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The ECtHR's Role as a Guardian of Discourse: Safeguarding a Decision-Making Process Based on Well-Established Standards, Practical Rationality, and Facts


This article argues that understanding the role of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or the Court) to be that of a guardian of discourse would respect legitimate disagreement among pluralist democracies, while enabling the Court to safeguard human rights in a meaningful and effective way.

From the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR or the Convention) and the Court's jurisprudence, three basic standards of review can be distilled: First, wherever the Convention's requirements are sufficiently concrete, the Court holds contracting states to well-established standards. Second, when applying broad, abstract and relative Convention rights, the Court safeguards the practical rationality of a democratic decision-making discourse under the rule of law – a substantive review standard that is influenced by procedural factors. Third, the Court also needs to check the facts underlying the case, in order to render its control effective.

By setting ‘soft’ precedent in the form of factors that guide future decision-making without entirely prejudging it, and by taking into account second-order reasons concerning its legitimacy to intervene, the Court is acting as a second player in states’ decision-making discourse. Its task is not to replace the institutions originally responsible for taking the decision, but to ensure that they conform to their own role.

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1 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ETS No. 005.

2 For the UK see Lord Sumption, The Limits of the Law, 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Lecture, 20 November 2013, available at; Bellamy, R., ‘The Democratic Legitimacy of International Human Rights Conventions: Political Constitutionalism and the European Convention on Human Rights’, (2014) 25 EJIL 1019, at 1020–2; for Germany Ladeur, K.-H., ‘European Law as Transnational Law: Europe Has to Be Conceived as an Heterarchical Network and Not as a Superstate!’, (2009) 10 (10) GLJ 1357, at 1364–5; for the Netherlands Oomen, B., ‘A serious case of Strasbourg-bashing? An evaluation of the debates on the legitimacy of the European Court of Human Rights in the Netherlands’, (2016) 20 (3) IJHR 407.

3 Cf. von Staden, A., ‘The Democratic Legitimacy of Judicial Review Beyond the State: Normative Subsidiarity and Judicial Standards of Review’, (2012) 10 ICON 1023, at 1049.

4 Mele, A. and Rawling, P., ‘Introduction: Aspects of Rationality’, in Mele, A. and Rawling, P. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Rationality (2004), 3, at 3–4; Talisse, R., ‘Deliberation’, in Estlund, D., (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy (2012), 204, at 204–6.

5 See A. Legg, The Margin of Appreciation in International Human Rights Law: Deference and Proportionality (2012), 17 et seq., who first applied the distinction to the ECHR, albeit with a different set of second-order reasons. The idea of second-order reasons originates with J. Raz, Practical Reason and Norms (1975), 39, 193.

6 See, e.g., M.-B. Dembour, Who believes in Human Rights? Reflections on the

European Convention (2006), 14.

7 Cf. Harbo, T.-I., ‘Introducing Procedural Proportionality Review in European Law’, (2017) 30 LJIL 25, at 32.

8 Popelier, P. and van de Heyning, C., ‘Subsidiarity Post-Brighton: Procedural Rationality as Answer?’, (2017) 30 LJIL 5, at 12.

9 For such an understanding see Khosla, M., ‘Proportionality: An assault on human rights?: A reply’, (2010) 8 ICON 298, at 303; G. Letsas, A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights (2007), 90; Feingold, C., ‘The Doctrine of Margin of Appreciation and the European Convention on Human Rights’, (1977–78) 53 Notre Dame Law Review 90, at 105.

10 See, e.g., K. Reid, A Practitioner's Guide to the European Convention on Human Rights (2015), 65 (para. 3-004); Besson, S., ‘European human rights, supranational review and democracy: Thinking outside the judicial box’, in Popelier, P. et al. (eds.), Human rights protection in the European legal order: The interaction between the European and national courts (2011), 97, at 107; Lord Lester of Herne Hill, ‘Universality versus subsidiarity: a reply’, (1998) 1 EHRLR 73, at 80.

11 Cf. Klatt, M., ‘Balancing competences: How institutional cosmopolitanism can manage jurisdictional conflicts’, (2015) 4 Global Constitutionalism 195, at 215–16.

12 See, however, seemingly in a different direction: Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 22–3; Harbo, supra note 7, at 44–5.

