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Postcolonial denial : why the European Court of Human Rights finds it so difficult to acknowledge racism

Book Contribution - Chapter

The European Convention on Human Rights (hereafter, Convention) was signed in 1950 by Western European governments committed to prevent the repetition of the horrors and atrocities of World War II – not to mention the erection of a bulwark against communist Eastern Europe. Admittedly, justice was not originally at the forefront, and has indeed very much remained in the background, of discussions about the Convention system. Nonetheless an implicit narrative has always suggested that the protection of human rights is conducive to the realization of justice. This is clear, for example, in the Convention's Preamble which specifically “reaffirmed” a “profound belief in those fundamental freedoms which are the foundation of justice and peace in the world.” The Preamble referred to “like-minded” governments that shared “a common heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedom and the rule of law.” Not wanting the Convention to be mere words, the members established a system of judicial protection, which was a first in international law. The European Court of Human Rights (hereafter, Court) soon “earned a world-wide reputation for fairness, balance and intellectual rigour” (Harris et al., 1995: vii). This chapter challenges the implicit making of an equation between human rights law and justice by examining a specific area where the record of the Court is anything but strong, that of racial discrimination. In this area, those who have arguably been victims of human rights violations have not met justice at Strasbourg.
Book: Mirrors of justice : law and power in the post-cold war era
Pages: 45 - 66
Publication year:2010