How to Comply with Strasbourg

Stephen Sedley on attempts to settle the competing claims of European and national courts

The states composing the Council of Europe, now 47 of them, have their own supreme court, the European Court of Human Rights, which – not unlike its US counterpart – has come under increasing fire for interfering unduly in member states’ affairs and trying to make one size of human rights compliance fit all. At a theoretical level there seems something wrong with this critique: one size should fit all, for the meaning and effect of fundamental rights cannot logically vary from one country to another. But at a practical level it addresses a real problem: decisions about legal processes framed at a level of generality large enough to embrace all member states may well be unworkable in some of them.

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