Saturday, February 7, 2009

50th anniversary of ECHR

At its opening of the new Judicial Year on January 30, 2009 the European Court of Human Rights marked its 50th anniversary.

In his welcoming speech President Costa expressed:

The national courts help us to ensure that States respect the rights guaranteed by the
Convention, demonstrating the importance of domestic remedies and therefore the
principle of subsidiarity; if the Convention is a “living instrument” it is also because
you make it live. International courts show that the existence and expanded role of
numerous international judicial bodies make possible a joint effort to uphold justice
and fundamental rights....

The “resurrection of human rights” which occurred at the end of the 1940s was of
course ideological, but this ideology was ultimately carried forward by an almost
unanimous political wave of enthusiasm. At the United Nations the Universal
Declaration was adopted without a single vote against. It was a revolt (“never again”)
and an aspiration (for peace, justice and freedom).
More recently new threats and a new context have emerged: terrorism, crime (whether
organised or not), different types of trafficking. All this has created tension in public
opinion and in our societies and a tendency to give precedence to order and security.
The influx of clandestine immigrants driven by poverty and despair has an impact on
policies, but has also been accompanied by xenophobia, racism and intolerance, or
contributes to their growth. In the same way the connection which is, sometimes overhastily,
made between certain types of religious belief and violence, or indeed
terrorism, has exacerbated susceptibilities, yet freedom of religion is also a
fundamental human right. This requires dialogue and not insults....

Moreover, the ideology of the protection of rights can no longer rely on the
groundswell of support that carried it forward in the fifties. It has come up against the
difficulties of establishing or maintaining peace, the return of materialism and of
individualism, the extolling of national interests, and more recently the financial and
economic crisis which could force freedoms into second place. Bismarck’s old
expression “Realpolitik” has reappeared and is regularly cited.
The protection of human rights has thus become more fragile, more complex, but does
that mean that it must yield?
My answer is No. On the contrary, I would argue that it is necessary to consolidate
and breathe new life into these rights, to bring about their aggiornamento.
For the full speech

In this speech I sensed the attempts to elaborate on the current state of human rights law and enforcement. Also it was an attempt to briefly delineate the challenges that human rights have been facing in the 21st century world politics... Quite amazing how the age dictates new formulas and new approaches to emulate old and well-settled principles...

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