The Concept of Structural Human Rights in the European Convention on Human Rights


This article introduces the concept of structural human rights in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights. It starts from the observation that the current understanding of human rights obligations does not account for all the effects that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights have in practice. To comply with their obligations under the Convention, States Parties may be required to modify their very institutional architecture. The article argues that this is a consequence of structural human rights. These are fundamental rights that, when enforced, may impose structural obligations, requiring changes to a State’s governmental structure. The article offers a theoretical underpinning of the concept and indicates the benefits of understanding Convention rights also in a structural way. Furthermore, the notion is conceptualised further by way of an overview of several strands of case law, demonstrating the way in which Convention rights can develop their structural nature and what kind of structural effects they may have.