WP3. Bridges between different layers of human rights law (ULB, USL-B, VUB)

Work package 3 will investigate ways in which an integrated view of human rights may be envisaged, both as a project of normative development, and as a matter of current procedural practice. A first axis of research, centred on disputes brought before the European Court of Human Rights, examines the procedures of reference to ‘external sources’ and of ‘cross references’ which de facto build bridges between different layers of human rights law. The second axis of research focuses on the results of these bridge building efforts, and will be conducted through a case study on the categorical rights of the elderly.

  1. Methods and procedures of bridge-building: case study of the European Court of Human Rights (ULB, USL-B)

    Project 

    The fragmentation of human rights law is a product of both the diversity of its sources, and the division of tasks and responsibilities among the institutions responsible for their surveillance. In practice, however, this division is blurred, for instance by the practice of the European Court of Human Rights of referring to sources external to the European Convention on Human Rights and of using “cross references” to the case law of other bodies. On the one hand, these practices lead to increased harmonisation and a reduction in fragmentation within the human rights architecture. On the other hand, however, they raise serious questions of legitimacy.
    Proceeding from a detailed description of the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the research seeks to critically evaluate these phenomena from the perspectives of human rights law, public international law and legal theory. In doing so, the thesis will analyse both case law and literature, as well as examine empirical data obtained from interviews with relevant actors.

  2. Building new rights on an integrated reading of existing sources: The case of the rights of the elderly (VUB, USL-B)

    Project 

    This research focuses on the results of the bridge building efforts that are explored in  the first angle of evaluation in WP3 (case study of the European Court of Human Rights). The main research question is whether the procedure of external sources and cross references by courts can produce such a powerful integrating effect that it can lead to the construction of a corpus juris that is functionally equivalent to the drafting of a hard law instrument and that is unified and exhaustive as regards the question dealt with? This query will be conducted through a case study on the categorical rights of the elderly, for which the drafting of a new international instrument is precisely envisaged.
    In addition, there is a lack of understanding of the apparent tension that exists between, on the one hand, the ban on discrimination on grounds of age and the emerging rights of the elderly and, on the other hand, the conventional use of age differentiations, notably in employment and social policy. Accordingly, the aim of the research is to rationalise in a unified system different  ‘generations’ of human rights, enshrined in both regional and international instruments, clarified through comments, reports, and (quasi-) judicial decisions, and construed or  ‘mainstreamed’ by international policy documents on ageing.