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On Constitutional protection of human rights Professor Eivind Smith University of Oslo.

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1 On Constitutional protection of human rights Professor Eivind Smith University of Oslo

2 HR as a «trump word» We are all in favour of «human rights» The makes the expression a «trump word» (like «democracy» or «the rule of law») Euphoria risks to prevent us from critical discussion: Which human rights? Which formulations? Which means of protection? Draft constitutions deserve critical discussion!

3 On the constitution-amending processes in Iceland and Norway You know better than me what’s going on here In Norway: 1814-2014) Advanced for its time Now: «Modernise» the HR «catalogue»? Commission (1/2012), different bills (9/2012), one definitive vote (in 2014?), 2/3 majority required Reactions: between euphoria and scepticism

4 International treaties as models for constitution-making International conventions in the field of HR are typically a compilation of rather sweeping formulations of rights and freedoms, in combination with rather sweeping formulations on the power to restrict (or to admit restrictions) Important parts (but not all) of the Norwegian drafts are constructed this way How about Iceland?

5 «Traditional» constitution-making Reasonable to use a similar technique in international law-making covering radically heterogeneous societies Should similar reasons command constitution- making? Tradition: A limited number of provisions that are reflecting National needs (natural resources?), Typically shorter and (seemingly) clearer, but subject to interpretation by courts (and others)

6 Restrictions/limitations? Sweeping clauses on the power to limit rights «protected» by the Constitution Iceland: Draft art. Art. 9 (2) Norway: Draft art. 115: «Enhver begrensning i rettigheter som er anerkjent i denne grunnlov, må være fastsatt ved lov og respektere kjernen i rettighetene. Begrensningen må være forholdsmessig og nødvendig for å ivareta [tungtveiende] allmenne interesser eller andres menneskerettigheter. Det kan ikke i noe tilfelle gjøres slike begrensninger i §§ 93, 94, 95, 96, 99 første punktum og § 105. Tilsvarende gjelder for § 97 ved spørsmål om straff.»

7 Unofficial (= my) translation «Any limitation of rights enshrined in the present Constitution must be built upon statute and respect the essence of those rights. The restriction must be proportional and necessary for securing [heavy- weighing] public interests or the human rights of others. In no case, such limitations may concern Articles 93-96, 99 (1) and 105. The same goes for Article 97 [on retroactivity] in questions regarding punishment.»

8 Some remarks on the draft If sweeping declarations that could hardly by applied according to their face value, a broad clause on exceptions may be justifiable. But: What is «public interests»/«the common good»? The draft addition («heavy-weighing»): Why? Does it provide much help? What is «proportional»? Which HR deserves priority in «hard cases»? First of all: Who decides …

9 Who decides? … when a restriction is acceptable? i.The law-maker (the Parliament)? But why then should we have «constitutional» protection? ii.Domestic courts? But: who ought to decide clear-cut political questions like what «public interests» actually command (or which one of two or more conflicting interests to prefer)? iii.a) International courts? But why then protection by the Constitution? iv.b) How about the «living instrument»: Who should change the Constitution’s meaning?

10 Some paramount questions How about popular sovereignty (Art. 2 of the draft constitution of Iceland)? How about the rule of law [Rettssikkerhet]? The quest for legal certainty/knowing in advance which rules to apply [forutberegnelighet]? by reading the relevant provisions without being entirely dependent of legal expertise (or expensive lawyers)? Do Constitutions need to repeat what flows from domesticated treaty-based rights?


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