23 January 2012

Cameron "takes his case to Strasbourg..."

Is the European Court of Human Rights obsessively interventionist? I ask that question in a guest post published on the informative UK Human Rights blog yesterday. Over the weekend, the press reported that the Prime Minister intends to voyage to the Court's seat at Strasbourg, to outline his grand conception of what the institution's business should and should not be. Cue a great deal of humbug and misinformation about what this human rights tribunal actually gets up to, tinselled up with lurid references to murders, sex offenders, terrorists and sundry other dislikeables, whose litigation - real or just imagined - has vexed the eternally outraged consciences of the nation's tabloid newshounds. 

Earlier this month, both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph uncritically parroted claims made by a report commissioned by backbench Tory MPs, suggesting that the UK loses three in four cases raised against it before the European Court.  That this claim is easily-falsified bunkum seems to have troubled neither paper, who obligingly churned out the material, seemingly blinded by how comfortably the claims made sat beside their own skeptical analysis of alien "Europe" and human rights. Contra Mail and Telegraph claims that the UK is defeated in 75% of cases, the reality is that the Court finds against the UK in less than 2% of cases, and actually rejects 97% of applications lodged against the State as "inadmissible". That too raises interesting and challenging issues of how we conceptualise and understand what the European Court gets up to.

While outwith the typical ambit of commentary on this blog, I thought the substantial piece may be of interest to those of you who follow European politics, or are concerned about the institutional expression of human rights norms, and the rabid distortions perpetuated both calculatingly and cluelessly by the British media. Read my analysis in full here.


  1. It’s absolutely true that the proportion of cases in which the ECtHR over-rules UK courts is tiny, but it is amusing and instructive that of that number a significant percentage – like the recent Abu Qatada case – will have gone to Strasbourg because the UK Supreme Court has failed to do its job of applying Convention rights. Which rather gives the lie to those who tell us that access to the UK Supreme Court is somehow a satisfactory substitute for direct access from the Scots courts to Strasbourg, rather than a fifth wheel. And while I am on this theme, does anyone else find it rich that Messrs Salmond and MacAskill can attract faux opprobrium for their perfectly justifiable views on the UK Supreme Court’s expertise in Scots law, yet John Scott QC can apparently call the judges of the jurisdiction in which he plies his trade “immature” and the judiciary’s erstwhile doughty defenders keep schtum?

  2. Is it a real 'committed 'case' he's taking; or just an overnight bag?

  3. LPW
    EXPAANNDDD your list of sharing options on your share button to let your word go forth even unto the very ends of the blogosphere: T'would be bliss & with doughty Ecclefechan on board, too, the world's perceptions would be incalculably enriched. As Nike (sports socks & kit) would have you & us endeavour - "Just do it".

    Yours in scrivening
    Ninian Caractacus Angus MacStooshie
    Editor Emmeritus, Caerpentullach Bugle

  4. David,

    What other alternative forms of sharing would you like?