13 Cf. Powers, W., ‘Hirst v. United Kingdom (No. 2): A First Look at Prisoner Disenfranchisement by the European Court of Human Rights’, (2006) 21 Connecticut Journal of International Law 243, at 293.

14 Referring to the Handyside case: Case of The Sunday Times v. The United Kingdom [PL], Decision of 26 April 1979, No. 6538/74, at 59.

15 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1155 UNTS 331.

16 Cf. Harbo, supra note 7; D. Grimm, ‘Types of Constitutions’, in M. Rosenfeld and A. Sajó (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (2012), 98, at 103 et seq.

17 El-Masri v. ‘The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’ [GC], Judgment of 13 December 2012, [2012] ECHR (Appl. No. 39630/09), at 205 et seq.

18 Selmouni v. France [GC], Judgment of 28 July 1999, [1999] ECHR (Appl. No. 25803/94), at 101–6.

19 Sakhnovskiy v. Russia [GC], Judgment of 2 November 2010, [2010] ECHR (Appl. No. 21272/03), at 103, 107.

20 Speech by President Dean Spielmann on the occasion of the visit by their Royal Highnesses the Grand Duke Henri and the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg, 27 March 2014, available at; cf. Golder v. The United Kingdom [PL], Judgment of 21 February 1975, [1975] ECHR (Appl. No. 4451/70), at 36.

21 For a concise overview of common arguments see Smith, S., ‘What Does Constitutional Interpretation Interpret?’, in Huscroft, G. (ed.), Expounding the Constitution: Essays in Constitutional Theory (2008), 21, at 25–9.

22 Davis, D., ‘Britain must defy the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner voting as Strasbourg is exceeding its authority’, in Flogaitis, S. et al. (eds.), The European Convention of Human Rights and its Discontents: Turning Criticism into Strength (2013), 65, at 67; see also J. Finnis, ‘Judicial Power: Past, Present and Future’, Judicial Power Project, 21 October 2015, at 23–5, available at

23 Cf. International Law Commission (ILC), First report on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to treaty interpretation (Special Rapporteur Georg Nolte), 19 March 2013, UN Doc. A/CN.4/660, at 17.

24 High-level Conference on the ‘Implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights, our shared responsibility’, Brussels Declaration, 27 March 2015, at 1: ‘Acknowledges the extraordinary contribution of the Convention system to the protection and promotion of human rights in Europe since its establishment’, available at; similarly in the Interlaken, Izmir and Brighton Declarations – despite the critique leading to the adoption of Protocol 15 (see infra notes 166 and 167).

25 This is common ground in linguistics: von Bogdandy, A. and Venzke, I., ‘Beyond Dispute: International Judicial Institutions as Lawmakers’, (2011) 12 (5) GLJ 979; Busse, D., ‘Interpreting Law: Text Understanding – Text Application – Working with Texts’, in Haß-Zumkehr, U. (ed.), Sprache und Recht (2002), 239.

26 Dudgeon v. The United Kingdom [PL], Judgment of 22 October 1981, [1981] ECHR (Appl. No. 7525/76), at 60–3.

27 Tyrer v. The United Kingdom, Judgment of 25 April 1978, [1978] ECHR (Appl. No. 5856/72), at 31–5.

28 See, e.g., Dothan, S., ‘In Defence of Expansive Interpretation in the European Court of Human Rights’, (2014) 3 CJICL 508, at 512–16.

29 Leitjen, J., ‘Het fluorideringsarrest’, in Zwolle, E. (ed.), t'Exempel dwinght (1975), 289, at 314, cited and translated by Kuijer, M., ‘The Impact of the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights on the Political Debate in the Netherlands concerning the Court’, in van Roosmalen, M. et al. (eds.), Fundamental Rights and Principles: Liber Amicorum Pieter van Dijk (2013), 99, at 102.

30 Council of Europe (ed.), Collected edition of the ‘Travaux préparatoires’ of the European Convention on Human Rights, Vol. 2: Consultative Assembly, Second Session of the Committee of Ministers, Standing Committee of the Assembly 10 August – 18 November 1949 (1975), at 47.

