Mutual recognition before the European Court of Human Rights

Mutual recognition is an area characterised by some significant methodological differences between the Strasbourg and Luxembourg case-law (see Convention control and Trends 2021-24) which go to the heart of the notion of fundamental rights and of how fundamental rights should be assessed: individually and/or collectively?

On 21 March last, I made an online presentation at the Training Workshop, held at the University of Barcelona, devoted to “Mutual trust and judicial independence in the EAW Framework“. The workshop was part of the European Commission’s funded project TRIIAL 2 (TRust, Independence, Impartiality and Accountability of Legal Professionals under the EU-Charter).

My presentation, titled: “Mutual recognition before the European Court of Human Rights“, was based on the following considerations.

  1. The mutual recognition mechanisms have been accepted in principle by the ECtHR (Avotiņš v. Latvia);
  2. While the ECtHR also approved of the two-step methodology of the CJEU in principle, it reaffirmed its own one-step methodology “which place[s] the national authorities under a duty to ascertain whether there is a real risk, specifically assessed, to the individual concerned, of treatment contrary to [the Convention]” (Bivolaru and Moldovan v. France, § 114);
  3. The general situation occurring in a country is not ignored by the ECtHR, but used as evidence in the assessment of individual risks rather than as an autonomous test;
  4. According to the latest Luxembourg case-law (C-158/21, C-819/21,C-261/22), national judges should not, in the absence of systemic or generalised deficiencies, apply an individual test as regards risks of breaches of fundamental rights in the issuing Member State;
  5. This comes down to: a) replacing the individual test by a general test, thus accepting that fundamental rights can be assessed collectively rather than individually, and b) dividing fundamental rights into two categories, those arising from systemic deficiencies, considered relevant, and the others, which can be ignored in the field of mutual recognition;
  6. However, it is doubtful whether national judges can be precluded by EU law from applying the Convention as legally required, which includes an assessment of the individual risks incurred by the person concerned in the issuing Member State.