This study engages in qualitative, cross-sectional and comparative country analysis to examine what conceptually distinct domain is occupied by the supranational human rights model in Europe and whether there exits variations and similarities when contexts change. The research targets politicians, apex court judges and human rights lawyers in five countries: United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria and Ireland. Further research in Strasbourg, the home of the European human rights system, with government representatives, lawyers and judges, support the country analyses.
The study defines four subworlds in identifying the sample for the study: members of parliaments, apex court judges, human rights lawyers in domestic contexts and judges, government representatives and lawyers at the European Court of Human Rights. Not only the interests of the governments, but these subworlds constitute the institution of supranationalism in the case of the European human rights system. The reason to focus on the actors that engage in the practice rather than the random population of lawyers, judges and politicians is because the meaning and practice of supranationalism is sustained and distinguished by other international practices by these actors. The study, therefore, undertakes, purposive sampling of these actors rather than random sampling from the whole population of politicians, judges and lawyers in domestic contexts. A secondary assumption with respect to the sampling is that membership in the social worlds of politics, apex judiciary and human rights lawyering have the ability to overcome the temporal and personal nature of the in-depth interview technique. Participation in social worlds enables individuals to develop shared and interpretive schemes of understanding. This makes it possible to analyse the data in terms of disagreements between categories and meanings of concepts rather than disagreements between persons. The study, however, is sensitive to the differences of the social positions interviewees occupy. The data analysis, therefore, pays attention to variations between politicians, judges and lawyers as well as variations between politicians from ruling parties and others.
The country selection is driven by the concern to capture variation in understanding the meaning and significance of supranationalism. The study also seeks to increase the encountering of ‘negative instances’ and alternative or competing normative meanings of human rights supranationalism. It is therefore equally important to identify what kinds of contexts breed support as well as rejection of and indifference towards supranationalism and the contexts that enable instrumental concerns to become more dominant than non-instrumental ones.
The five countries selected vary in terms of
a) their length of participation in the European human rights system
b) the number of cases that have been brought against them
c) domestic legal systems
d) membership to other international and regional organisations
e) size and population of country
f) diversity of the population on ethnic, religious, linguistic grounds
g) economic and social development
h) where ruling political parties fall in the political spectrum
Comparing few countries achieves control through careful selection of cases. Since the five countries constitute units of analysis with respect to the case of the European Court of Human Rights, the focus will be on similarities and differences among different units rather than the analytic relationship between variables in all units. The variation in the countries enables the identification of whether there are properties of supranationalism that are constant in all the contexts under analysis and if and when there is variation, what underlying systems of meaning constitute key explanatory factors for the support of different degrees or forms of supranationalism.