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Allowing the Right Margin: The European Court of Human Rights and The National Margin of Appreciation Doctrine: Waiver or Subsidiarity of European Review?

  • Dean Spielmann

Abstract

The doctrine of the national margin of appreciation is well established in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. In applying this essentially judge-made doctrine, the Court imposes self-restraint on its power of review, accepting that domestic authorities are best placed to settle a dispute. The areas in which the doctrine has most often been applied will be presented here, looking at various examples from case law. After a brief overview of the doctrine’s origin, the analysis will focus on the situations in which the margin has been allowed or denied. Does it relate merely to factual and domestic-law aspects of a case? What is the scope of the margin of appreciation when it comes to interpreting provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights? What impact does an interference (whether disproportionate or not) with a guaranteed right have on the margin allowed? Is there a second-degree or ‘reverse’ margin of appreciation, whereby discretionary powers can be distributed between executive and judicial authorities at domestic level? Lastly it is noteworthy that Protocol No 14, now ratified by all Council of Europe Member States, enshrines in Article 12—at least to some extent—an obligation to apply a margin of appreciation. One essential question remains: by allowing any margin of a certain width, is the European Court simply waiving its power of review or is it attributing responsibility to the domestic courts in the interest of a healthy subsidiarity?

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1 Art 35 of the Convention reads as follows:

1. The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law, and within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken.

For a recent discussion concerning Luxembourg and the existence of an effective domestic remedy for the length of proceedings to be used before applying to the Court, see the judgment in Leandro Da Silva v Luxembourg, no 30273/07, 11 February 2010.

2 Greer, S, The Margin of Appreciation: Interpretation and Discretion under the European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights Files, no 17 (Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 2000) 5 .

3 Callewaert, J, ‘Quel avenir pour la marge d’appréciation?’ in Mahoney, P, Matscher, F, Petzold, H and Wildhaber, L (eds), Protecting Human Rights: The European Perspective. Studies in Memory of Rolv Ryssdal (Cologne, Carl Heymanns, 2000) 149 [translation];

La doctrine s’accorde à présenter la marge d’appréciation comme un outil d’origine jurisprudentielle permettant à la Cour européenne de laisser aux autorités nationales une certaine autonomie dans l’application de la Convention. Aux actes qui peuvent s’en réclamer, la marge d’appréciation confère ce qui apparaît à l’analyse, comme une forme atténuée d’immunité, entraînant un contrôle européen moins intense que celui que la Cour pourrait exercer au titre de la ‘plénitude de juridiction’ dont l’investit l’article 32 nouveau de la Convention. Au lieu d’être, en quelque sorte, entièrement ‘révisables’, ces actes ne le seraient plus que dans la mesure où leurs effets ‘dépassent’ le champ de la marge d’appréciation laissé aux autorités nationales.

4 Lautsi v Italy [GC], no 30814/06, 18 March 2011.

5 Dissenting opinion of Judge Malinverni, joined by Judge Kaladjieva; Lautsi v Italy (n 4).

6 See, however, the recent initiative of the Brighton Declaration (19–20 April 2012) to amend the Convention to mention the margin of appreciation doctrine specifically in the Preamble (see point 12(b) of the Declaration). The Declaration also calls for its application in the Court’s examination of admissibility under Art 35 (see point 15(d) of the Declaration). In his earlier address to the meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies on 23 February 2012, commenting on a draft of the Declaration in which it had been proposed actually to amend Art 35 to that effect, the President of the Court, Sir Nicolas Bratza responded:

Looking at what the United Kingdom is proposing—that is, a test based on the fact that the national courts have examined the Convention issues without manifestly erring in their application and interpretation of the Convention—it has to be said that we doubt whether it would be easy to apply. Moreover, as we point out in the preliminary opinion, this test reflects the Court’s practice and how it sees the proper operation of the principle of subsidiarity as expressed in, for example, both the margin of appreciation and the fourth instance rule. That principle and these two distinct doctrines have often been confused in discussions about the Court’s future. The Court has consistently stressed the value of these notions in its case-law. It understands the importance which Contracting Parties attach to them. It is not however convinced that enshrining them in the Convention would serve any useful purpose. This is particularly true of the margin of appreciation which by definition requires flexibility of application. (emphasis added)

7 Tulkens, F and Donnay, L, ‘L’usage de la marge d’appréciation par la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme. Paravent juridique superflu ou mécanisme indispensable par nature?’ (2006) Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé 3 .

