Article 15 ECHR: Derogation in Case of Emergency, Lawless v Ireland (1961)

Article 15 ECHR: Derogation in Case of Emergency, Lawless v Ireland (1961)

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The judgement of the Lawless case was the ECtHR’s first one. Since the Convention remains silent on many organisational aspects, the first hearings before the Court gave rise to many procedural questions. Ireland raised several objections regarding the procedure, which were rejected by the Court. Another aspect that was not yet regulated was the judgement style. The ECtHR adopted the French style, where the judgement is basically structured along one long sentence. This tradition has since then been replaced but still stays succinct when compared to the British tradition. Besides these rather formal innovations, there are other important aspects to consider. According to Bates, the judgement was considered to be bold at the time, even though from today’s perspective, it appears to be very technical. It was the first time that a citizen was able to take the government of a sovereign State before an international Court to defend his individual rights. This was applauded by most contemporary commentators and will be discussed in more detail below. The judgement set up the whole human rights machinery in Europe and showed that the Convention was indeed operable and more than dead letter. In addition to these assertions, the court shows his inclination to broad interpretations guided by the overall spirit of the Convention. This is illustrated by the Courts interpretation of Art. 5 ECHR where he notes that in this instance, the Irish interpretation “would lead to conclusions repugnant to the fundamental principles of the Convention.” Furthermore, the Court made it clear that it had ample powers independent of the States and the Commission, when it held that it could act on its own to assure th...

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Lawson, Rick, and Henry Schermers. Leading Cases of the European Court of Human Rights. Nijmegen : Ars Aequi Libri, 1997.
“Locus Standi.” Accessed April 8, 2014.
Maguire, John. “Internment, the IRA and the Lawless Case in Ireland: 1957-61.” Journal of the Oxford University History Society, 2004, 1–20.
Mowbray, Alastair R. Cases, Materials, and Commentary on the European Convention on Human Rights. 3rd ed. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012.
“Plea in Bar.” Accessed April 7, 2014.
Porter, Harold. “The Lawless Case: A Beachhead for Civil Rights.” The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 49, no. 1 (January 1, 1963): 79–82.
“The Lawless Case.” Duke Law Journal 11, no. 2 (April 1, 1962): 249–58.

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