Topic Submissions

The Orwellian Reality of Counter-Terrorism Measures Under The ECHR


  • Sam Thyroff-Kohl, LL.M University of Groningen





This paper seeks to analyze the impact of terrorism on the enjoyment of civil liberties guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The paper profoundly assesses case law from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in order to assess how the Court manages to guarantee that rights are still respected and upheld, even when weighed against the most severe circumstances, namely terrorism. In doing so, the counter-terrorism legal system of one of the most controversial parties to the ECHR, the United Kingdom, is assessed to identify issues which arise when combating terrorism. Surveillance and stop-and-search are archetypical anti-terrorism measures that are limited through the ECtHR in order to not excessively infringe upon human rights, in accordance with Lloyd’s notion of imposing sufficient safeguards if new measures are enacted. Although the ECtHR can be considered an essential guarantor for human rights through its judicial dialogues and influences on domestic courts and governments, the issue of refoulment in torture cases must be readdressed in upcoming case-law. Moreover, grave privacy infringements are permitted to a terrifying extent, and the longer the ECtHR takes to take a solid stance against States abusing the aim of national security, the more severe it will naturally become, due to society’s incremental progression towards a digital life. Ultimately, terrorism tests democratic governments in a unique way, as imposing draconian measures would be an easy way to ensure safety. Nonetheless, fighting with one hand behind one’s back is necessary to uphold the status of a rights-respecting democracy. Only time will tell whether the ECtHR will evolve to give proactive verdicts to ensure human rights prior to their breach.