Human Rights and the European Court of Justice: Past and Present Tendencies

54 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2011

Date Written: April 5, 2011


The purpose of this paper is to consider the ECJ’s jurisprudence as a specific story in the complex web of human rights in the European Union. I aim to do this in two parts. In the first, I analyse the principles that have guided the ECJ in its development of fundamental rights. These consist of largely jurisdictional issues: when and over which fundamental rights matters, and over whom can the Court exercise judgment? They encompass questions of the sources of inspiration the Court uses for interpreting human rights.

The second part then assesses how particular human rights have been developed in the ECJ’s case law with specific attention paid to recent decisions. My approach here is to examine the jurisprudence in terms of the rights expressed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Although this is a fairly recent document (and I have some doubts over its reflection of rights protected over the history of the Union) it is represented by the EU as the most apt compilation of those rights it aims to promote if not respect. Its lack of legal enforceability until the Lisbon Treaty came into force at the end of 2009 has not prevented it shadowing the Court’s appreciation of fundamental rights.

Keywords: Fundamental Rights, EU

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Williams, Andrew Trevor, Human Rights and the European Court of Justice: Past and Present Tendencies (April 5, 2011). Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2011/06, Available at SSRN: or

Andrew Trevor Williams (Contact Author)

University of Warwick - School of Law ( email )

Gibbet Hill Road
Coventry CV4 7AL, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom
02476 524996 (Phone)
02476 524105 (Fax)


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