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‘Strasbourg was something new, it was an adventure’

A history of the Belgian cases before the European Court of Human Rights in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s

In: Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'histoire du droit / The Legal History Review
Author:
Laurens Lavrysen Postdoctoral researcher (FWO – Research Foundation Flanders), Campus Aula, Human Rights Centre, Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Gent

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Summary

In recent years, a burgeoning literature has focused on the history of human rights in general and the history of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in particular. In order to understand how the ECHR gradually managed to gain authority in diverse national settings, it is necessary to complement transnational historical perspectives with studies of national reception histories. The present article approaches the history of the ECHR in Belgium by focusing on the history of the Belgian cases in Strasbourg, which have played an important role in contributing to the ‘discovery’ of the ECHR in the Belgian legal system. On the basis of interviews with actors involved in the early cases against Belgium, it was possible to determine their position in the Belgian legal landscape as well as their motivations and aspirations in going to Strasbourg. Moreover, these interviews allowed gaining insight into the circumstances out of which litigation against Belgium arose.

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