This project investigates the effects of member state attacks on the exercise of public authority in regional human rights regimes. It analyzes the developments which have been implemented over the last ten years in the organs, norms, and procedures of the European and Inter-American human rights regimes in order to withstand the increasing pressure of critical state parties.
The thesis develops an interdisciplinary scholarly account of the transformations of the European and Inter-American human rights regime in the last ten years based on two core concepts: backlash and resilience. In recent years, regional human rights courts are increasingly confronted with fundamental and systematic attacks by member states, which take on extremely serious forms, e.g. refusal to implement the judgments of regional human rights courts, systematic open criticism, blocking of financial support, and in the worst case, withdrawal or threat of withdrawal. These extraordinary practices of criticism differ from the ordinary criticism that must be expected, as they attempt to undermine the institution as such. They amount to a serious backlash, which threatens the authority and legitimacy of the courts. Yet, regional human rights courts are embedded in a strong, heavily institutionalized socio-legal environment which consists of political, intergovernmental, and parliamentary bodies tasked with monitoring the execution of judgments and sanctioning non-compliance, as well dense networks of civil society actors. This embeddedness allows human rights courts to practice institutional resilience by developing adaptation and institutional change while safeguarding the core values of the regime.
Both the European and the Inter-American human rights regimes have undergone massive institutional changes over the last decades, which took place via official reform processes as well as more informal, subtle adaptations of procedures. The book adopts insights by Albert O. Hirschman by tracing the option of exit, voice, and loyalty in the practices of regional human rights regimes. In particular, I analyze those developments from three perspectives: 1.) the internal workings of the respective courts, 2.) the inter-institutional relationship between political and parliamentary bodies to safeguard the institutional resilience of the judicial bodies, and 3.) the interconnection between the institutional and the socio-legal environment. The thesis employs both doctrinal and historical, as well as interdisciplinary and empirical methods.