16th Oct 2019

Court of Human Rights decisions not binding, says German court

A landmark decision on hierarchy in European law has been taken by the German Constitutional court.

The Court on Thursday (14 October) found that it is not obliged to hold to the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

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According to Germany's Constitutional court, rulings by the Strasbourg court are "interpreting aids" which have to be taken into account but not strictly followed if they contradict German constitutional law.

The court justified its decision by saying the German Constitution (Grundgesetz) is worth more than the Human Rights Convention agreed under international law.

Under the German system, international law is at the level of a simple national law.

The German judges found that while the constitution wants Germany to be in a community of free states it does not mean giving up the "sovereignty" of Germany.

They say that German courts, therefore, should neither enforce the Human Right's rulings in a "schematic" way nor ignore them altogether.

The ruling came about after an unmarried father wanted access to his child. A German national court denied him this even though the European Court of Human Rights in a previous ruling had said that it is a human right for the natural father to have access rights to his child.

The European Court of Human Rights was founded in 1959 and overviews the upholding of human rights in the 46 countries that are members of the Council of Europe.


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