The Governments of the Netherlands and Georgia have each submitted to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) lists with three proposals for their respective ECtR Judges. The Government of Hungary is due to do the same in the coming days. Then it will be for PACE to pick one candidate from each of the lists.
While we will not comment on the qualities of the other contenders, we would note that one of the candidates proposed by the Dutch Government, Professor Rick Lawson of Leiden University, has an egregious record of contributing to the ideologically biased intentional misinterpretation of human rights. He was a member of the ominous “EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights” that, back in 2005, issued a legal opinion in which it was claimed that the right to conscientious objection for medical personnel with regard to abortion, euthanasia, or similar practices, would constitute a violation of “EU fundamental rights and values”. He never distanced himself from that aberrant paper. It must therefore be assumed that his understanding of “human rights” is one that would oblige doctors and nurses to kill innocent children, or (as appears to be a frequent practice in the Netherlands), unsuspecting patients who have been diagnosed with (incurable?) illnesses.
He then went on to serve as a member of the rather short-lived EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s “Legal Experts Group” (FRALEX), which became notorious through a grotesquely ill-founded report on alleged “Homophobia in the EU”, which arrived at the stunning conclusions that there were a requirement under international human rights law that “same-sex couples either have access to an institution such as registered partnership which provides them with the same advantages as those they would be recognised if they had access to marriage; or that, failing such official recognition, the de facto durable relationships they enter into leads to extending to them such advantages.”
It is clear from these antecedents what kind of social/political agenda Prof. Lawson would bring to the ECtHR. If selected, he would be the quintessential case of a professor-judge with no prior experience in a judiciary function, but with a problematic political ideology that he must be expected to promote through the decisions he will be making. It is precisely this kind of appointments that lies at the roots of the ECtHR’s current crisis of credibility.
The Dutch Government’s proposal to appoint Mr. Lawson a judge of the ECtHR fits into a larger pattern of “putting the right people into the right places” in order to allow them to “pull the right levers”. Often these policies go unobserved by the unsuspecting wider public, but they can have an immense effect on the shaping of international law, given the prestige that institutions and persons whose official function is to deal with “human rights” still enjoy among uninformed people. Recent examples include the appointment of a “Special Rapporteur on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, Vitit Muntarbhorn, by the UN Human Rights Council, or the selection of the gay rights activist Michael O’Flaherty as the new Director of the EU’s controversial Fundamental Rights Agency.