“Historical Situations” in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
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This Article investigates how the European Court of Human Rights becomes competent to make decisions in cases concerning (or taking roots in) 'historical situations' preceding the ratification of the European Convention by a given Member State or even the enactment of the Convention. 'Historical situations' refer to events that occurred in the period of Second World War or shortly thereafter. In all such cases, the preliminary question arises whether the Court is competent temporally (ratione temporis) to deal with the application. This group of cases concerned usually allegations touching upon the right to life and the right to property. The Court had to decide if the allegation in question related to a temporally closed event (making the Court not competent) or rather to a continuous violation (where the Court could adjudicate). A specific set of legal questions arose vis-a-vis the right to life, first of all that of the autonomy of the procedural obligation to conduct an efficient investigation. The Strasbourg case law did not provide a clear answer. However, following two crucial judgements rendered by the Grand Chamber, the Court has established an interesting legal framework. Article analyses also two other situations having a historical dimension: bringing to justice those accused of war crimes or other crimes under international law (in light of the alleged conflict with the principle of nullum crimes sine lege) and pursuing authors of pro-Nazi statements or speech denying the reality of Nazi atrocities.
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