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Article

Judges as Readers, Authors and Dialecticians: Legal Interpretation in the ECtHR Cases on Mental Disability

International Journal for the Semiotics of Law. 2016. Vol. 29. No. 3. P. 557-575.

The wording of major human rights texts—constitutions and international treaties—is very similar in those provisions, which guarantee everyone the right to family, privacy, protection against discrimination and arbitrary detention, and the right to access the court. However, judges of lower national courts, constitutional judges and judges of the European Court of Human Rights often read the same or seemingly the same texts differently. This difference in interpretation gives rise not only to disputes about the hierarchy of interpretative authorities, but to more general disputes about limits of judicial construction and validity of legal arguments. How it may happen, that the national courts, which apply constitutional provisions or provisions of national legislative acts, which are seemingly in compliance with the international human rights standards, come to different results with the international judges? Do they employ different interpretative techniques, share different values or develop different legal concepts? Do international judges ‘write’ rather than ‘read’ the text of the Convention? Who is, in Plato’s terms, a name-giver and who has a power to define the ‘correctness’ of names? The answers to these questions from the rhetorical and semiotic perspectives are exemplified by the texts of the judicial decisions on the rights of persons with mental disabilities. © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht