Rights and Wrongs under the ECHR

This study seeks to shed light on the prohibition of abuse of rights in Article 17 ECHR in order to contribute to a more coherent interpretation of this provision.
Paulien de Morree
Human Rights Research Series
boek | verschenen | 1e editie
oktober 2016 | xvi + 304 blz.

€ 69,-

ISBN 9781780684185

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The prohibition of abuse of rights in Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR or Convention) embodies one of the Convention’s main principles: its commitment to democracy and democratic values. The provision aims to prevent groups and individuals from successfully invoking fundamental rights and freedoms to justify anti-democratic activities. At the same time it is also one of the Convention’s most controversial provisions. There exists a certain tension between human rights protection and the concept of abuse of rights. While human rights essentially aim to promote freedom by affirming the basic rights and freedoms citizens enjoy vis-à-vis state authorities, the abuse clause primarily aims to protect the democratic organisation of the state against groups and individuals invoking these rights with the aim of undermining it. Furthermore, an analysis of the growing body of case law on this topic shows that the interpretation and application of Article 17 ECHR are far from unequivocal. While according to Article 17 ECHR anti-democratic activities may be excluded from the protection of the Convention, clear criteria for determining which activities fit this description are lacking. In addition, the case law covers different methods of application of the abuse clause that seem to be used rather arbitrarily. This has resulted in a rather obscure and inconsistent case-by-case approach.
This study seeks to shed light on the prohibition of abuse of rights in Article 17 ECHR in order to contribute to a more coherent interpretation of this provision. To that aim it studies the abuse clause from different perspectives. First, it looks at the historical background of the provision to examine what motivated the drafters to include this prohibition. Then it moves on to the case law of the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights and to legal doctrine, revealing the difficulties and inconsistencies in the current interpretation of the abuse clause. Next, it analyses the interpretation of prohibitions of abuse in other human rights documents to see whether parallels can be drawn with the interpretation of Article 17 ECHR. Subsequently, it addresses the concepts of ‘abuse of rights’ and ‘militant democracy’ and examines the extent to which they offer a framework for understanding the abuse clause. Based on the insights obtained from these different perspectives, this study puts forward a proposal as to how Article 17 ECHR can best be applied in the future.


Table of Contents, Acknowledgements, List of Abbreviations (p. 0)

Chapter 1: Introduction (p. 1)

Chapter 2: The Creation of the European Convention on Human Rights (p. 15)

Chapter 3: The Strasbourg Case Law on Article 17 ECHR (p. 23)

Chapter 4: The Interpretation of Article 17 ECHR in Legal Doctrine (p. 67)

Chapter 5: Other Abuse Clauses in Human Rights Law (p. 99)

Chapter 6: The Concept of Abuse of Rights (p. 121)

Chapter 7: The Concept of Militant Democracy (p. 147)

Chapter 8: The German 'Wehrafte Demokratie' (p. 185)

Chapter 9: Militant Democracy in the Context of the ECHR (p. 225)

Chapter 10: Conclusions (p. 247)

Bibliography, Table of Cases, Dutch Summary, Curriculum Vitae (p. 265)

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Human Rights Research Series

The Human Rights Research Series’ central research theme is the nature and meaning of international standards in the field of human rights, their application and promotion in the national legal order, their interplay with national standards, and the international supervision of such application. Anyone directly involved in the definition, study, implementation, monitoring, or enforcement of human rights will find this series an indispensable reference tool.

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Editorial Board: Prof. dr. Antoine Buyse (Utrecht University), Prof. dr. Fons Coomans (Maastricht University), Prof. dr. Yvonne Donders (Chair - University of Amsterdam), Dr. Antenor Hallo de Wolf (University of Groningen), Prof. dr. Kristin Henrard (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Prof. dr. Nicola Jägers (Tilburg University), Prof. Titia Loenen (Leiden University) Prof. dr. Janne Nijman (T.M.C. Asser Instituut) and Prof. dr. Brigit Toebes (University of Groningen).

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