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When Human Rights Clash at the European Court of Human RightsConflict or Harmony?$
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Stijn Smet and Eva Brems

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795957

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198795957.001.0001

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Conflicts between Human Rights and the ECtHR

Conflicts between Human Rights and the ECtHR

Towards a Structured Balancing Test

(p.38) 2 Conflicts between Human Rights and the ECtHR
When Human Rights Clash at the European Court of Human Rights

Stijn Smet

Oxford University Press

This chapter proposes a structured balancing test for the resolution of human rights conflicts. The chapter first critiques the European Court of Human Right’s ad hoc balancing approach to human rights conflicts. Analysis of a pair of concrete judgments—Obst v. Germany and Schüth v. Germany—illustrates the shortcomings of that approach. The chapter then proposes an alternative, structured balancing test. The structured balancing test, composed of a limited set of seven balancing criteria, relies on comparison of the relative strength of reasons in favour of conflicting human rights to determine which right should prevail in a given conflict. By doing away with contested balancing notions, such as ‘weight’ and ‘scales’, the structured balancing test also aims to overcome the incommensurability challenge to balancing. The test is finally applied to Obst and Schüth to illustrate how its use could improve the Court’s adjudicatory practice.

Keywords:   conflicts of rights, human rights conflict, European Court of Human Rights, ECtHR, ad hoc balancing, structured balancing, balancing as reasoning, nets of reasons, incommensurability

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