Versita

REGIONAL COURTS AS JUDICIAL BRAKES?

Katrin Nyman Metcalf, Ioannis F. Papageorgiou
Keywords: Regional integration, courts, rule of law, political and judicial oversight ,

Abstract

The article examines how regional integration courts can act as judicial brakes, at a time when “constitutional coups” – leaders staying in power past constitutional time limits or other forms of actions against the spirit if not always the letter of the constitution – are alarmingly common. The article discusses how regional courts can be used to modify or protect national rule of law and the constitutional order from the outside (i.e. from the regional integration aspect) and the extent to which this can be valid particularly to promote a uniform interpretation and application of human rights. Although this trend is visible in Europe, it is more striking, because less expected, on other continents, in particular Africa and the Americas, where the developments take place in less than perfect democratic environments. The article contains evidence from cases dealt with in the various regional courts, supporting that a system of political and judicial oversight, especially in regions with weak or fragile democratic systems, can be a useful addition to national judicial or other mechanisms of protection of rule of law and control of the executive. Action by regional courts helps defeat perceptions of majoritarian politics, which in many countries allow for the winner to take all. Under a system of regional oversight, states become aware of the limits they themselves have set and citizens become aware of their possibilities to challenge political power.