Values in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) – Interview of Charlotte Blanc-Fily, part. 1

Thèse Charlotte Blanc Fily SudreHow did you choose your PhD topic ?

I always had a great interest in the Philosophy of law. During my master’s degree, I wrote a thesis on humanitarian moral, then another on the defence of moral values when arguing a case before the ECHR. I then decided to focus my PhD on this particular topic.

Did the title of your thesis change during your PhD ?

 Yes, two times. At the beginning, we decided – with my PhD supervisor – to drop out the word « moral » which refers to values. And at the very end, we decided to add « critical essay (on an axiological interpretation of the Court’s case law) » as a subtitle to underline the fact I present a personal point of view.

What are the various interpretative methods of the ECHR?

First, the evolutive method is used by the ECHR to conciliate the aims of the European Convention on Human Rights with the evolving mores of our society. Second, the teleological method is used to ensure an effective application of the Convention in terms of its object and purpose. At last, the consensual method is used by the Court to find  common criteria between the legal systems of the member states, in order to increase the defence and promotion of human rights. As an example, we can mention the evolutions of the right to privacy, which now includes the right to change one’s gender on the civil registrar.

What are the « values » you refer to in your thesis?

In the case law of the ECHR, values are always refered to as « fundamental » – the pillars of a democratic society. They are the highest goal, an ideal to be achieved, guidelines to be followed.

Explain your problematic and the main ideas developed in your thesis.

The main focus of my work was, at first, to question the traditional assumption that values and human rights are intrinsically linked. A quick look at European and case law shows that the role of values in the different legal systems across Europe is lesser than what we could expect. Amongst the main reasons for the lack of attention paid to values in the ECHR’s case law is the larger place taken by the subsidiarity principle, also the significant evolution of our social mores, or the priority given to individual rights over collective values.

Did you reach the conlcusions you were expecting ?

Not at all. At the beginning I was hoping to proove that the traditional assumption that values and human rights are intrinsically linked was true. But as I was researching and studying, I discovered that values have not been highlighted and protected as they should.

Charlotte Blanc-Fily holds a PhD in public law from the University of Montpellier.

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