The Role of Expert Evidence in Proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights
Since its creation in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights has delivered more than 23,000 judgments. One would assume it has accumulated considerable experience in resolving not only legal, but also factual disputes between the parties to proceedings before it. At times, however, the Judges and Registry lawyers at the Court are confronted with a factual issue that lies beyond their competence and technical expertise. They may, for example, have to understand the intricacies of a certain medical procedure or analyse an autopsy report in the case of a suspicious death in state custody. In such cases, evidence provided by independent expert witnesses—e.g. in the fields of medicine, psychology, forensics, ballistics, counter-terrorism operations, or environmental toxicology—can play a central role in resolving evidentiary impasses. This project will provide a case law analysis of how the European Court of Human Rights handles expert evidence (potentially supplemented with semi-structured research interviews with relevant actors). The project may choose to zoom in on one or more questions such as (but not limited to) what factors determine the impact of expert evidence in the Court’s reasoning, in what types of complaints expert evidence seems to be most determinative, how the use of expert evidence has changed over time, how the Court deals with conflicting expert evidence, or under what circumstances the Court itself actively seeks out expert evidence. DISSECT research team member Anne-Katrin Speck will assist Prof Dembour in the supervision of this project.