31 Affirmative: Jalloh v. Germany [GC], Judgment of 11 July 2006, [2006] ECHR (Appl. No. 54810/00), at 75–83, in particular at 79: ‘As to the manner in which the emetics were administered, the Court notes that, after refusing to take the emetics voluntarily, the applicant was pinned down by four police officers, which shows that force verging on brutality was used against him. A tube was then fed through his nose into his stomach to overcome his physical and mental resistance’; contra nonetheless, ibid., Judges Wildhaber and Caflisch dissenting, at 6.

32 See Bouyid v. Belgium [GC], Judgment of 28 September 2015, [2015] ECHR (Appl. No. 23380/09), at 100–13, and the Joint Partly Dissenting Opinion of Judges De Gaetano, Lemmens and Mahoney.

33 Soering v. The United Kingdom [PL], Judgment of 7 July 1989, [1989] ECHR (Appl. No. 14038/88), at 103; Al-Sadoon and Mufdhi v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 2 March 2010, [2010] ECHR (Appl. No. 61498/08), at 120; Hassan v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 16 September 2014, [2014] ECHR (Appl. No. 29750/09), at 101 – also showing that this may have the effect of expanding the possibility to restrict rights.

34 Golder, supra note 20, at 28, 35–6; Airey v. Ireland, Judgment of 9 October 1979, [1979] ECHR (Appl. No. 6289/73), at 20–8; Murray v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 8 February 1996, [1996] ECHR (Appl. No. 18731/91), at 62–3; Berlinski v. Poland, Judgment of 20 June 2002, [2002] ECHR (Appl. nos. 27715/95 and 30209/96), at 75–7.

35 Cf. Fitzmaurice, G., ‘Some Reflections on the European Convention on Human Rights – and on Human Rights’, in Bernhardt, R. et al. (eds.), Völkerrecht als Rechtsordnung. Internationale Gerichtsbarkeit, Menschenrechte: Festschrift für Hermann Mosler (1983), 203, at 214: ‘What is there . . . that cannot colourably be brought within these categories?’.

36 López Ostra v. Spain, Judgment of 9 December 1994, [1994] ECHR (Appl. No. 16798/90), at 51.

37 Lord Sumption, supra note 2, at 7; see for a similar critique from the Netherlands Oomen, supra note 2, at 415.

38 See for all of these Fitzmaurice, supra note 35, at 213–16.

39 Hoffmann, Lord, ‘The Universality of Human Rights’, (2009) 125 Law Quarterly Review 416, at 427, 430.

40 Davis, supra note 22, at 70.

41 As Fitzmaurice is suggesting: supra note 35, at 215.

42 See, e.g., Galev and others v. Bulgaria, Decision of 29 September 2009, [2009] ECHR (Appl. No. 18324/04), where the emissions from a dental practice did not meet that threshold.

43 Ivan Atanasov v. Bulgaria, Judgment of 2 December 2010, [2010] ECHR (Appl. No. 12853/03), at 66: ‘no right to nature-preservation’; Friend and others v. The United Kingdom, Decision of 24 November 2009, [2009] ECHR (Appl. nos. 16072/06 and 27809/08), at 43: ‘hunting is, by its very nature, a public activity’.

44 In particular the UK's representative Nally in Council of Europe (ed.), Collected edition of the ‘Travaux préparatoires’ of the European Convention on Human Rights, Vol. 1 (1975), 148, 150; see also E. Bates, The Evolution of the European Convention on Human Rights (2010), 82, 88 et seq.

45 See, for the example, L. Stephen, The Science of Ethics (1882), 143.

46 Alexy, R., ‘Balancing, constitutional review, and representation’, (2005) 3 ICON 572, at 579; J. Nida-Rümelin, Demokratie und Wahrheit (2006), 37–47; Cf. Sadurski, W., ‘Supranational public reason: On legitimacy of supranational norm-producing authorities’, (2015) 4 Global Constitutionalism 396, at 403–6.

47 A. Sweet, Governing with Judges: Constitutional Politics in Europe (2000), 107.

48 Cf. M. Kumm, ‘Democracy is not enough: Rights, proportionality and the point of judicial review’, 11 March 2009, New York University School of Law, at 5, 21, 35, available at

49 Cf., seeking to decouple legitimacy and democracy, Sadurski, supra note 46, at 402.

50 Delfi AS v. Estonia [GC], Judgment of 16 June 2016, [2016] ECHR (Appl. No. 64569/09), at 142.

51 Cf. A. Sweet, ‘Constitutional Courts’, in Rosenfeld and Sajó (eds.), supra note 16, 817, at 821; Dothan, supra note 28, at 517–18.