8 Jean-Paul Costa has observed as follows:

[U]n paramètre supplémentaire, important est la marge nationale d’appréciation laissée aux États. En réalité, la balance de la Cour s’efforce d’être la plus précise possible (on a pu parler de balance d’apothicaire). Mais il existe une marge de tolérance, ou d’approximation (comme pour les radars qui mesurent les excès de vitesse des voitures!). La marge d’appréciation reconnue aux Etats peut faire pencher la balance dans le sens de la non-violation d’un des articles 8 à 11.

See Costa, JP, ‘Les articles 8 à 11 de la Convention et le contrôle juridictionnel de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme’ (2005) 15 Annales du droit luxembourgeois 13 , esp 19.

9 Among the numerous studies on the margin of appreciation, three works should be mentioned in particular: Yourow, HC, The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Dynamics of European Human Rights Jurisprudence (The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 1996); Arai-Takahashi, Yutaka, The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine and the Principle of Proportionality in the Jurisprudence of the ECHR (Antwerp, Intersentia, 2002); and Kastanas, E, Unité et diversité: notions autonomes et marge d’appréciation des États dans la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (Brussels, Bruylant, 1996). See also the following articles: van der Meersch, W Ganshof, ‘Le caractère autonome des termes et la marge d’appréciation des gouvernements dans l’interprétation de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme’ in Matscher, F and Petzold, Herbert (eds), Protecting Human Rights: The European Dimension. Studies in honour of de Gerard J. Wiarda (Cologne, Heymanns, 1988) 201 ; Macdonald, R St J, ‘The Margin of Appreciation in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights’ in Arangio-Ruiz, G et al (eds), Le droit international à l’heure de sa codification, Etudes en l’honneur de Roberto Ago (Milan, Giuffrè, 1987) vol III, p 187 and by the same author, The Margin of Appreciation’ in Macdonald, R St J, Matscher, F and Petzold, H (eds), The European System for the Protection of Human Rights (Dordrecht, Nijhoff, 1994) 83 ; Brems, E, ‘The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Case-law of the European Court of Human Rights’ in (1996) Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 240 ; Lambert, , ‘Marge nationale d’appréciation et contrôle de proportionnalité’ (n 11) 63 . The proceedings of a seminar entitled ‘The Doctrine of the Margin of Appreciation under the European Convention on Human Rights: Its Legitimacy in Theory and Application in Practice’ were published in a special issue of the (1998) Human Rights Law Journal 1 f—with contributions by Paul Mahoney, Johan Callewaert, Clare Ovey, Søren Prebensen, Yves Winisdoerffer, Jeroen Schokkenbroek and Michael O’Boyle; Tulkens and Donnay, ‘L’usage de la marge d’appréciation’ (n 7); Greer, S, ‘The Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights: Universal Principle or Margin of Appreciation?’ (2010) UCL Human Rights Review 1 ; P Gallagher, ‘The European Convention on Human Rights and the Margin of Appreciation’ in University College Dublin, UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies, Research Paper No 52/2011; and most recently Rozakis, C, ‘Through the Looking Glass: An “Insider”‘s View of the Margin of Appreciation’ in La conscience des droits. Mélanges en l’honneur de Jean-Paul Costa (Paris, Dalloz, 2011) 526 . Lastly, mention should be made of the relevant chapters in the following monographs: van Drooghenbroeck, S, La proportionnalité dans le droit de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme. Prendre l’idée simple au sérieux (Brussels, Bruylant and Publications des facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, 2001) ch V, p 483 ; Letsas, G, A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights, foreword by Spielmann, D. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007; reprinted 2010) ch 4, p 80 (a contribution entitled ‘Two Concepts of the Margin of Appreciation’, which had previously been published in the (2006) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 705); and Garlicki, L, ‘The European Court of Human Rights and the “Margin of Appreciation” Doctrine. How Much Discretion is Left to a State in Human Rights Matters?’ in Huang, Cheng-Yi (ed), Administrative Regulation and Judicial Remedies (Taipe, Taiwan, Institutum Iurisprudentiae Academia Sinica, 2011) 53 .

10 Greens and MT v the United Kingdom, nos 60041/08 and 60054/08, §§ 103–22, ECHR 2010 (extracts); and Ananyev and Others v Russia, nos 42525/07 and 60800/08, §§ 179–240, 10 January 2012.

