The European human rights system has long been seen as one of the greatest European achievements, with its European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as the world's leading human rights court. Current turbulent times, however, pose serious challenges to the European system, which is increasingly being contested by the deepening ‘implementation crisis’. The absolute obligation of member states of the Council of Europe (CoE) to abide by ECtHR judgments under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been increasingly compromised by the selective approach of states, often resulting in minimal, dilatory, lengthy or even contested compliance with ECtHR judgments. As the implementation backlog has grown largely after the accession to the CoE of the newly emerged states, as aspiring democracies, in the late 1990s and early 2000s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, this article analyses the compliance behaviour of these states by looking at the South Caucasus states: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The research findings suggest that partial compliance is a very likely form of compliance in the South Caucasus states as democratising states, and that some of the factors that explain such behaviour discussed in the article may be distinctive of states that joined the CoE as emerging democracies after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These states continue to display various vulnerabilities in the areas of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. This, in turn, has serious implications for the whole European human rights system and its ability to ensure that states’ commitments to the CoE are duly respected in the longer term.
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