52 M. Albrecht, Die Methode der preußischen Richter in der Anwendung des Preußischen Allgemeinen Landrechts von 1794 (2005), 77, 221.

53 Cf. N. Luhmann, Legitimation durch Verfahren (1983), 181; for an enlightening basketball analogy see S. Fish, Doing What Comes Naturally (1989), 123–5.

54 Cf. for such an understanding N. Petersen, ‘Balancing and judicial self-empowerment: A case study on the rise of balancing in the jurisprudence of the German Federal Constitutional Court’, (2015) 4 Global Constitutionalism 49, at 52–3.

55 See most recently Bărbulescu v. Romania [GC], Judgment of 5 September 2017, [2017] ECHR (Appl. No. 61496/08), at 121; cf. A. Bårdsen, ‘The Norwegian Supreme Court and Strasbourg’, (2014) 15 GLJ 1293, at 1300 et seq.; Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, 16–17.

56 See Legg, supra note 5; cf. also Mendes, C., ‘Is It All About the Last Word? Deliberative Separation of Powers’, (2009) 3 (1) Legisprudence 69, at 73.

57 Dubout, E., ‘Interprétation téléologique et politique jurisprudentielle de la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme’, (2008) 74 RTDH 383, at 413–14.

58 Dothan, S., ‘Judicial Tactics in the European Court of Human Rights’, (2011) 12 Chicago Journal of International Law 115, at 126; cf. also Petersen, supra note 54, at 53–6, 73.

59 Benvenisti, E., ‘Margin of Appreciation, Consensus and Universal Standards’, (1999) 31 NYU JILP 843, at 854.

60 See for such an understanding Kratochvíl, J., ‘The Inflation of the Margin of Appreciation by the European Court of Human Rights’, (2011) 29 NQHR 324, at 356–7; see also Egeland and Hanseid v. Norway, Judgment of 16 April 2009, [2009] ECHR (Appl. No. 34438/04), concurring opinion Judge Rozakis.

61 For such an understanding cf. Arnardóttir, O., ‘The Differences that Make a Difference: Recent Developments on the Discrimination Grounds and the Margin of Appreciation under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights’, (2014) 14 HRLR 647, at 649, 656; von Staden, supra note 3, 1038; Kratochvíl, supra note 60, at 354.

62 Cf. Spielman, D., ‘Wither the Margin of Appreciation?’, (2014) 67 Current Legal Problems 49, at 56: ‘Determining . . . [the margin of appreciation's] span is not a prelude to the [Court's] exercise of judgment in a case, but intrinsic to it’.

63 See, for that example, Legg, supra note 5, at 19, who in turn took it from J. Raz, supra note 5, at 37.

64 Sporrong and Lönnroth v. Sweden [PL], Judgment of 23 September 1982, [1982] ECHR (Appl. nos. 7151/75 and 7152/75), at 69.

65 Cf. ILC, supra note 23; Legg, supra note 5, at 103–6.

66 G. Lebreton, Libertés publiques et droits de l'homme (2003), at 26–8: ‘positivisme sociologique’.

67 See supra notes 26 and 27.

68 Dothan, supra note 28, at 524; P. Mahoney, ‘The Comparative Method in Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights: Reference Back to National Law’, in Institut suisse de droit comparé (ed.), Le rôle du droit comparé dans l'avènement du droit européen: Lausanne, 14 - 15 avril 2000 (2002), 143 at 147.

69 Benvenisti, supra note 59, at 852.

70 Tulkens, F. et al., ‘Le soft law et la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme: questions de légitimité et de méthode’, (2012) 91 RTDH 434, at 473–81.

71 Cf. Dzehtsiarou, K. and Lukashevich, V., ‘Informed Decision-Making: The Comparative Endeavours of the Strasbourg Court’, (2012) 30 NQHR 272, at 277.

72 Cf. Kleinlein, T., ‘Consensus and Contestability: The ECtHR and the Combined Potential of European Consensus and Procedural Rationality Control’ (2017) 28 EJIL 871, at 883; Popović, D., ‘Le droit comparé dans l'accomplissement des tâches de la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme’, in Caflisch, L. et al. (eds.), Human Rights – Strasbourg Views: Liber Amicorum Luzius Wildhaber (2007), 371 at 382, 386; Mahoney, supra note 68, at 144.