11 See Lambert, P, ‘Marge nationale d’appréciation et contrôle de proportionnalité’ in Sudre, F (ed), L’interprétation de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (Brussels, Nemesis, 1998) 63 .

12 Application no 176/56, Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights, vol 2, pp 174 and 176.

13 Lawless v Ireland (no 3), 1 July 1961, Series A no 3.

14 Ireland v the United Kingdom, 18 January 1978, § 207, Series A no 25.

15 For earlier implicit references to the doctrine, see, in respect of Art 14 of the Convention, the Case ‘relating to certain aspects of the laws on the use of languages in education in Belgium’ (merits), 23 July 1968, § 10 of point IB, Series A no 6, and in respect of Art 8 § 2 of the Convention, De Wilde, Ooms and Versyp v Belgium, 18 June 1971, § 93, Series A no 12 (where the Court used the term ‘power of appreciation’).

16 Handyside v the United Kingdom, 7 December 1976, Series A no 24.

17 Tulkens, and Donnay, , ‘L’usage de la marge d’appréciation’ (n 7) 7 .

18 Leyla Şahin v Turkey [GC], no 44774/98, ECHR 2005-XI.

19 de nouvelles contrées’: Tulkens and Donnay, ‘L’usage de la marge d’appréciation’ (n 7) 10.

20 Ernst and Others v Belgium, no 33400/96, 15 July 2003 (unofficial translation).

21 Concerning the refusal to submit a preliminary question to the European Court of Justice, see Spielmann, D., ‘La prise en compte et la promotion du droit communautaire par la Cour de Strasbourg’ in Les droits de l’homme en évolution: Mélanges en l’honneur du professeur Petros Pararas (Sakkoulas, Bruylant, 2009) 455 . See, for a recent judgment, Ullens de Schooten and Rezabek v Belgium, nos 3989/07 and 38353/07, 20 September 2011.

22 Klaas v Germany, 22 September 1993, Series A no 269.

23 Klaas (n 22) § 29 of the judgment.

24 See, among many other authorities, Rotaru v Romania [GC], no 28341/95, § 53, ECHR 2000-V; Kopp v Switzerland, judgment of 25 March 1998, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998-II, § 59.

25 Pla and Puncernau v Andorra, no 69498/01, ECHR 2004-VIII.

26 Miragall Escolano and Others v Spain, nos 38366/97, 38688/97, 40777/98, 40843/98, 41015/98, 41400/98, 41446/98, 41484/98, 41487/98 and 41509/98, ECHR 2000-I.

27 Korbely v Hungary [GC], no 9174/02, 19 September 2008.

28 Compare the Chamber judgment in Kononov (Kononov v Latvia, no 36376/04, § 110, 24 July 2008). This case gave rise to a Grand Chamber judgment: Kononov v Latvia [GC], no 36376/04, ECHR 2010.

29 Sejdovic v Italy [GC], no 56581/00, § 83, ECHR 2006-II.

30 Z v Finland, 25 February 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-I.

31 Egeland and Hanseid v Norway, no 34438/04, 16 April 2009.

32 Judge Rozakis’ opinion reads as follows:

[I]t should only be applied in cases where, after careful consideration, it establishes that national authorities were really better placed than the Court to assess the ‘local’ and specific conditions which existed within a particular domestic order, and, accordingly, had greater knowledge than an international court in deciding how to deal, in the most appropriate manner, with the case before them. Then, and only then, should the Court relinquish its power to examine, in depth, the facts of a case, and limit itself to a simple supervision of the national decisions, without taking the place of national authorities, but simply examining their reasonableness and the absence of arbitrariness.

In that judgment the Court based its findings on a lack of consensus in such matters. That reasoning is also criticised by Judge Rozakis as follows:

Furthermore, it is my opinion that the mere absence of a wide consensus among European States concerning the taking of photographs of charged or convicted persons in connection with court proceedings does not suffice to justify the application of the margin of appreciation. This ground is only a subordinate basis for the application of the concept, if and when the Court first finds that the national authorities are better placed than the Strasbourg Court to deal effectively with the matter. If the Court so finds, the next step would be to ascertain whether the presence or absence of a common approach of European States to a matter sub judice does or does not allow the application of the concept.

