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    Who will be the ultimate guardian of human rights in Europe?

    By H Ruth Grenville, on 25 May 2011

    Who will, and should, ultimately safeguard the protection of human rights in Europe? This was the subject of a timely and engaging one-day UCL conference on 20 May 2011. UCL Laws student Manuela Melandri reports.

    This event saw the active participation of academics, judges and practitioners from several European countries who came together to discuss the implications of the European Union’s (EU) accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The conference was organised jointly by the UCL Institute for Human Rights, the UCL European Institute and UCL Centre for Law and Governance in Europe.

    Talks were followed by a truly engaging debate amongst the speakers and participants. Kicked off by Andrew Duff MEP, who gave an intriguing keynote address on the politics behind the protection of human rights in Europe, the discussion fleshed out different views on what should be the relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, between national and supranational courts and between the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and domestic law. The discussion also explored the challenges and benefits if the European Union were to become party to the ECHR.

    In addressing the key question “who will be the ultimate guardian of human rights in Europe?”, practitioners seemed to be inclined to look with concern at the complexity which has increasingly come to characterise the European system of human rights protection. This view warned against the unpleasant risk of creating a “labyrinth of protection”. On the other hand, academics viewed more positively the existence of multiple layers of protection, further stating that it may not be possible to find one ultimate guardian of rights at all.

    An evening panel was held at the German Embassy. In a discussion led by Professor Richard Bellamy of the European Institute, four judges (Sir Konrad Schiemann, European Court of Justice; Angelika Nußberger, European Court of Human Rights; Brun-Otto Bryde, formerly German Federal Constitutional Court and Sir Philip Sales, High Court and former ‘Treasury devil’) presented their views on the topic, resulting in a lively debate with the audience which included Lord Mance and Lady Justice Arden.

    For more information, visit the UCL Laws news page.