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The Concept of the Rule of Law and the European Court of Human Rights$
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Geranne Lautenbach

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199671199

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199671199.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
The Concept of the Rule of Law and the European Court of Human Rights

Geranne Lautenbach

Oxford University Press

The rule of law concept has attracted much attention both in the decisions and reports of international organisations and in international law scholarship. At the same time, international law increasingly influences the functioning of the rule of law on the national level. This background shows the relevance of this research into the rule of law as a concept of international law. It is doubtful whether and how the rule of law, as a concept of general international law, can aim to protect individuals, seen how individuals only have limited international legal personality. Another issue is what public power the rule of law should control on the international level: that of states or that of international organisations. Within international organisations the rule of law is mainly construed as an international standard set to the national legal systems of states. Still, a clear definition of the rule of law standard is in most organisations not developed and many organisations direct their efforts at improving the rule of law in those states with little rule of law tradition. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is an international court, which functions as an organ of an international organisation, the Council of Europe, and is open to individual applications concerning alleged interferences with the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention). The rule of law is one of the central values underlying the Convention and the ECtHR often refers to the rule of law in its case law. At the same time, the rule of law is part of the common heritage of European states that are parties to the Convention. Consequently, an analysis of the rule of law in the case law of the ECtHR has the advantage of a context where a generally accepted view on the rule of law is present and where the rule of law concept is tied to the protection of the rights of individuals.

Keywords:   rule of law, European Court of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, international law

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