East European Yearbook on Human Rights

Article

The European Court of Human Rights and the Central and Eastern European States

Keywords Case law regarding Central and Eastern Europe, ECHR, human rights, reform, European system of Human Rights
Authors András Baka
Author's information

327057 András Baka
Former judge of the ECtHR (1991-2008); former president of the Hungarian Supreme Court.
  • Abstract

      At the time of its creation and during the following 30 years, the European Court of Human Rights was a Western European institution. It was not until the sweeping political changes in 1989-1990 that the Central and Eastern European countries could join the European system of individual human rights protection. The massive and relatively rapid movement of accession of the ‘new states’ to the European Convention on Human Rights had a twofold effect. On the one hand it led to a complete reform of the human rights machinery of the Council of Europe, changing the structure and the procedure. A new, permanent and more efficient system emerged. What is even more important, the Court has had to deal with not only the traditional questions of individual human rights but under the Convention new issues were coming to the Court from applicants of the former eastern-bloc countries. On the other hand, being part of the European human rights mechanism, these countries got a chance to establish or re-establish the rule of law, they got support, legal standards and guidance on how to respect and protect individual human rights. The article addresses some of these elements. It also points out that public hopes and expectations towards the Court – especially nowadays in respect of certain countries – are sometimes too high. The Court has its limits. It has been designed to remedy certain individual injustices of democratic states following common values but cannot alone substitute seriously weakened democratic statehood.

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