The European Court of Human Rights at the Grassroots Level: Exploring the Court’s Role in Governing Religious Pluralism on the Ground

5-7 July, 2017

ICON-S Annual Meeting on ‘Courts, Power, Public Law’, University of Copenhagen

From 5-7 July the University of Copenhagen hosted the ICON-S 2017 Annual Meeting, with the overarching theme ‘Courts, Power, Public Law’. This conference looked to explore the expanding role of courts that is arguably one of the most significant developments in late-20th and early-21st century government.

The Grassrootsmobilise team participated in this conference with a panel on ‘The European Court of Human Rights at the Grassroots Level: Exploring the Court’s Role in Governing Religious Pluralism on the Ground’. This panel spoke to the question of ‘to what extent do courts succeed in achieving their goals, and under what conditions?’.  The European Court of Human Rights is an arena where some of the most challenging questions around European religious pluralism are deliberated, and its case law has centrally contributed to European efforts to govern tensions between secular and religious worldviews. In light of scholarly debates questioning the direct effects of courts, this panel reflected research focused on developments that take place ‘in the shadow’ of the ECtHR. It engaged especially with the extent to which ECtHR decisions define the ‘political opportunity structures’ and the discursive frameworks within which citizens act. What do we learn about the relevance and mobilizing potential (or lack thereof) of the ECtHR’s case law when examining its uses (or lack thereof) in national/local level case law?

Margarita Markoviti discussed ‘Religious pluralism and Grassroots Mobilizations in Greece: The different uses of European Court of Human Rights religion-related jurisprudence in national and local courts’, examining the different ways in which European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions around religion provide the “political opportunity structures” and the discursive frameworks within which citizens in Greece mobilize.

Pasquale Annicchino’s presentation ‘A two speeds impact? Italy, religiously motivated claims and the European Court of Human Rights’, based on research conducted with Alberta Giorgi, assessed, through an analysis of national case studies and key-witnesses interviews, how and to which extent claims based on provisions of the Convention and decisions of the Court have contributed to mobilization and outcomes in national courts.

Mihai Popa, with his presentation entitled ‘Who cares about Strasbourg? The role of activists in foregrounding the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in religion-related litigations in Romania’, investigated in-depth two of the most prominent domestic litigations on matters related to religion in Romania in the last decade, highlighted the increasing attention paid to the Court by activists from the religious sector of civil society and pointed out that social mobilizations are key to understanding the ‘indirect effects’ of the ECtHR in present-day Romania, both within and outside the courts of law.

Ceren Ozgul looked at ‘“Genuine Belief” in the International and National Courts: The ECtHR and Grassroots Mobilization around Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Turkey’ and examined the relevance and mobilizing potential of the ECtHR’s case law on conscientious objection to military service as well as the obstacles it presents for grassroots actors in Turkey, following legal mobilization on conscientious objection to compulsory military service in Turkish national courts on two tracks: pacifist anti militarist action and religiously based conscientious objection.

The programme is available here and you can listen to the panel here: