Professor Dr. Helmut Aust and Dr. Esra Demir-Gürsel, Freie Universität Berlin
The workshop looks at the role of history and historical events for the protection of human rights in contemporary Europe that is facing an authoritarian and populist backslide. It brings together three important debates: firstly, the current challenges for the protection of human rights in Europe; secondly, the historical roots of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which was intended to provide an early warning mechanism against a fallback into authoritarianism and totalitarianism and thirdly, the way the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has dealt so far in its case law with historical injustices, i.e. the type of situations it was meant to prevent from arising again. The current rise of authoritarian and populist tendencies poses the risk of turning into a severe threat for a European public order based on the ideals of human rights, the rule of lawand democracy – all of which are essential to securing peace and stability in Europe. The workshop will mapthe strengths and weaknesses of the ECHR system to keep its initial promise in the face of this current challenge. It connects three strands of discussion which have so far been leading separate lives yet need to be seen together. When thinking about the current challenges for the ECHR system it is worthwhile to reflect upon the conditions under which the Convention and its Court were set up. What was the role that the Court should play in upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law when the Convention was drafted? How have these expectations shifted over time? How has the ECHR defined its role when dealing with cases which concerned large scale historical injustices? The workshop will provide a forum for reflection on these issues which are of great importance for the maintenance of peace and stability in Europeand beyond. The way that the European system of human rights protection will deal with these situations is likely to have repercussions on a global scale.