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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Ethnic minorities in the Strasbourg Court: Cross-national and Cross-issue Dynamics in Human Rights Legal Mobilisation

Dia Anagnostou
Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences
Dia Anagnostou
Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences

One of the most remarkable transformations of the post-World War II period is the emergence of human rights as a transnational legal field in Europe. Its institutional epicenter (and in many ways the drive of this transformation), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), has come to decide a broad range of issues and rights claims, which at its inception were explicitly excluded from its jurisdiction. A notable example in this regard concerns the rights claimed on behalf of ethnic minorities, which were firmly left out of the Convention system. Later attempts in the 1990s to introduce them into this system through an additional protocol were also strongly resisted.
Nonetheless, individuals belonging to ethnic minorities have, particularly since the 1990s, frequently, and even systematically, taken recourse to the ECtHR to raise a variety of rights claims against governments with variable degrees of success. Over time, the Strasbourg Court has responded by paying increasing attention to such kinds of claims, and by extending and interpreting Convention provisions in the direction of vindicating or recognizing at least some validity in such rights claims from marginalized groups. By doing so, the ECtHR has also furthered its own evolution into a constitutional court for human rights in Europe.
By now, the ECtHR has produced a voluminous body of minority-related case law, especially in the following three issue areas: political participation, cultural rights, and protection against discrimination. This has contributed to substantial legalization and Europeanization of minority rights claims, a highly significant development. It has largely taken place independently from the will – indeed against the will – of the contracting states. The proposed paper is interested in this broader transformation of ‘jurisgenerative’ expansion in the human rights field in Europe and explores its causes and consequences by focusing on processes of legal mobilization.
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