What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among the women, although puzzling questions are not beyond all conjecture.
What is so fundamental in terms of the protection of human rights in Europe that it requires the same standards for all countries and what, by contrast, would be better dealt with by each State's organs in line with verbigratia Michael Walzer's-related notion of “thick morality”?. Where should the line be drawn between unity and diversity notwithstanding the resulting risk of human rights cultural relativism associated to the latter?. On what grounds could the axiomatic universality of human rights possibly be connoted in a continent which prides itself on possessing the most developed regional system for the protection of human rights world-wide in view of the resulting risk of legal contagion to other systems for the protection of human rights and, even, to general international law that such a practice can trigger?. At the end of the day, these are the sort of questions that the study of the margin-of- appreciation doctrine raises. The Trojan Horse-like character of the Strasbourg's judge-made margin-of-appreciation doctrine within the European human rights protection system has long since bothered human rights lawyers. Cases of reliance on this review doctrine have been generally criticised as denials of justice for individuals, abdications by the Court of its duty of adjudication in difficult or sensitive issues or as a judicial diluting technique of the strict conditions laid down in the European Convention of Human Rights. This line of criticism, aimed at what from the viewpoint of some occupants of the bench is seen as “a well established and legitimate part of the convention's jurisprudence”, has been reinforced by the entry of 21 new Eastern and Central European contracting parties to the Council of Europe following the 1989-1991 events. With a current membership of 46 States, all of which have ratified the 1950 Rome Convention, it is further feared that the doctrine will increasingly become an open door for abusive limitations in the exercise of human rights in states who traditionally leaned towards human rights cultural relativism. Against this background, I will briefly look into the technical criteria used by Strasbourg's judicial interpreters to factually implement this “much maligned notion” or, as one commentator has put it, this “manière pseudo-technique d'évoquer le pouvoir discrétionnaire que les organes de Strasbourg ont estimé reconnu aux Etats par la Convention dans certains cas”. I will, secondly, provide a basic overview of the general doctrinal positions one can adopt regarding this long debated question.