73 See, e.g., Timurtas v. Turkey, Judgment of 13 June 2000, [2000] ECHR (Appl. No. 23531/94), at 79–80; Demir and Baykara v. Turkey [GC], Judgment of 12 November 2008, [2008] ECHR (Appl. No. 34503/97), at 78–86 with further references.

74 Which is often taken for granted: W. Schabas, The European Convention on Human Rights: A Commentary (2015), 48.

75 Cf. von Staden, supra note 3, at 1042.

76 Cf. Kleinlein, supra note 72, at 889; Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 23; Lazarus, L. and Simonsen, N., ‘Judicial Review and Parliamentary Debate: Enriching the Doctrine of Due Deference’, in Hunt, M. et al. (eds.), Parliaments and Human Rights: Redressing the democratic deficit (2014), 385 at 389.

77 Evans v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 10 April 2007, [2007] ECHR (Appl. No. 6339/05), at 13 et seq.

78 Ducoulombier, P., ‘Conflicts Between Fundamental Rights and the European Court of Human Rights: An Overview’, in Brems, E. (ed.), Conflicts Between Fundamental Rights (2008), 217 at 242 (fn. 124).

79 Animal Defenders International v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 22 April 2013, [2013] ECHR (Appl. No. 48876/08), at 114 et seq.; see for more details Saul, M., ‘The European Court of Human Rights’ Margin of Appreciation and the Processes of National Parliaments’, (2015) 15 HRLR 745, 754 et seq.

80 Hirst v. The United Kingdom (No. 2) [GC], Judgment of 6 October 2005, [2005] ECHR (Appl. No. 74025/01), at 72 et seq.

81 For more details see Bates, E., ‘Analysing the Prisoner Voting Saga and the British Challenge to Strasbourg’, (2014) 14 HRLR 503.

82 Lord Sumption, supra note 2, at 7, 10.

83 Whether Art. 3 Protocol 1 enshrined a right at all, might have been subject to debate because of its wording, but this issue has long been settled, with convincing reasons, in Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium [PL], Judgment of 2 March 1987, [1987] ECHR (Appl. No. 9267/81), at 46–60.

84 R. (Chester) v. Secretary of State for Justice [2013] UKSC 63 [135] Lord Sumption (with whom Lord Hughes agrees), concurring.

85 See in particular HC Deb. 22 Nov 2012 Cols. 745–62.

86 Cf. Kleinlein, supra note 72, at 879; see, however, apparently in a different direction Harbo, supra note 7, 44–5; Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 22–3.

87 Dothan, supra note 28, at 521.

88 Not recognizing this: Lord Sumption, supra note 84, at 112: ‘Prisoners belong to a minority only in the banal and legally irrelevant sense that most people do not do the things which warrant imprisonment by due process of law’.

89 See on this C. Gearty, On Fantasy Island: Britain, Europe and Human Rights (2017), in particular at 113 et seq.

90 Frodl v. Austria, Judgment of 8 April 2010, [2010] ECHR (Appl. No. 20201/04); see Bates, supra note 81, at 533.

91 Scoppola v. Italy (No. 3) [GC], Judgment of 22 May 2012, [2012] ECHR (Appl. No. 126/05), at 97–102.

92 Critical towards the compromise in Scoppola: Bellamy, R., ‘The democratic legitimacy of international human rights conventions: political constitutionalism and the Hirst case’, in Føllesdal, A. et al. (eds.), The Legitimacy of International Human Rights Regimes (2014), 243 at 268.

93 Von Hannover v. Germany, Judgment of 24 June 2004, [2004] ECHR (Appl. No. 59320/00), at 61 et seq.

94 Von Hannover v. Germany (No. 2) [GC], Judgment of 7 February 2012, [2012] ECHR (Appl. nos. 40660/08 and 60641/08).

95 Axel Springer AG v. Germany [GC], Judgment of 7 February 2012, [2012] ECHR (Appl. No. 39954/08).

96 See, e.g., K.-H. Ladeur, supra note 2 at 1364.

97 Axel Springer AG v. Germany, supra note 95, at 89–111.

98 See, most recently, Sihler-Jauch and Jauch v. Germany, Decision of 24 May 2016, [2016] ECHR (Appl. nos. 68273/10 and 34194/11), at 29–40, upholding the German courts’ balancing; cf. Harbo, supra note 7, at 46–7.

