In September 2017, the Council of Europe published the news that out of all judgments rendered by the European Court of Human Rights since its inception in 1959, more than half – 10,000 judgments – still remained unenforced. Regardless of the efforts undertaken through the many reforms of the Convention system and through the expansion of the Convention to 47 European jurisdictions, states do not comply with judgments of the Court. This represents a major problem for the Court and for human rights in Europe.
How this matters to you
When individuals are tortured, or when their human rights are otherwise violated by European governments or domestic authorities, they turn to the Court to review state actions. If they are successful in proving a violation, the Court may award them damages for the treatment suffered or may – although rarely – require the state to adopt other actions to redress the violations. But if states refuse to abide by the Court’s judgments or even continue to commit similar violations in the future, judgments of the Court remain just words on paper. There is clearly a problem.
The search for solutions
To find solutions to the problem, we need to investigate both what the Court expects of states and how states respond to its judgments. Usually, the Court seeks not only to persuade states to redress the situation in relation to the individual applicant, but also to nudge states to internalise its judgments so as to prevent future violations. The implementation of the Court's judgments is closely followed by the Committee of Ministers, the supervisory body of the Council of Europe. Increasingly, NGOs at international and domestic level are also getting involved in compliance. When does this remedy structure work? When do interventions of these actors lead to compliance?
This is where Human Rights Nudge comes in: we build on insights from behavioural economics and psychology to analyse how money, language and shaming affect state behaviour.
The project adopts a mixed-methods approach. Our main objectives are to quantitatively and qualitatively investigate when the current remedy architecture successfully nudges, cajoles, and encourages states to comply with judgments of the ECtHR and when it leads them to change their behaviour through norm and practice internalisation.
We also seek to identify and test a new choice architecture where new remedies can be used to deter state behaviour which violates human rights. The potential results of this study can importantly contribute to the solution of one of the most challenging problems plaguing the current European context and contribute to the strengthening of our human rights institutions.