The ECtHR has been much criticised for the lack of completeness and coherence of its judgments. Many of these critiques seem to presuppose an unarticulated theory about how complete and how coherent ECtHR judgments ought to be. My aim here is to articulate such a theory, in order to provide the foundations for a more principled critique of the jurisprudence of the ECtHR. I examine the nature of completeness and coherence in adjudication, and the reasons why the ECtHR should be particularly concerned with the completeness and coherence of its judgments. I identify instances in which ECtHR judgments have not been sufficiently complete and coherent, and I conclude by considering the implications this might have for making evaluations of the Court’s judgments in terms of legitimacy, justice, and desirability.
The greatest impediment to the acceptance of a utilitarian theory of human rights is the perceived inability of utilitarianism to deal with absolute rights, such as those contained in Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights. In this paper, I argue that a sophisticated form of indirect utilitarianism can in fact provide a solid foundation for Article 3 absolute rights. I develop an account of the moral rights underlying Article 3 and apply that account to some key elements of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) Article 3 jurisprudence. I show how the indirect utilitarian account can explain: (1) the ECtHR’s conclusion that the Gäfgencase did not involve a conflict of Convention rights; (2) the ECtHR’s answer to the question ‘what counts as torture?’; and (3) the ECtHR’s jurisprudence on the difference between the scope of the obligation to prevent torture and the scope of the obligation to prevent inhuman and degrading treatment.