Theodor Meron delivers keynote at European Court of Human Rights

Judge Theodor Meron, Charles L. Denison Professor of Law Emeritus and Judicial Fellow, delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the judicial year of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, on January 25.

Theodor MeronAt the ceremony, with an audience including the ECHR’s president and France’s minister of justice, Meron, who is president of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, spoke about human rights standards in the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals.  The “seismic shift” in international law to a more humanitarian focus after the horrors of World War II, Meron said, had paved the way for the creation of international criminal tribunals decades later. A growing emphasis on individual accountability for human rights abuses became increasingly evident in the jurisprudence of these courts, he said, and their consistent application of human rights standards.  The ICTY, Meron said, had often drawn upon ECHR cases in making its rulings, as had the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“International criminal courts and tribunals such as the ICTY and the ICC are indebted to this court,” said Meron. “Your careful approach to each case before you has yielded a jurisprudence that has proven invaluable to us in construing the procedural guarantees of our own statutes and in ensuring that the new era of individual accountability rests on principles of fairness and due process. We may remain...self-contained systems—separate islands in a sea of international law—but the success of international criminal justice over the past two decades has been in great part due to its strict adherence to human rights standards, and, in particular, those standards articulated and upheld by your court every day.”

Meron credited a wide array of courts, both international and national, for the evolution of international humanitarian law: “It is through all of our work—taken as a whole—that we are knitting together a web of rights. It is together that we are contributing to the creation of a world in which human dignity and human rights are respected without normative gaps. And it is shoulder to shoulder, if not perfectly in step, that we—as jurists—are playing our part in bringing about a world in which accountability will be the rule, and not the exception.”

Posted on February 6, 2013