Home>PSIA Master Students at the European Court for Human Rights


PSIA Master Students at the European Court for Human Rights

On 3rd March 2023 PSIA master students and Prof. Dr. Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac visited the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The field trip is part of the course “Law and (In)Security in the Pre-Crime Era” curriculum and this is the 2nd year that students enrolled in the course have had the opportunity to discuss current issues of intelligence, security and human rights law with Judge Prof. Dr. Davor Derenčinović at the ECtHR in Strasbourg and thus visit the Council of Europe. This year’s topical focus of the onsite discussion was terrorism & human rights. 

Prof. Dr. Getoš Kalac from the Zagreb University’s Faculty of Law who teaches the course (initially together with ECtHR Judge Derenčinović) as part of the field trip on 2nd March also held an invited talk at the ECtHR’s Criminal Law Group on the topic of “Criminal Punishment in Times of Rising Penal Populism - How Criminology Contributes to the Human Rights Perspective”. The talk opened a discussion with human rights judges and experts on potentials and limitations of introducing criminological knowledge into the protection of the human rights of (potential) victims, offenders and societies as a whole. It once again highlighted the importance of interconnecting scientific, educational, practical and academic efforts in continuously upgrading the protection of human rights.


Students’ impressions & takeaways from the fieldtrip

“The presentation and following discussion with Judge Prof. Dr. Davor Derenčinović at the ECHR covered a broad range of the inner function of the Court: its functioning, a focus on its role in terrorism cases, and its latest developments regarding the defining articles of the Convention. We then had the opportunity to visit the Council of Europe and had time to get acculturated to its functions and proceedings. Exchanging and benefitting from the experience of professionals from the Court has given us the opportunity to witness the legal mechanisms studied in class, while balancing them with the realities of work at the Court. Many days would be needed in order to grasp all the intricacies of this institution (and indeed I hope to be back soon!), yet this day has probably been the one where I feel like I learned most this year, thanks to the insights of the Judge, the thorough presentation of a particular issue at Court – terrorism -, and thanks to the initiative of all who accompanied us with their expertise and initiative in this field trip.” (M. M., France)

“I appreciated the opportunity to visit the European Court of Human Rights and gain a greater understanding of how the court functions, both procedurally and as a supra-national European institution. First, it is impressive visit the forum where such important decisions are made. Additionally, according to the presentations offered by the judge and jurist, I found the manner in which the court approaches cases to reflect the seriousness with which they treat their vocation. For example, on one hand, they make a distinction between the adjudication of cases based on well-established precedent, and, on the other, cases that require a new application of existing principles (which could in turn set new precedents). They undertake great efforts to ensure their judgments will be widely viewed as impartial, responsible, and well-reasoned in accordance with national and international laws.” (J. H., United States)

“Being able to not only visit the ECtHR, but also engage in a small group with high-level experts either judge or registered lawyer working at the crossroad of the rule of law and terrorism was an enriching experience. It gave me valuable insights on how the ECHR ensures states’ compliance of the international law framework under the law enforcement paradigm. This knowledge represents a strong and necessary asset to ensure respect of the rule of law as a future professional willing to work in the field of counterterrorism.” (S. A., France)

“It was great to have the opportunity to know about the different cases pre and post terrorism acts in the place where the cases are analyzed and solved, and to get the chance to discuss about the intersection between human rights and national security. Also to get to know the work of a judge and the different roles of the ECtHR as well as the Council of Europe in person makes it an unforgettable experience and easier to understand the different objectives of diverse European institutions.” (J. B., Colombia)

“On March 3rd we had the opportunity to visit the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. More than that, we had the chance to meet Judge Prof Dr Davor Derencinovic and to discuss with him and with registered lawyer (didn't write down her name!!)  the overlapping, and the frictions, of the coexistence of state security and human rights protection. The most interesting part was undoubtedly to hear them speaking about their work, and the lucidity and passion that they put in it. Regardless of the uncountable pending cases, the numerous grey areas, the ethical dilemmas, they keep seeking justice in a team work, day by day. I think that the « superior morality » they are endowed with when they swear at the Court is really tangible, and really makes them ambassadors of the Convention and of the Charter of Human Rights.” (L. Z., Italy)

“I especially enjoyed the opportunity to talk to a judge from the ECtHR who could give us professional and personal insights into the daily procedures of the Court. Being in the actual building made the work of the Court more tangible and I greatly appreciated being able to see the building from the inside. The guided tour through the Council of Europe was interesting because it clarified how the different countries work together and what their role is as members of the ECtHR. Personally, I also really liked Strasbourg because of its cosy city center and the good food - so overall, a very fun and memorable field trip.” (M. B., Germany)

“Apart from the fun aspect of a day in the field, I think that the day in Strasbourg was above all an opportunity to consolidate what we have learned so far. For example, I particularly liked it when the judge and the registered lawyer talked to us about the process leading to a judgement. They clearly explained each step and their stakes. It would have been quite long and boring to try to understand it on our own, but listening to the actors themselves talk about it made it concrete and relevant.” (L. F., France)

“I really enjoyed the lecture from Justice Derenčinović and his colleague. The way they illustrated the concepts of human rights as evaluated by the ECtHR was very comprehensive and reinforced what we have been learning in class. It was neat to hear about their personal experiences at the Court as well, and I appreciated learning about what brought them to the Court. The portion spent learning about various cases in relation to terrorism was also really interesting, and helped frame my way of thinking and evaluating these cases.” (M. F., Hungary/Canada)

“A field trip at the ECHR was the most efficient way to give body to the theoretical discussions covered by Prof. Getos Kalac in class. By diving into the ECHR’s specific role, it paradoxically anchored the landscape of other actors in the legal community, helping to define their institutional strengths and limits. On a more personal note, the conversation with Judge Derenčinović was a window into the fact that beyond the books, legal decisions ultimately rely on values and ethics. Interacting with the Judge made it tangible that only debates on principles can help articulate ethical systems and lead to the ultimate interpretation of a text. Overall, this visit was a foundation for further sessions to build upon and deepen real-world applications. I now approach it with the automatism of questioning how conceptual legal concepts would apply to actual cases, making some of these academic discussions accessible — and, quite frankly, fascinating.” (U. R., France)

“It was a privilege to be given access to the ECHR and to hear directly from the personnel working there. What I found most interesting was learning about the inner workings of the court, and the processes and procedures that take place regularly, including the life cycle of an application and the various judicial formations that deal with the range of applications filed in court.” (A. Y., Singapore) 

“The trip to the ECHR was a welcome initiative by our professor and SciencesPo, something that I hope the university can do more of in the future. As the international security program seeks to give its students both practical and theoretical knowledge, speaking and listening to professionals in such high positions is a real privilege and a perfect way to broaden our knowledge. The case review that was provided, as well as a Q&A session afterwards were really interesting and useful.” (R. C., Lithuania)

“I found it very unique that the ECtHR usually proceeds with the fewer hearings from the parties and mainly based on submitted written evidence - quite different from domestic courts. Hearing directly from the judge and legal specialist the motivation and everyday efforts of balancing in that situation helped me understand why high morale is required for judges, let alone legal expertise. Plus, it also gave me the impression that what is indispensable for ECtHR to function properly is the sincere attitude and commitment of each Member State to respect the fundamental value held by the ECtHR.” (S. Y., Japan)

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