99 Case of Üner v. The Netherlands [GC], Judgment of 18 October 2006, [2006] ECHR (Appl. No. 46410/99), at 57–8; first established in Boultif v. Switzerland, Judgment of 2 August 2001, [2001] ECHR (Appl. No. 54273/00), at 48, and therefore also called Boultif criteria.

100 Chapman v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 18 January 2001, [2001] ECHR (Appl. No. 27238/95), at 102–4; Case of Winterstein and others v. France, Judgment of 17 October 2013, [2013] ECHR (Appl. No. 27013/07), at 148.

101 Austin and others v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 15 March 2012, [2012] ECHR (Appl. No. 39692/09), at 64–5; first established in Engel and others v. The Netherlands [PL], Judgment of 8 June 1976, [1976] ECHR (Appl. No. 5100/71), at 58–66.

102 Case of El-Masri, supra note 17, at 196.

103 The distinction is made, e.g., by G. Christie, Philosopher Kings? The Adjudication of Conflicting Human Rights and Social Values (2011), 110.

104 See, e.g., the parties’ argumentation in the Case of Winterstein, supra note 100, at 122 et seq., referring to Chapman, supra note 100.

105 Cae of S.A.S. v. France [GC], Judgment of 1 July 2014, [2014] ECHR (Appl. No. 43835/11).

106 Dahlab v. Switzerland, Decision of 15 February 2001, [2001] ECHR (Appl. No. 42393/98).

107 Case of S.A.S., supra note 105, at 113–59.

108 Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium, Judgment of 11 July 2017, [2017] ECHR (Appl. No. 37798/13), at 48 et seq., but see the Concurring Separate Opinion of Judges Spano and Karakaş, who followed S.A.S. only reluctantly because of its weight as a Grand Chamber precedent.

109 Likewise critical E. Brems, ‘S.A.S. v. France as a problematic precedent’, Strasbourg Observers, 9 July 2014, available at; Grabenwarter, C. and Struth, K., ‘Das französische Verbot der Vollverschleierung – Absolutes Verbot der Gesichtsverhüllung zur Wahrung der “Minimalanforderungen des Lebens in einer Gesellschaft”?’, (2015) 42 EuGRZ 1; in favour of the result Tomuschat, C., ‘Menschenrechte und kulturelle Traditionen’, (2016) 43 EuGRZ 6, at 10.

110 See also the dissenting vote in the case by Judges Nussberger and Jäderblom; but see Gough v. The United Kingdom, Judgment of 28 October 2014, [2014] ECHR (Appl. No. 49327/11), at 174–6, holding the criminal conviction of someone going naked in public to be in conformity with the Convention.

111 Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 22.

112 Austin and others v. The United Kingdom [GC], Judgment of 15 March 2012, [2012] ECHR (Appl. nos. 39692/09 et al.), at 61; cf. also Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 14.

113 Rakevich v. Russia, Judgment of 28 October 2003, [2003] ECHR (Appl. No. 58973/00), at 26–30.

114 A violation was found on different grounds, ibid., at 43–7.

115 J.K. v. Sweden [GC], Judgment of 23 August 2016, [2016] ECHR (Appl. No. 59166/12), at 84, 112–23.

116 S.L. v. Austria, Judgment of 9 January 2003, [2003] ECHR (Appl. No. 45330/99), at 23.

117 Ibid., at 22–6, 37–47.

118 Dogru v. France, Judgment of 4 December 2008, [2008] ECHR (Appl. No. 27058/05), at 73.

119 International Football Association Board, Annual Business Meeting, 1 March 2014, agenda, available at; International Football Association Board, Annual Business Meeting, 2 October 2012 – decisions and directives, Circular No. 1322, 25 October 2012. The impetus for the pilot came from protests after the Iranian women's team was not allowed to compete in the 2012 Olympics.

120 Smith, supra note 21, at 30.

121 Cf. Grimm, supra note 16.

122 J. Elster, Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in rationality and irrationality (1979), 94.

123 See., e.g., Selmouni v. France, supra note 18, at 78–9, 101–6. Also, in the Case of El-Masri, supra note 17, the world's oldest democracy was involved.

