Human rights and “value jurisprudence”

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Author: Nataliya Varlamova

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2022-6-11-45

Keywords: human rights; constitutional review; constitutional values; religious values; national constitutional identity; judicial reasoning; European Court of Human Rights; EU Court


In the modern doctrine of constitutionalism, there is a clear tendency to abandon its purely positivist understanding. The requirements of constitutionalism are filled with value content, and the axiological approach to the interpretation of traditional constitutional categories becomes almost dominant. All legal concepts and constructions are interpreted as values. Values are treated as universal equivalents and synonyms. Meanwhile, value is a concept from the sphere of philosophy, ethics and psychology; it has its own nature and, by virtue of this, is irrelevant to law. Values are not universal, but relative and subjective. They are incommensurable among themselves. Adherence to them is often irrational and very significant for the individual. All of this leads to the low regulatory potential of values. Conflicts of values are insoluble on a rational basis. Appealing to values in disputes about human rights increases the conflictual potential of the problem, because any restrictions come to be perceived very painfully. At the same time, a value-based interpretation of human rights significantly complicates the use of traditional ways of determining the validity of restrictions on their realization, and in particular, of the proportionality test. As a result, judicial reasoning is largely arbitrary. On the basis of an analysis of concrete cases the article reveals the strategies of “treatment of values” used in judicial practice for overcoming these problems. Conventionally, these strategies can be called the reinterpretation of values in order to give them a universal meaning; the elimination of values, i.e., their removal from the legal dispute; and the juridification of values, which involves their transformation into principles. The author shows that courts tend to prefer to “walk away” from the value discourse and consider the problem by operating with traditional legal concepts and constructions. In this regard, the doctrinal commitment to value-based interpretation in constitutional law is surprising. It would be much more effective to focus on the purely legal aspects of the problems encountered and to seek the most value-neutral ways of solving them. The principles of law are supra-positive legal standards. Relying on them provides ample room for judicial discretion but also places limits on it, since these principles, assuming the variability of specific legal decisions, substantially delineate their framework.

About the author: Nataliya Varlamova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Leading Research Fellow of the Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Varlamova N. (2022) Prava cheloveka i “yurisprudentsiya tsennostey” [Human rights and “value jurisprudence”]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 31, no. 6, pp. 11–45. (In Russian).


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