Precedent in International Courts: A Network Analysis of Case Citations by the European Court of Human Rights
British Journal of Political Science, 2012
44 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 5 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 3, 2012
Why and how do international courts justify decisions with citations to their own case law? We argue that, like domestic review courts, international courts use precedent at least in part to convince “lower” (domestic) courts of the legitimacy of judgments. Several empirical observations are consistent with this view, which we examine through a network analysis of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) citations. First, the Court cites precedent based on the legal issues in the case, not the country of origin. Second, the Court is more careful to embed judgments in its existing case law when the expected value of persuading domestic judges is highest. These findings contribute to a developing literature that suggests international and domestic review courts develop their authority in similar ways.
Keywords: European Court of Human Rights, International Law, Precedent, Network Analysis
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