124 Cf. Kumm, supra note 48, at 25; Dothan, supra note 28, at 520.

125 Føllesdal, A., ‘The Legitimacy Deficits of the Human Rights Judiciary: Elements and Implications of a Normative Theory’, (2013) 14 TIL 339, at 355; Benvenisti, supra note 59, at 848 et seq.

126 C. Mendes, supra note 56, at 105.

127 Ibid.; Grimm, D., ‘Judicial Activism’, in Badinter, R. and Breyer, S. (eds.), Judges in Contemporary Democracy: An International Conversation (2004), 17 at 25; Kumm, supra note 48, at 26.

128 See empirically on the Australian experience: Evans, C. and Evans, S., ‘Messages from the Front Line: Parliamentarians’ Perspectives on Rights Protection’, in Campbell, T. et al. (eds.), The Legal Protection of Human Rights: Sceptical Essays (2011), 329 at 341.

129 Cf. Kumm, M., ‘The Problem of Judicial Review’, in Klatt, M. (ed.), Institutionalized Reason: The Jurisprudence of Robert Alexy (2012), 201 at 212.

130 See for such tendencies: C. Zurn, Deliberative Democracy and the Institutions of Judicial Review (2007), 113–29; cf. C. Mendes, supra note 56, at 72–5.

131 Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (Sup.Ct. 1973).

132 Waldron, J., ‘The Core of the Case Against Judicial Review’, (2006) 115 YLJ 1346, at 1384; Lord Sumption, supra note 2, at 13.

133 Føllesdal, A., ‘Why the European Court of Human Rights Might Be Democratically Legitimate – A Modest Defense’, (2009) 27 NJHR 289, at 299.

134 Mendes, supra note 56, at 109.

135 Kumm, supra note 48, at 33.

136 Mendes, supra note 56, at 104.

137 Bellamy, supra note 2, at 1040.

138 R. Michels, Political Parties: A sociological study of the oligarchical tendencies of modern democracy (1915), 32.

139 Lever, A., ‘Democracy and Judicial Review’, (2009) 7 Perspectives on Politics 805, at 811.

140 Cf. R. Dahl, Democracy and its Critics (1989), 177–8, 187–91.

141 Bächtiger, A. and Wyss, D., ‘Empirische Deliberationsforschung – eine systematische Übersicht’, (2013) 7 (2) ZfVP 155, at 166.

142 Cf. A. Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch (1986), 63, 187.

143 Cf. J. Rawls, Political Liberalism (1993), 231, 254: ‘To check whether we are following public reason we might ask: how would our argument strike us presented in the form of a supreme court opinion? Reasonable? Outrageous?’.

144 Bächtiger and Wyss, supra note 141, at 166.

145 Ibid., at 168; J. Steiner, The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications (2012), 216.

146 J. Segal and H. Spaeth, The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model Revisited (2009); Voeten, E., ‘Politics, Judicial Behaviour, and Institutional Design’, in Christoffersen, J. and Madsen, M. (eds.), Law and Politics (2011), 61 at 63–6.

147 Voeten, E., ‘The Impartiality of International Judges: Evidence from the European Court of Human Rights’, (2008) 102 American Political Science Review 417, at 425–7. For a judge voting ‘against his state’ see, e.g., Velkhiyev v. Russia, Judgment of 5 July 2011, [2013] ECHR (Appl. No. 34085/06), or Nicolas Bratza in Hirst (No. 2), supra note 80.

148 Cf. Marguénaud, J.-P., ‘L'opinion séparée du juge siégeant à la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme au titre de l’État défendeur’, in Tituin, P. (ed), La conscience des droits: mélanges en l'honneur de Jean-Paul Costa (2011), 421 at 424–30.

149 Supra note 95.

150 Maliks, R., ‘Kantian Courts: On the Legitimacy of International Human Rights Courts’, in Føllesdal, A. and Maliks, R. (eds.), Kantian Theory and Human Rights (2014), 153 at 168.

151 D. Spielman, Wither judicial dialogue?, Thomas More Lecture, 12 October 2015, at 4, available at; Voeten supra note 147, at 428–30, finding no bias based on geopolitical affinities.