33 Judge Malinverni’s opinion reads as follows:

12. If we consider these two criteria—the existence of a European consensus and the importance of the right in issue—it follows that, in the instant case, the Court ought to have accorded the Norwegian authorities a limited margin of appreciation.

13. With regard to the first criterion, there is in fact little unanimity within the member States of the Council of Europe concerning the prohibition on taking photo graphs of individuals who have been charged or convicted. By the Court’s own admission, only four States have imposed a prohibition: in addition to Norway, these are Denmark, Cyprus and the United Kingdom (England and Wales) (see paragraph 54 of the judgment).

14. As to the second criterion, the freedom in issue here is the freedom of the press, which plays an essential role in a democratic society, as the Court itself acknowledges (see paragraph 49).

15. Contrary to what one might think, the fact of allowing only a limited margin of appreciation does not necessarily lead to a finding that there has been a violation of the Convention. It is enough that the interference found does not exceed this margin.

34 See, however, concerning Art 2, Finogenov and Others v Russia, nos 18299/03 and 27311/03, 20 December 2011. The case concerned the storming of a building where hostages were held and the Court held that ‘[i]t is prepared to grant [the domestic authorities] a margin of appreciation, at least in so far as the military and technical aspects of the situation are concerned, even if now, with hindsight, some of the decisions taken by the authorities may appear open to doubt.’ (para 213)

35 Saadi v Italy [GC], no 37201/06, ECHR 2008.

36 On diplomatic assurances see Malinverni, G, ‘Extradition, expulsion et assurances diplomatiques’, in Liber Amicorum Antonio La Pergola, 2nd edn (Lund, Juristförlaget, 2009) 205 ; and Dipla, H, ‘The Contribution of the European Court of Human Rights to the Absolute Ban of Torture. The Practice of Diplomatic Assurances’ in Spielmann, D, Tsirli, M and Voyatzis, P (eds), The European Convention on Human Rights, A Living Instrument, Essays in Honour of Christos L. Rozakis (Brussels, Bruylant, 2011) 155 . See also the recent judgment in Othman (Abu Qatada) v the United Kingdom, no 8139/09, §§ 186 f, 17 January 2012.

37 Lautsi and Others v Italy [GC] (n 4).

38 Lautsi and Others v Italy [GC] (n 4) para 69 of the judgment.

39 Ibid.

40 Axel Springer AG v Germany [GC], no 39954/08, § 87, 7 February 2012; and Von Hannover v Germany (no 2) [GC], nos 40660/08 and 60641/08, § 106, 7 February 2012.

41 Wingrove v the United Kingdom, 25 November 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-V.

42 Wingrove (n 41) § 58 of the judgment.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid.

45 Goodwin v the United Kingdom, 27 March 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-II.

46 Goodwin (n 45) § 39 of the judgment.

47 Goodwin (n 45) § 40 of the judgment.

48 See Mahoney, P, ‘Universality versus Subsidiarity’ (1997) European Human Rights Law Review, 364, especially p 378 : ‘One can infer from Strasbourg case law on free speech generally that different kinds of speech enjoy different levels of protection, with journalistic speech—the public watchdog—coming very near the top end of the sliding scale and artistic speech somewhat lower down the scale’. This author also includes in the top category the case of Jersild concerning the conviction and fining of a television journalist for complicity in disseminating racist remarks (see Jersild v Denmark, 23 September 1994, series A no 298). For a critique of the case law see Lord Lester of Herne Hill, ‘Universality versus Subsidiarity: A Reply’ (1998) European Human Rights Law Review 73, esp 80:

I respectfully submit that [the] extreme degree of judicial restraint involves abdicating from the task of discerning and articulating the criteria appropriate to the difficult problems raised by this type of case, where free expression is in conflict with popular and deeply-felt local sentiments about good taste, public decency, and personal faith.

49 Goodwin (n 45) § 40; see also Ernst and Others v Belgium, no 33400/96, 15 July 2003.

50 Evans v the United Kingdom [GC], no 6339/05, ECHR 2007-IV.

51 Leander v Sweden, 26 March 1987, series A no 116.

52 Evans v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 50).

53 Dickson v the United Kingdom [GC], no 44362/04, § 82, ECHR 2007-XIII.

54 McCann v the United Kingdom, no 19009/04, 13 May 2008.

55 Ćosić v Croatia,no 28261/06, 15 January 2009.

56 Paulić v Croatia, no 3572/06, 22 October 2009.

57 James and Others v the United Kingdom, 21 February 1986, Series A no 98.

58 James and Others v the United Kingdom (n 57) § 46 of the judgment.

59 Stec and Others v the United Kingdom [GC], no 65731/01, ECHR 2006VI.

60 Jahn and Others v Germany [GC], nos 46720/99, 72203/01 and 72552/01, ECHR 2005-VI. Compare Althoff and Others v Germany, no 5631/05, 8 December 2011.

61 Jahn and Others (n 60) § 91 of the judgment.

62 Ždanoka v Latvia [GC], no 58278/00, ECHR 2006-IV.

63 See Kovler, A, Zagrebelsky, V, Garlicki, L, Spielmann, D, Jaeger, R and Liddell, R, ‘The Role of Consensus in the System of the European Convention on Human Rights’ in Dialogue between Judges, European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 2008) 15 .

64 Tyrer v the United Kingdom, 25 April 1978, Series A no. 26.

65 Tyrer v the United Kingdom (n 64) § 31 of the judgment.

66 Ibid. See D Spielmann, M Tsirli and P Voyatzis (eds), The European Convention on Human Rights: A Living Instrument. Essays in Honour of Christos L. Rozakis (Brussels, Bruylant, 2011).

67 See ‘The Role of Consensus’ (n 63).

68 See Popović, D, ‘Le droit comparé dans l’accomplissement des tâches de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme’ in Caflisch, L (ed), Liber amicorum Luzius Wildhaber: Human Rights, Strasbourg Views (Kehl, Engel, 2007) 371 . For a case concerning the failure to recognise a foreign adoption decision, see Wagner and JMWL v Luxembourg, no 76240/01, ECHR 2007-VII (extracts). See also, Christine Goodwin v the United Kingdom [GC], no 28957/95, § 85, ECHR 2002-VI.

69 See Demir and Baykara v Turkey [GC], no 34503/97, § 85, 12 November 2008; Bayatyan v Armenia [GC], no 23459/03, § 102, 7 July 2011.

70 Handyside v the United Kingdom, 7 December 1976, § 49, Series A no 24.

71 L Wildhaber, ‘La place et l’avenir de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme’, speech given in Istanbul on 19 May 2004; published in Bulletin des droits de l’homme, Institut Luxembourgeois des droits de l’homme, no 11/12 (2005), 51. See ‘The Role of Consensus’ (n 63).

72 It should be noted, eg, that in Evans v the United Kingdom ([GC] (n 50)) the Court made the following finding:

77. … Where, however, there is no consensus within the member States of the Council of Europe, either as to the relative importance of the interest at stake or as to the best means of protecting it, particularly where the case raises sensitive moral or ethical issues, the margin will be wider.

73 See, eg, Christine Goodwin v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 68).

74 Dudgeon v the United Kingdom, 22 October 1981, Series A no 45, pp 23–24, § 60.

75 Dudgeon (n 74) § 60 of the judgment.

76 L and V v Austria, nos 39392/98 and 39829/98, ECHR 2003-I.

77 L and V v Austria (n 76) § 50 of the judgment.

78 Eg Fretté v France, no 36515/97, ECHR 2002-I; Odièvre v France [GC], no 42326/98, ECHR 2003-III; and Schwizgebel v Switzerland, no 25762/07, §§ 92–94, ECHR 2010.

79 T v the United Kingdom [GC], no 24724/94, 16 December 1999, §§ 71–72 of the judgment.

80 Odièvre v France [GC], no 42326/98, ECHR 2003-III.

81 Vo v France [GC], no 53924/00, ECHR 2004-VIII.

82 Evans v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 50).

83 SH and Others v Austria, [GC], no 57813/00, 3 November 2011.

84 See, however, the joint dissenting opinion of Judges Tulkens, Hirvelä, Lazarova Trajkovska and Tsotsoria.

85 Christine Goodwin v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 68).

86 Hirst v the United Kingdom (no 2) [GC], no 74025/01, ECHR 2005-IX.

87 A, B and C v Ireland [GC], no 25579/05, ECHR 2010.

88 A, B and C v Ireland (n 87) §§ 233–36 of the judgment.

89 Ibid, § 237 of the judgment. For criticism of these findings, see the joint partly dissenting opinion of Judges Rozakis, Tulkens, Fura, Hirvelä, Malinverni and Poalelungi, points 5 and 6:

