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Coping Strategies: Domestic and International Courts in Times of Backlash

Domestic and regional human rights courts around the world are under pressure. Populist, illiberal, or autocratic forms of governance have led to a global attack on constitutional democracy, and its guardians, courts. As a result, courts find themselves in a dilemma: should they intervene much more fiercely to uphold the rule of law or protect their institutional powers, but risk to be further attacked as enemies of the government and the majorities? Or should they practice judicial and prudential restraint to safeguard their institutional autonomy in the long term, but risk to be failing and regarded as foes by minority groups, civil society, and progressive movements who are on the receiving end of populist, illiberal or autocratic practices?

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Bolsonarism at the Ballot Box

If things go badly, the upcoming elections in Brazil may be the last ones for some time to come. On election day, voters face a stark choice not just between two candidates, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and former president Lula. They also cast their ballot on the peculiar brand of illiberal government known as Bolsonarism that will not disappear on election day even of Bolsonaro loses. This blog symposium discusses Bolsonarism at the ballot box from the perspective of comparative constitutional law and different varieties of constitutionalism.

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Nicht mehr extrem

Eine Unterscheidung, die nichts mehr unterscheidet

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No Longer Extreme

A distinction that distinguishes nothing much any more

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Volume 4,
Issue 2
July 2022



9/11, zwei Jahrzehnte später: eine verfassungsrechtliche Spurensuche

9/11 hat sich zum 20. Mal gejährt. Welche Spuren hat dieses Ereignis in der globalen und nationalen Verfassungs- und Menschenrechtsarchitektur hinterlassen? Dieser Frage gehen wir gefördert von der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in einer Folge von Online-Symposien nach und bringen Rechtswissenschaftler:innen aus verschiedenen Regionen und Rechtskulturen ins Gespräch.

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06 Oktober 2022

How NOT to Be an Independent Agency

The Hungarian government is trying to convince EU institutions that it is taking adequate steps to ensure proper spending of EU funds going forward. At the center of this effort is a new ‘Integrity Authority’. The law establishing this authority, Bill T/1260, just passed the Hungarian Parliament on 3 October 2022. We have carefully read the laws enacted so far that establish a new anti-corruption framework and can confidently say that neither the Commission nor the Council should accept what the Hungarian government is offering because the proposed changes do not begin to alter business as usual in Hungary. In this blogpost, we will analyze the ‘Integrity Authority’ which forms the centerpiece of the government’s program, showing that it is not independent from the government nor are its powers real. Continue reading >>
05 Oktober 2022

Sham and Smokescreen

Since 27 April 2022, Hungary has been under the Rule of Law conditionality mechanism, introduced by the Conditionality Regulation. After various debates and considerations, and in the light of the blackmailing potential of the Hungarian prime minister, the Regulation, in a weaker form than initially proposed, works as a preventive tool for ensuring the protection of the EU budget and sound financial management of EU resources. The Hungarian government has a record of misleading (and betraying) the European Union, and apparently, it is not different now. Continue reading >>

Penning a New Narrative of Turkey as a Military Nation

Amid heated discussions over the upcoming elections, one of the largest set of prosecutions in the history of the Turkish Republic has been completed this year. In the aftermath of the military coup of July 15, 2016, which claimed the lives of 250 people in a single night and triggered a state of emergency rule that endured two years, over 100.000 investigations had been carried out and 289 trials were opened against the perpetrators. As of May 2022, all 289 cases are concluded in the courts of first instance. The courts proved to be a constitute element of this new constellation of powers in the post-2016 era, re-adjusting the narrative of Turkey as a military nation. Continue reading >>

