgetown University

‘Ezgi Yildiz's carefully researched book is the crucial text on changing norms of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. But it also offers the most impressive evidence to date of how human rights can evolve through the audacious interpretations of a court.'

Kathryn Sikkink - Ryan Family Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

‘Between Forbearance and Audacity tells the story of how the European Court of Human Rights has developed the norm against torture over the past five decades. It shows how courts are always situated in history and that the development of the law necessarily has to be tailored to the constraints that courts face at given moments of time. This is neither an optimistic nor pessimistic account of the European Court of Human Rights; it is realistic account that considers all the complexity of making torture illegal in Europe.'

Mikael Rask Madsen - Professor and Director of iCourts, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

‘Between Forbearance and Audacity is an insightful and ambitious analysis of how the European Court of Human Rights has transformed the norm against torture and renegotiated its own position in the process. This book brings together rich empirical analyses and a novel conceptual framework to advance the current thinking about how human rights courts work and how they respond to pressure from member states and beyond. This is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how international human rights courts shape, and are shaped by, evolving human rights norms.'

Courtney Hillebrecht - Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

‘In Between Forbearance and Audacity, Ezgi Yildiz chronicles and explains an international legal revolution, in which the European Court of Human Rights expanded the meaning of torture and the responsibility of states to prevent it. Drawing on a range of quantitative, qualitative, and interpretive methods, Yildiz provides the definitive account of the transformation of the anti-torture law in Europe. Essential reading for political scientists, lawyers, and anyone who wants to understand the conditions for the protection of human rights around the world.'

Mark Pollack - Professor of Political Science and Law, Temple University

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Full book PDF
  • Between Forbearance and Audacity
    pp i-i
  • Endorsements
    pp ii-iii
  • Studies on International Courts and Tribunals - Series page
    pp iv-vi
  • Copyright page
    pp viii-viii
  • Dedication
    pp ix-x
  • Contents
    pp xi-xiii
  • Figures
    pp xiv-xiv
  • Tables
    pp xv-xvi
  • Foreword
    pp xvii-xix
  • Acknowledgments
    pp xx-xxii
  • Funding Statement
    pp xxiii-xxiii
  • Abbreviations
    pp xxiv-xxiv
  • Introduction: The Court Redefines Torture in Europe
    pp 1-36
  • 1 - The Conditions for Audacity
    pp 37-56
  • 2 - Inside the Court
    pp 57-78
  • Its Trade-Offs and Zone of Discretion
  • 3 - Mapping Out Norm Change
    pp 79-102
  • 4 - From Compromise to Absolutism? Gradual Transformation under the Old Court’s Watch
    pp 103-124
  • 5 - New Court, New Thresholds, New Obligations
    pp 125-143
  • 6 - Change Unopposed
    pp 144-168
  • The Court’s Embrace of Positive Obligations
  • 7 - Legal Change in Times of Backlash
    pp 169-197
  • 8 - Conclusion
    pp 198-214
  • Bibliography
    pp 215-240
  • Index
    pp 241-249


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