5. According to the Convention case-law, in situations where the Court finds that a consensus exists among European States on a matter touching upon a human right, it usually concludes that that consensus decisively narrows the margin of appreciation which might otherwise exist if no such consensus were demonstrated. This approach is commensurate with the ‘harmonising’ role of the Convention’s case-law: indeed, one of the paramount functions of the case-law is to gradually create a harmonious application of human rights protection, cutting across the national boundaries of the Contracting States and allowing the individuals within their jurisdiction to enjoy, without discrimination, equal protection regardless of their place of residence. The harmonising role, however, has limits. One of them is the following: in situations where it is clear that on a certain aspect of human rights protection, European States differ considerably in the way that they protect (or do not protect) individuals against conduct by the State, and the alleged violation of the Convention concerns a relative right which can be balanced—in accordance with the Convention—against other rights or interests also worthy of protection in a democratic society, the Court may consider that States, owing to the absence of a European consensus, have a (not unlimited) margin of appreciation to themselves balance the rights and interests at stake. Hence, in those circumstances the Court refrains from playing its harmonising role, preferring not to become the first European body to ‘legislate’ on a matter still undecided at European level.

6. Yet in the case before us a European consensus (and, indeed, a strong one) exists. We believe that this will be one of the rare times in the Court’s case-law that Strasbourg considers that such consensus does not narrow the broad margin of appreciation of the State concerned.

90 It should be pointed out, moreover, that there may be disagreement between judges as to the existence of a consensus. See the dissenting opinion of Judge Malinverni, joined by Judge Kaladjieva, in Lautsi v Italy (n 4):

In the present case it is by relying mainly on the lack of any European consensus that the Grand Chamber has allowed itself to invoke the doctrine of the margin of appreciation (see para 70). In that connection I would observe that, besides Italy, it is in only a very limited number of member States of the Council of Europe (Austria, Poland, certain regions of Germany (Länder)—see para 27) that there is express provision for the presence of religious symbols in State schools. In the vast majority of the member States the question is not specifically regulated. On that basis I find it difficult, in such circumstances, to draw definite conclusions regarding a European consensus.

91 Rozakis, ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (n 9) 536.

92 This question was raised by Judge Finlay Geoghean in her concurring opinion appended to A, B and C v Ireland (n 87):

6. … The facts available to the Court only relate to the legislation in force. The Court had no facts before it relating to the existence or otherwise of a legal protection for or right to life of the unborn or any identified public interest arising out of profound moral values in relation to the right to life of the unborn in any of the majority Contracting States. Further, and importantly, there were no facts before the Court which, in my view, permit it to deduce that the abortion legislation in force in the majority Contracting States demonstrates either a balance struck in those Contracting States between relevant competing interests, or the existence of a consensus amongst those Contracting States on a question analogous to that in respect of which the margin of appreciation under consideration relates i.e. the fair balance to be struck between the protection accorded under Irish law to the right to life of the unborn, and the conflicting rights of the first and second applicants to respect for their private lives protected by Article 8 of the Convention.

93 Van Drooghenbroeck, La proportionnalité dans le droit de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (n 9); and Muzny, P, La technique de proportionnalité et le juge de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme. Essai sur un instrument nécessaire dans une société démocratique (Presses universitaires d’Aix-Marseille, 2005).

94 Cumpănă and Mazăe v Romania, no 33348/96, 17 December 2004.

95 Kart v Turkey [GC], no 8917/05, § 79, ECHR 2009; see also, eg, Kemp and Others v Luxembourg, no 17140/05, 24 April 2008.

96 Roche v the United Kingdom [GC], no 32555/96, § 120, ECHR 2005-X. See also MGN Limited v the United Kingdom, no 39401/04, § 150, 18 January 2011. See also the Background Paper for the Seminar ‘How to Ensure Greater Involvment of National Courts in the Convention System?’ (prepared by Judges Tulkens, Bianku, Raimondi, Nuβberger, Laffranque and Sicilianos, assisted by R Liddell, 27 January 2012).

97 Axel Springer AG v Germany [GC] (n 40).

98 Von Hannover v Germany (no 2) [GC] (n 40).

99 Springer (n 40) § 88 and Von Hannover (no 2) (n 40), § 107. See also Palomo Sánchez and Others v Spain [GC], nos 28955/06, 28957/06, 28959/06 and 28964/06, 12 September 2011.

100 B Hale, ‘Argentoratum Locutum: Is Strasbourg or the Supreme Court Supreme?’ (2012) Human Rights Law Review 65, 77.

101 See also N Bratza, ‘The Relationship Between the UK Courts and Strasbourg’ (2011) European Human Rights Law Review 505, 511.

102 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC], no 3455/05, ECHR 2009.

103 A and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004] UKHL 56.

104 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 174 of the judgment.

105 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 180 of the judgment.

106 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 180 of the judgment.

107 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102).

108 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 186 of the judgment.

109 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 186 of the judgment.

110 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 186 of the judgment.

111 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 186 of the judgment.

112 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 189 of the judgment.

113 A and Others v the United Kingdom [GC] (n 102) § 190 of the judgment.

114 JP Marguénaud, ‘Chronique internationale. Droits de l’homme. Cour européenne des droits de l’homme’ (2009) Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé 675 [translation]:

Se livrant ici à un exercice de surréalisme juridique, la Cour prend fait et cause pour la Chambre des lords, contre le gouvernement britannique, en estimant devoir en principe suivre les conclusions de la haute juridiction sur la question de la proportionnalité de la détention des requérants à moins qu’on puisse établir que ces conclusions étaient déraisonnables ou contraires à la Convention et à la jurisprudence européennes. Or, pour vérifier que tel n’était pas le cas et pour pouvoir conclure, à son tour, que les mesures dérogatoires étaient disproportionnées en ce qu’elles opéraient une discrimination injustifiée entre étrangers et citoyens britanniques, elle amplifie considérablement son travail de redéploiement de la marge nationale d’appréciation en faveur du juge interne. Après avoir rappelé que la marge nationale est depuis toujours perçue comme un moyen de définir les rapports entre les autorités et la Cour, elle innove en effet en précisant que cette théorie ne trouve pas à s’appliquer de la même manière aux rapports entre les organes de l’Etat au niveau interne. Cet ajustement théorique lui permet alors de reprendre spectaculairement à son compte une forte affirmation de la Chambre des lords suivant laquelle la question de la proportionnalité relève en dernière instance du domaine du judiciaire particulièrement lorsque des justiciables ont subi une longue privation de leur droit fondamental à la liberté.

115 This was the author’s personal view in ‘En jouant sur les marges. La Cour européenne des droits de l’homme et la théorie de la marge d’appréciation nationale: Abandon ou subsidiarité du contrôle européen?’ in Actes de la Section des Sciences Morales et Politiques de l’Institut Grand-Ducal, vol XIII (Luxembourg, Institut Grand-Ducal, 2010) 203, 241–42 and (2010) Journal des Tribunaux-Luxembourg 117, 127. For a full discussion concerning this issue, see Greer, S, ‘The New Admissibility Criterion’ in Besson, S (ed), The European Court of Human Rights after Protocol 14: Preliminary Assessment and Perspectives (Geneva, Schulthess, 2011) 35 . Be that as it may, the Member States at Brighton (see also n 6) took the view that ‘Article 35(3)(b) of the Convention should be amended to remove the words “and provided that no case may be rejected on this ground which has not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal”’; the Committee of Ministers was invited to adopt the necessary amending instrument by the end of 2013 (Brighton Declaration of 19–20 April 2012, point 15(c)).

116 See the Izmir Declaration: Preamble point 5, ‘subsidiary character of the Convention mechanism’; Declaration point 4, ‘giving practical effect to the principle of subsidiarity’; then under the ‘Follow-up Plan’, in particular, as regards the right of individual petition, point A 1 advocates that cases must be dealt with ‘in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity’; as regards the implementation of the Convention at domestic level, in point B 1(a) the Conference invites the States Parties to ‘[e]nsure that effective domestic remedies exist, …, providing for a decision on an alleged violation of the Convention’; and concerning the Court, in point F 2(c) the Conference invites the Court to ‘[c]onfirm in its case law that it is not a fourth-instance court, thus avoiding the re-examination of issues of fact and law decided by national courts’.

117 See point 2 of the Interlaken Declaration (19 February 2010): the Conference ‘[r]eiterates the obligation of the States Parties to ensure that the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention are fully secured at the national level and calls for a strengthening of the principle of subsidiarity’. See also PP 6 and part B. § 4 of the Action Plan.

118 Costa, JP, Opening address by the President of the European Court of Human Rights in Proceedings of the High-Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights, Interlaken, 18–19 Feb. 2010, (Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 2010) 21 .