152 Gearty, supra note 89, at 131–60.

153 See for such an understanding: Letsas, supra note 9, at 39.

154 Waldron, supra note 132, at 1391.

155 See, e.g., Williams, A., ‘The European Convention on Human Rights, the EU and the UK: Confronting a Heresy’, (2013) 24 EJIL 1157, at 1182; Bellamy, supra note 92, at 246.

156 Waldron, supra note 132, at 1401 et seq.

157 See for this critique Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 21.

158 Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia, Judgment of 4 July 2013, [2013] ECHR (Appl. nos. 11157/04 and 15162/05), at 101–12.

159 B. v. Romania (No. 2), Judgment of 19 February 2013, [2013] ECHR (Appl. No. 1285/03), at 89.

160 See, e.g., Bellamy, supra note 2, at 1039; see also Mendes, supra note 56, at 94.

161 Cf. Spielman, supra note 62, at 12; Kleinlein, supra note 72, at 889.

162 See, e.g., Bărbulescu, supra note 55, at 139; cf. P. Sztompka, Trust, Distrust and the Paradox of Democracy (1997), at 16; von Bogdandy, A. and Venzke, I., ‘On the Functions of International Courts: An Appraisal in Light of Their Burgeoning Public Authority’, (2013) 26 LJIL 49, at 57.

163 Forst, R., ‘The Justification of Human Rights and the Basic Right to Justification. A Reflexive Approach’, in Corradetti, C. (ed.), Philosophical Dimensions of Human Rights: Some Contemporary Views (2012), 81 at 87.

164 Mendes, C., ‘Neither Dialogue nor Last Word’ (2011) 5 (1) Legisprudence 1, at 39–40; see for further references on this common objection against deliberation Bächtiger and Wyss, supra note 141, at 158; cf. also Sweet, supra note 47, at 75.

165 Stephen, supra note 45.

166 High Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights, Brighton Declaration, 20 April 2012, available at; see in detail Popelier and van de Heyning, supra note 8, at 7.

167 See the Opinion of the Court on Draft Protocol No. 15 to the ECHR, 6 February 2013, at 4, available at; Explanatory Report on Protocol 15, 9: ‘It is intended . . . to be consistent with the doctrine of the margin of appreciation as developed by the Court in its case law’, available at

168 See, e.g., X. v. Germany, Commission Decision of 30 December 1975, [1975] ECHR (Appl. No. 5935/72), where, reflecting the deplorable but common scientific opinion at the time, the Commission held that there were grounds to discriminate against male homosexuals; similarly, the German Federal Constitutional Court in BVerfGE 6, 389; see also the US Supreme Court judgments in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (Sup.Ct. 1857) or Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (Sup.Ct. 1944).

169 See for a strong critique of this Allan, J., ‘The Travails of Justice Waldron’, in Huscroft, G. (ed.), Expounding the Constitution: Essays in Constitutional Theory (2008), 161 at 167.

170 See, e.g., the sizeable minority view by Judges López Guerra, Jungwiert, Jaeger, Villiger und Poalelungi in Axel Springer AG, supra note 95, contending that the threshold for the Court to intervene had not been reached.

171 Harbo, supra note 7, 45–6.

172 Wellmer, A., ‘Menschenrechte und Demokratie’, in Gosepath, S. and Lohmann, G. (eds.), Philosophie der Menschenrechte (1998), 265 at 272.

173 See, e.g., Case of Winterstein, supra note 100, at 148; Klatt, supra note 11, at 215; Zysset, A., ‘Searching for the Legitimacy of the European Court of Human Rights: The Neglected Role of “Democratic Society”’, (2016) 5 Global Constitutionalism 16, at 30–1.

174 See, e.g., X and others v. Austria, Judgment of 19 February 2013, [2013] ECHR (Appl. No. 19010/07), at 99; cf. Arnardóttir, supra note 61, at 649 et seq., in particular at 664: ‘a priori suspect as not being legitimate reasons for differentiating between people’.

175 See for an enlightening baseball analogy in this regard R. Brandom, Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment (1994), 184.

176 Cf. on the institutional guarantee of deliberation Bächtiger and Wyss, supra note 141, at 159, 161.

* Senior Research Fellow, Department of Law, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany []. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism and Kirsten Leube for her advice on style.

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Leiden Journal of International Law
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