Filtering fundamental rights

On platforms, the protection of fundamental rights is increasingly provided by algorithms. With the Digital Services Act (DSA) at the door, algorithms used for copyright protection were probably only the first step in regard to automated decision-making. Indeed, the DSA, conceived by the Union legislator as the new constitution of the Internet, presupposes the use of algorithmic filtering. Human pre-examination has become impossible due to the sheer amount of user-generated content. Filters are an effective moderation tool that is cost-effective compared to human review. But being fast is easier than being right: the usual method of applying European fundamental rights hangs heavily on the proportionality test, which at least at the current technological level escapes automation: fundamental rights cannot be filtered. Continue reading >>
04 Oktober 2022

Kartellrecht mit Klauen

Das Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz (BMWK) hat am 26. September 2022 seinen Referentenentwurf zur 11. Novelle des Gesetzes gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen vorgelegt (11. GWB-Novelle). Das BMWK vollzieht mit dem Entwurf nichts weniger als einen Paradigmenwechsel im deutschen Kartellrecht. Das Bundeskartellamt soll in Märkte eingreifen können, ohne dass dort Rechtsverstöße begangen werden. Daneben sollen kartellrechtswidrige Gewinne in Zukunft leichter abgeschöpft werden können. Die neuen Instrumente schließen Lücken im Wettbewerbsschutz und haben das Potential, das deutsche Kartellrecht nachhaltig zu verändern. Continue reading >>
03 Oktober 2022

Rising Before Sinking

On 22 September 2022, just one day before global climate protests took place in around 450 locations, the UN Human Rights Committee (Committee) has published its landmark decision in the case Daniel Billy et al. v. Australia. In casu, the Committee found that Australia failed to adequately protect members of an indigenous community present in four small, low-lying islands in the Torres Strait region from adverse impacts of climate change, which resulted in the violation of the complainants’ rights to enjoy their culture (Art. 27 ICPPR) and to be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home (Art. 17 ICCPR). The Committee thereby issued the first decision at the international level to tackle substantive human rights questions in the context of climate change that relate to the current situation of small islands and their indigenous inhabitants. Continue reading >>

The Wind Doesn’t Fall – it Drops

Excessiveness can be actually measured in many ways, but it is always time sensitive, and path dependent. As the Global financial crisis in 2008 has clearly demonstrated, excessive profits by banks in the first decade of the century were by far offset with the immense losses coming after, and the Governments were urged to grant subsidies and grants to the very same companies they overtaxed just some years before. The conclusion in this respect is that any judgment of excessiveness depends on the timespan considered. Both the Italian and the European legislator seem to have forgotten this aspect. Continue reading >>
01 Oktober 2022

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Human rights courts can rarely avoid confrontation with backlashing states. This is particularly true for the two oldest and most prominent regional human rights courts, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). Yet, by close observation, we can witness that for both courts, backlash has triggered important institutional developments which will guide the work of human rights bodies in an increasingly polarized 21st century. Continue reading >>
30 September 2022

Nicht mehr extrem

Eine Unterscheidung, die nichts mehr unterscheidet Continue reading >>

No Longer Extreme

A distinction that distinguishes nothing much any more Continue reading >>

The ECtHR’s Coping Strategy

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is operating in an increasingly challenging political and legal environment. Even if member states have stopped short of far-reaching reforms, they have signaled their collective desire for a more restrained Court, starting with the 2012 Brighton Declaration. Governments in established democracies, like the United Kingdom, have refused to implement or dragged-out implementation of ECtHR judgments. In some countries, government officials or major politicians have suggested exiting the Court’s jurisdiction altogether. Finally, several member states have rolled back domestic rights protections for politically unpopular groups, such as criminal defendants, suspected terrorists, asylum seekers, and non-traditional families. Continue reading >>
29 September 2022

The Overreaching Court

In the United States, it does not appear to be the case that the apex judiciary faces truly significant attacks on its autonomy, whatever the expressed unhappiness of an increasing number of critics. At least some would argue that the problem is precisely the opposite, that the Supreme Court has a smug sense of its own autonomy and is willing to use it with reckless indifference to the consequences for the American polity overall. Continue reading >>

What’s Next, Bro?