119 See, in particular Korolev v Russia (dec), no 25551/05, ECHR 2010:

Article 35 § 3 (b) does not allow the rejection of an application on the grounds of the new admissibility requirement if the case has not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal. Qualified by the drafters as a second safeguard clause (see Explanatory report, § 82), its purpose is to ensure that every case receives a judicial examination whether at the national level or at the European level, in other words, to avoid a denial of justice. The clause is also consonant with the principle of subsidiarity, as reflected notably in Article 13 of the Convention, which requires that an effective remedy against violations be available at the national level.

In the Court’s view, the facts of the present case taken as a whole disclose no denial of justice at the domestic level. The applicant’s initial grievances against the State authorities were considered at two levels of jurisdiction and his claims were granted. His subsequent complaint against the bailiff’s failure to recover the judicial award in his favour was rejected by the district court for non-compliance with domestic procedural requirements. The applicant failed to comply with those requirements, not having resubmitted his claim in accordance with the judge’s request. This situation does not constitute a denial of justice imputable to the authorities.

As regards the alleged breaches of domestic procedural requirements by those two courts, the Convention does not grant the applicant a right to challenge them in further domestic proceedings once his case has been decided in final instance (see Tregubenko v Ukraine, no. 61333/00, 21 October 2003, and Sitkov v Russia (dec.), no. 55531/00, 9 November 2004). That these complaints were not subject to further judicial review under domestic law does not, in the Court’s view, constitute an obstacle for the application of the new admissibility criterion. To construe the contrary would prevent the Court from rejecting any claim, however insignificant, relating to alleged violations imputable to a final national instance. The Court finds that such an approach would be neither appropriate nor consistent with the object and purpose of the new provision.

The Court concludes that the applicant’s case was duly considered by a domestic tribunal within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (b).

120 See Elita Fernandez v France (dec), no 65421/10, 17 January 2012; Holub v Czech Republic (dec), no 24880/05, 14 December 2010.

121 Van Drooghenbroeck, , La proportionnalité dans le droit de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (n 9) 527 .

122 Lambert, , ‘Marge nationale d’appréciation et principe de proportionnalité’ (n 11) 63 .

123 Lord Hoffmann, Judicial Studies Board Annual Lecture ‘The Universality of Human Rights’, 19 March 2009: ‘an unfortunate Gallicism by which Member States are allowed a certain latitude to differ in their application of the same abstract right’.

124 Mahoney, P, ‘Marvellous Richness of Diversity or Invidious Cultural Relativism?’ (1998) Human Rights Law Journal 1 .

125 Lambert, P, ‘La Cour européenne des droits de l’homme à l’épreuve de quelques critiques…au fil du temps. (En marge du cinquantième anniversaire de son installation)’ (2010) Revue trimestrielle des droits de l’homme 5, 13 .

126 For a critique of the freedom of expression case law, see Lord Lester of Herne Hill, ‘The European Court of Human Rights after 50 Years’ (2010) European Human Rights Law Review 461, 474:

[A]lthough the Court’s case law includes landmark judgments explaining and applying the fundamental right to free expression, it has often been closely divided, and its reasoning has always suffered from a use of ad hoc balancing under the margin of appreciation doctrine which lacks legal certainty and adherence to clear principles.

127 Arai-Takashi, Yutaka, The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine (n 9) 14 .

128 See, eg, Leyla Şahin v Turkey (n 18) § 110; this wording can be traced back to Handyside (n 16), which uses ‘legislation’ rather than ‘law’, as do a number of subsequent judgments.

129 Egeland and Hanseid v Norway, no 34438/04, 16 April 2009, Concurring opinion of Judge Rozakis.

* This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Centre for European Legal Studies, University of Cambridge on 29 February 2012. The opinions expressed in this chapter are personal to the author. The author would like to thank James Brannan for his translation. The original French text of this chapter was drafted as a paper delivered at the Institut Grand-Ducal (Luxembourg) on 7 December 2009. The French paper and the minutes of the discussion that followed the presentation of 7 December 2009 have been published in Actes de la Section des Sciences Morales et Politiques de l’Institut Grand-Ducal, vol XIII (Luxembourg, l’Institut Grand-Ducal, 2010) 203. The original French version of the chapter has also been published in (2010) Journal des Tribunaux-Luxembourg 117.

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