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Dickson on the ECHR and Northern Ireland

Congratulations to Brice Dickson, professor of international and comparative law and director of the human rights centre at the QUB School of Law, whose new book entitled The European Convention on Human Rights and the Conflict in Northern Ireland has just been published by Oxford University Press. According to the blurb:

This book provides the first comprehensive account of the role played by the European Convention on Human Rights during the conflict in Northern Ireland from 1968. Brice Dickson studies the effectiveness of the Convention in protecting human rights in a society wracked by terrorism and deep political conflict, detailing the numerous applications lodged at Strasbourg relating to the conflict and considering how they were dealt with by the enforcement bodies. The book illustrates the limitations inherent in the Convention system but also demonstrates how the European Commission and Court of Human Rights gradually developed a more interventionist approach to the applications emanating from Northern Ireland. In turn this allowed the Convention to become a more secure guarantor of basic rights and freedoms during times of extreme civil unrest and political turmoil elsewhere in Europe.

The topics examined include the right to life, the right not to be ill-treated, the right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, the right to a private life, the right to freedom of belief, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of assembly, and the right not to be discriminated against. The book argues that, while eventually the European Court did use the applications from Northern Ireland to establish important human rights principles, their development was slow and arduous and some gaps in protection still remain. The book illustrates the limits of the European Convention as a tool for protecting human rights in times of crisis.

I look forward very much to reading this. The ECtHR’s approach to the conflict in Northern Ireland was, in many cases, very ‘light touch’ and deferential although, as the blurb notes, it became more rigorous over time. Although the book deals with the specific context of Northern Ireland I am sure that the theories and arguments will be generalisable beyond that. As NI is one of the main contexts within which the limits and possibilities of the Convention’s capacity to be effective in times of terroristic crisis I have no doubt the book will be of general interest to readers grappling with these difficult questions.

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