Strasbourg Observers

Poll on the Best and Worst ECtHR Judgment of 2012: the ‘Winners’

February 04, 2013

Now that our poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgments of 2012 has been running for a couple of weeks, we considered it a good moment to formally announce the results of the voting, as of now.

We curiously noted that visitors were much more likely to vote for best judgment (171 votes) than for worst judgment (91 votes). If this was due to a sense of optimism, a desire to focus on celebrating the good, rather than chastising the bad, then we applaud such a positive attitude! Despite our repeated criticism of certain Court judgments, we also consider that the Court should receive a high five for “job well done!” much more frequently than it should be berated for failing to protect human rights in the Council of Europe region.

With that thought in mind, here is the top three in each category:

Best judgment

1) Yordanova and Others v. Bulgaria (34.5%)

2) El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (22.22%)

3) Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy (18.71%)

This indicates Yordanova and Others v. Bulgaria as a clear (and somewhat surprising, given that it was not a Grand Chamber judgment) winner in the best judgment category. But really, all three judgments show us what the ECtHR is capable of when it is at its best. And the Court deserves ample praise for that!

Worst judgment

1) Austin v. the United Kingdom (25.27 %)

2) Van der Heijden v. the Netherlands (23.08%)

3) Scoppola v. Italy (no. 3) (21.98%)

Voting was so close that these three Grand Chamber judgments could all be considered the ‘winners’ in the worst judgment category. And thus, really, the big losers of 2012. The disappointing outcome and lackluster reasoning in all three cases should function as a strong reminder why it is appropriate – yes, even necessary – for the ECtHR to be criticized whenever it lets slip the excellent standards it generally upholds.

On a sidenote, we should emphasise that the voting results for worst judgment reveal that at least one other Grand Chamber judgment would have deserved a nomination in this category. Mouvement Raëlien Suisse v. Switzerland received five votes, despite not even having been nominated!

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