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The Right to Freedom of Thought in the European Convention on Human Rights

In: European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance
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  • 1 Lecturer in Law, School of Law, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, patrick.ocallaghan@ucc.ie
  • | 2 Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Middlesex University London; DPhil candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, b.shiner@mdx.ac.uk
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Abstract

This paper examines the right to freedom of thought in the European Convention on Human Rights against the background of technological developments in neuroscience and algorithmic processes. Article 9 echr provides an absolute right to freedom of thought when the integrity of our inner life or forum internum is at stake. In all other cases, where thoughts have been manifested in some way in the forum externum, the right to freedom of thought is treated as a qualified right. While Article 9 echr is a core focus of this paper, we argue that freedom of thought is further supported by Articles 8, 10 and 11 echr. This complex of rights carves out breathing space for the individual’s personal development and therefore supports the enjoyment of freedom of thought in its fullest sense. Charged with ‘maintaining and promoting the ideals and values of a democratic society’ as well as ensuring that individual human rights are given ‘practical and effective protection’, this paper predicts that the European Court of Human Rights will make greater use of the right to freedom of thought in the face of the emerging challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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