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Children’s Rights in the European Court of Human Rights – An Emerging Power Structure

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Legal research has shown mixed results regarding the application of a child-centred approach in judgments from the European Court of Human Rights. With an interdisciplinary perspective, however, a number of remarkable features become visible.This article explores case law from the European system with a blended methodology. First, a quantitative assessment of the Court’s judgments over the last decade reveals, surprisingly, that the child’s best interests doctrine has become widely used only recently, despite the principle being invoked as early as 1988. Secondly, an in-depth discourse analysis of selected landmark cases shows how the child-centred approach, in certain types of case, has gained status as the paramount consideration to the extent that it may sideline competing principles in the balancing exercise of adjudication. In the conclusion, the two types of enquiries, the statistical and the qualitative scrutiny of judgments, are combined to offer an assessment of the power of children’s rights alongside other interests in the European human rights machinery.

Affiliations: 1: Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen, Denmark,


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