International Human Rights Courts and the (International) Rule of Law: Part of the Solution, Part of the Problem, or Both?

Global Constitutionalism 10 (1): 118-138. This article seeks to shed some light on the central relationships between international rule of law norms and international human rights courts, whilst identifying some of the central normative concerns. The aim is partly theoretical, to lay out aspects of how to ‘extend’ or ‘extrapolate’ normative standards such as the rule of law from the domestic setting to international law and organizations; and to explore some modes of interaction between rule of law standards and international courts. The article also draws together relevant empirical findings to shed light on how some of these courts actually work to challenge and bolster rule of law standards. Section 1 sketches one way to ‘transpose’ domestic rule of law norms to international law and institutions – in particular, international human rights courts (IHRCs). We then move to consider two relationships between such standards and IHRCs – in particular, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Section 2 considers whether IHRCs themselves live up to such standards, in particular as regard selection of judges to secure both independence and accountability. Do IHRCs promote the rule of law among states as judicial organs in multilevel structures, or are they instruments of domination by strong states? I also consider other forms of bias important for ICs, in particular professional bias of the judges. Section 3 explores whether and how IHRCs may promote the rule of law within states: how they may help reduce domination, without themselves becoming new sources of unchecked discretion. The answers hold at best for the ECtHR, but may vary among IHRCs and among the states over which they have jurisdiction. [D0I/LINK] [SSRN]