On September 25th, nearly 51 million Italians were called to the polls to elect the 19th Parliament of the Republic since 1948. All domestic and international media focused their attention on the two main novelties of this election: a landslide victory by a post-fascist, nationalistic, anti-European right-wing party and the paradox of the first female Prime Minister advocating a hyper-conservative view of women in society. Politically, these are no doubt major news. At the same time, Mrs. Meloni and her government-to-be is an unwritten piece of paper. Continue reading >>

The Visa Ban, Nikolai and his Russian Sister

The absence of an EU-level decision to bar perceived Russians ‘tourists’ from visiting the EU, however, did not prevent several Member States from adopting such measures at the national level, departing from EU law provisions currently in force. Contrary to the ‘tourist -only’ narrative, however, the new rules severely affect Russian family members of EU citizens and residents – an issue that, so far, has escaped public attention. Continue reading >>

Lessons from the United Kingdom’s „Enemies of the People“ case

It is difficult to deny evidence of a potential backlash against the judiciary in the UK. Both Miller decisions sent shockwaves through the United Kingdom. This is despite both decisions having the effect of protecting the powers of Parliament rather than the courts, and both having a marginal, if any, impact on the ability of the UK government to achieve its desired Brexit outcome. It is hard to forget the ‘Enemies of the People’ headline following the first Miller decision. Continue reading >>

Attack or Reform – Mária Kolíková’s legacy

Judicial reforms are always a sensitive topic. Judicial independence is a fundamental principle of liberal democracy and the rule of law. It is often treated like a golden calf, and this worship falls into a ritual. Therefore any interference with the judiciary by the executive or legislative power always raises attention. However, what distinguishes reform from an attack? Part II of this article on the Slovak judicial reform compare latest interventions in the judiciary to other reforms in Visegrad countries. Continue reading >>
28 September 2022

Globalization on the Right

When Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro visited Hungary in Februar 2022, he was not only strenghtening political ties to his ideological “brother” Victor Orban, who had already attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration in 2018. Bolsonaro’s visit also put a spotlight on the transregional circulation of illiberal legal ideas. Over the past decade, conservative, religious and right-wing movements, activists and governments have built transnational networks in which they exchange legal ideas, forge common litigation strategies, and organize mutual intellectual and financial support. This posts addresses the role of Brazil and Bolsonarism in these networks, and it points to some consequences for the wider research agenda of comparative constitutional law. Continue reading >>

Consensus and the Crown

The late Queen was loved by many of those who felt no allegiance to her, and respected by many who did not love her. By contrast, prior to his accession, the new King had struggled to be respected, let alone loved. Will his Canadian subjects maintain their allegiance to him? The question, however inevitable, is largely idle in light of the political difficulties that any attempt to secure constitutional change in Canada has encountered for 30 years. The monarchy will remain, by default if not by desire, just as King Charles III rather than his more popular son succeeded regardless of his subjects’ feelings on the matter. Continue reading >>

The Resistance-Deference Paradox

The Turkish Constitutional Court demonstrates the resistance-deference paradox as a pattern in its judicial behavior under autocratic pressure. The docket management strategies including prioritization and late responsiveness are also employed in politically sensitive cases. The deferring stances of the Court legitimize autocratization when core issues of the regime are at stake. In these cases, the Court develops an autocratic partnership that makes itself an unreliable actor without any commitment to judicial ethos. The resistant stances of the Court trigger the political backlash and clashes with the judiciary, leading to further contestation of political autocratization. Continue reading >>

Mária Kolíková is leaving

A few weeks ago in Slovakia, after the last step of the reforms of the judiciary structure and the separation of powers was achieved, the coalition crisis broke out in full scope. Furthermore, after a two months long ultimatum, the liberals left the coalition. This step also meant the resignation of the Justice Minister, who was responsible for the judicial reform over the last two years. Now is the right time to summarize how Justice Minister Mária Kolíková succeeded in her efforts to reform the judiciary. This is part I of a two part article on the Slovak reform of the judiciary. Continue reading >>