The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Jurisprudence of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

AuthorYutaka Arai
Published date01 March 1998
Date01 March 1998
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/092405199801600104
Subject MatterArticle
41
The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Jurisprudence of
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
Yutaka Arai
Abstract
The margin
of
appreciation is a measure
of
discretion allowed to the Member States in
the manner that they implement the standards
of
the European Convention on Human
Rights, taking into account their national particular circumstances. Both the European
Commission and Court
of
Human Rights are entrusted with the balancing between the
Europe-wide 'uniform' approach on one hand and the need to defer to the national
Sovereignty and to various local values deriving from cultural, religious, and socio-
economic diversity on the other. By analysing the interplay between strictness
of
scrutiny
and the width
of
the margin
of
appreciation in the case-law
of
Article 8, the author
attempts to identify the underlying policy grounds for the margin
of
appreciation under
Article 8. He argues that there are certain policies which affect the judicial self-restraint
and those which uphold the active review in the jurisprudence
of
Article 8.
IIntroduction
Article 8
of
the European Convention on Human Rights protects four connected rights:
the right to private and family life and the right to respect for home and correspondence. I
When the Strasbourg organs find a particular measure to amount to 'interference' with the
rights embodied under the first paragraph
of
Article 8, they must consider whether such
an interference may be justified in accordance with criteria laid down in the second
paragraph. The standard formula developed in the case-law is common to other personal
freedom rights set out in Articles 9-11. A violation
of
Article 8 exists unless the
Ph.D. Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge (Queens' College); LL.M., University of
Cambridge (1994); LL.M., Keio University (1993). I wish to express my special thanks to Professor James
Crawford for his helpful comments on earlier drafts.
As regards Article 8 of the Convention, see A.M. Connelly, 'Problems of Interpretation of Article 8 of the
European Convention on Human Rights', 35 ICLQ, 1986, p. 567; G. Cohen-Jonathan, La Convention
Europeenne des Droits de I'Homme, Economica, Paris, 1989, pp. 354-393; 'Respect for Private and Family
Life', in:
R.StJ.
Macdonald, F. Matscher and H. Petzold (eds), The European System
for
the Protection
of
Human Rights, Martinus Nijhoff, Dordrecht, 1993, Chapter 16; P. van Dijk and G.J.H. van Hoof, Theory
and Practice
of
the European Convention on Human Rights, 2nd ed., Kluwer, Deventer, 1990, pp. 368-397;
L. Doswald-Beck, 'The Meaning of the 'Right to Respect for Private Life' under the European Convention
on Human Rights', 4 HRLJ, 1983, p. 283; D. Evrigenis, 'Recent Case-law of the European Court
of
Human
Rights on Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights', 3 HRLJ, 1982, p. 121; D.
Feldman, 'The Developing Scope
of
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights', 2 EHRLR,
1997, p. 265; D. Gomien, D.Harris andL. Zwaak, Law and Practice
of
the European Convention on Human
Rights and the European Social Charter, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg, 1996, pp. 227-261; D.J.
Harris, M. O'Boyle and C. Warbrick, Law
of
the European Convention on Human Rights, Butterworths,
London, 1995, Chapter 9; F.G. Jacobs and R.C.A. White, The European Convention on Human Rights, 2nd
ed., Clarendon, Oxford, 1996, Chapter 10; P. Kempees, ASystematic Guide to the Case-Law
of
the European
Court
of
Human Rights 1960-1994, Vol. I, pp. 507-638, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1996; L.G. Loucaides,
'Personality and Privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights', 61 BYIL, 1990, p. 175; A.H.
Robertson (ed.), Privacy and Human Rights, Manchester, 1973.
Netherlands Quarterly
of
Human Rights, Vol. 16/1, 41-61, 1998.
<l:l
Netherlands Institute
of
Human Rights (SIM). Printed in the Netherlands.
NQHR / /
/998
interference: (i) is 'in accordance with the law'; (ii) has a legitimate aim and; (iii) is
necessary in a democratic society.
Detailed principles have been developed as regards the common expression 'necessary
in a democratic society' in Articles 8-11. In the Silver Case, the Court summed up the four
principles deriving from the requirement
of
democratic necessity.'
(a)
(c)
(b)
(d)
the adjective
'necessary'
is not synonymous with
'indispensable',
neither has it the
flexibility
of
such
expressions as
'admissible',
'ordinary',
'useful',
'reasonable'
or
'desirable';
the Contracting States enjoy acertain
but
not
unlimited margin
of
appreciation in the
matter
of
the imposition
of
restrictions,
but
it is for the
Court
to give the final ruling on
whether
they are compatible with the Convention;
the phrase 'necessary in a democratic society'
means
that, to be compatible
with
the
Convention, the interference must,
inter
alia, correspond to a
'pressing
social
need'
and
be 'proportionate to the legitimate
aim
pursued'
and;
those paragraphs
of
Articles
of
the Convention which provide for an exception to a right
guaranteed are to be narrowly interpreted.
