About the Rule of Law Forum
Human Rights in Times of Emergency – the Role of the Judiciary Under the European Convention on Human Rights
The Ninth Annual Regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe, hosted by the AIRE Centre and Civil Rights Defenders, took place in Tirana, Albania on 25 and 26 November 2022. The event was supported by the United Kingdom FCDO, the Government of Sweden and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
The aim of the Forum was to promote the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the region, encourage regional cooperation in the continued development of the rule of law and human rights, and assist the process of EU integration of the region. The 2022 Forum focused on the protection of human rights in times of emergency. Almost two years ago, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, at our 2020 Forum, we discussed Covid-19 and Human Rights. At the time, there was limited jurisprudence (at both a European and domestic level) concerning the protection of human rights during the pandemic and the Forum provided an opportunity to examine how existing legal provisions and case law might need to be applied to safeguard human rights in the face of the unprecedented situations and questions which arose. Now, two years on, the Forum presented an opportunity to reflect on key legal developments and lessons learned during this period. The Forum also presented our updated guide on Covid-19 and human rights, which takes account of relevant European and domestic jurisprudence delivered since the start of the pandemic. These cases, and the updates to the guide, provide vital guidance on questions regarding how to balance and protect rights in the context of the pandemic, but also have wider importance regarding the protection of rights during times of emergency more generally.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the Forum provided the opportunity to discuss lessons learned during this unprecedented time regarding the effective protection of human rights in times of emergency. This included, for example, the approach taken by the Strasbourg Court in respect of the invocation of Article 15 ECHR to derogate from the Convention, the role of the judiciary in scrutinising emergency measures, and the key factors that must be taken into account when balancing competing rights and interests in the context of an emergency and how principles such as proportionality and subsidiarity are and should be invoked in this context. These are all questions which were of great significance during the pandemic. However, as we continue to face new challenges and emergencies, such as the war in Ukraine, it is clear that understanding such issues will also be vital to future-proofing the protection of human rights more generally.