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  • Cited by 8
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2020
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Book description

With its contextualized analysis of the European Court of Human Rights' (ECtHR) engagement in Turkey's Kurdish conflict since the early 1990s, Limits of Supranational Justice makes a much-needed contribution to scholarships on supranational courts and legal mobilization. Based on a socio-legal account of the efforts of Kurdish lawyers in mobilizing the ECtHR on behalf of abducted, executed, tortured and displaced civilians under emergency rule, and a doctrinal legal analysis of the ECtHR's jurisprudence in these cases, this book powerfully demonstrates the Strasbourg court's failure to end gross violations in the Kurdish region. It brings together legal, political, sociological and historical narratives, and highlights the factors enabling the perpetuation of state violence and political repression against the Kurds. The effectiveness of supranational courts can best be assessed in hard cases such as Turkey, and this book demonstrates the need for a reappraisal of current academic and jurisprudential approaches to authoritarian regimes.


Special Mention, 2021 Book Prize, ICON-S (International Society of Public Law)


‘If the European Court of Human Rights is the world’s most effective adjudicator of human rights, as often claimed, how could Turkey, a member state since 1954, get away with suppressing its Kurdish population for decades? Dilek Kurban’s unique study provides not only a historical exploration of the often overlooked role of Turkey in the making of the ECtHR, but also a novel analysis of the limits of international courts in ethno-political conflicts. This is a very timely book which provides key insights into the possibility of legal mobilization in the context of authoritarian states. A must-read.’

Mikael Rask Madsen - Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

‘This superb study makes a compelling case that Turkey, which the author astutely identifies as a 'perpetual footnote' in scholarship on the European Court of Human Rights, should occupy a much more central place in our understanding of the efficacy of human rights law. A must-read for anyone interested in supranational adjudication and its limits.’

Tom Ginsburg - University of Chicago Law School

‘With methodological precision and theoretical clarity, Kurban provides a clear reminder for our time - processes and institutions of law, rights and justice can possess deep failures in the moments of greatest need. This meticulous, historically grounded analysis reveals the limitations of the ECtHR’s reach into Turkey’s Kurdish conflict and is a generalizable warning for a world with increasingly powerful state executives and constrained societies.’

Rachel Cichowski - Professor of Political Science and Law, Societies and Justice, University of Washington

‘Dr Kurban’s rich empirical study documents the struggles of domestic Kurdish legal rights activists to mobilize the European Court of Human Rights, as well as on the ground to challenge the injustices of a violently repressive Turkish state. The historically contextualized qualitative research is masterfully executed, the book is very well written, and the multi-disciplinary analysis of both creative bottom-up mobilization and restrained top-down judicial effectiveness is compelling. Kurban’s book is a major addition to research on legal mobilization by subaltern populations in authoritarian regimes.’

Michael McCann - Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship, University of Washington

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