In assessing whether there exists a pressing social need, the Convention bodies have
allowed national authorities a margin of appreciation. The margin of appreciation doctrine
is one
of
a number
of
techniques used to justify abstention from fully-fledged review
of
the merits.'
Silver and Others v. the United Kingdom, Judgment of 25 March 1983, A.61, para. 97.
As to the margin of appreciation doctrine in general, see R. Bernhardt, 'Intemationaler Menschenrechtsschutz
und nationaler Gestaltungsspielraum', in: R. Bernhardt, W.K. Geek, G. Jaenicke and H. Steinberger (eds),
Volkerrecht als Rechtsordnung, internationale Gerichtbarkeit, Menschenrecht, -Festschrift fur Hermann
Mosler -, Springer, Berlin, 1983, p. 75; E. Brems, 'The Margin
of
Appreciation Doctrine in the Case-Law
of the European Court of Human Rights', 56 Zeitschriftfilr ausltindisches offentliches Recht und Volkerrecht
(ZailRV), 1996, p. 240;Cohen-Jonathan,op.cit. (note I), pp. 187-193 and549-552; M. Delmas-Marty, 'The
Richness of Underlying Legal Reasoning', in: M. Delmas-Marty (ed.), The European Conventionfor the
Protection
of
Human Rights, International Protection versus National Restrictions, Martinus Nijhoff,
Dordrecht, 1992, pp. 319-341; Van Dijk and Van Hoof, op.cit. (note I), pp. 585-606; T.A. O'Donnell, 'The
Margin of Appreciation Doctrine: Standards in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights',
4 Human Rights Quarterly, 1982, p. 474; K. Hailbronner, 'Die Einschrankung von Grundrechten in einer
demokratischen Gesellschaft - Zu den Schrankenvorbehalten der Europaischen Menschenrechtskonvention
-',
in: Bernhardt et al. (eds), supra, p. 359; Harris, O'Boyle and Warbrick, op.cit. (note I), pp. 12-15, and
283-301; R. Higgins, 'Derogations under Human Rights Treaties', 48 BYIL, 1976-1977, p. 281, atpp. 296-
315; E. Kastanas, Unite et Diversite: notions autonomes et marge d'appreciation des Etats dans la
jurisprudence de la Cour europeenne des droits de l'homme, Bruylant, Brussels, 1996; R. Koering-Joulin,
'Public Morals', in: Delmas-Marty (ed.), supra, pp. 83-98; N. Lavender, 'The Problem of the Margin of
Appreciation',4 EHRLR, 1997, p. 380; P. Mahoney, 'Judicial Activism and Judicial Self-Restraint in the
European Court of Human Rights: Two Sides of the Same Coin', II HRLJ, 1990, p. 57; R.St.J. Macdonald,
'The Margin of Appreciation in the Jurisprudence of the EuropeanCourt of Human Rights', in: Intemational
Law at the Time
of
its Codification. Essays in Honour
of
Roberto Ago, Vol. 3, Dott. A. Giuffre Editore,
Milan, 1987, p. 187; and 'The Margin of Appreciation' in: RSt.J. Macdonald, F. Matscher and H. Petzold
(eds), The European System for the Protection
of
Human Rights, 1993, Chapter 6; F. Matscher, 'Methods
of
Interpretation of the Convention' in: Macdonald et al. (eds), supra, Chapter 5; J.G. Merri1ls, The
Development
of
International Law by the European Court
of
Human Rights, 2nd ed., Manchester University
Press, Manchester, 1993, Chapter 7; C. Morrisson, 'Margin of Appreciation in European Human Rights
Law', 6Revue des Droits de l'Homme (Human Rights Journal), 1973, p. 263; F. Reindel, Auslegung
menschenrechtlicher Vertriige am Beispiel der Spruchpraxis des Ulv-Menschenrechtsausschusses, des
Europdischen und des amerikanischen Gerichthofs fur Menschenrechte, V. Florenz, Munich, 1995; H.J.
Steiner and P. Alston, International Human Rights in
Context-
Law, Politics, Morals -Text and Materials,
Clarendon, Oxford, 1996, pp. 600-639; H.C. Yourow, 'The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Dynamics
of European Human Rights Jurisprudence', 3 Connecticut JIL, 1987, p. 111; and The Margin
of
Appreciation
42

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