Europe’s New Tyrant: The European Court of Human Rights?

Protesters hold placards during a rally before the European Court of Human Rights on April 9.

Europe’s New Tyrant: The European Court of Human Rights?

Your government may soon impose higher taxes, stop you from heating your home, limit your driving, and rob you of your freedom—and there’s nothing you can do about it at the ballot box. A new ruling from the European Court of Human Rights will force European governments to impose tough environmental laws, no matter what voters say.

A group of older women brought a case against Switzerland. They argued that climate change causes heat waves, and heat waves disproportionately affect older people and women; therefore, Switzerland has to do something about it.

The Swiss government has a strong case. Switzerland’s Constitution requires the government to put big decisions to the people in the form of referenda. In 2021, voters rejected a set of climate change measures; they accepted a different set of regulations in 2023.

Until now they’ve been in the driver’s seat. But the European Court of Human Rights has more power than the Swiss Constitution or Swiss voters. And it ruled that more climate policies must be enacted.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with having a set of fundamental principles that voters cannot overhaul. America’s Founding Fathers feared “tyranny by majority”—if voters can do anything they like, they could pass a law requiring genocide against a particular minority or the banning of a certain religion. So the founders set up the Constitution and Bill of Rights, listing a few fundamental rights voters cannot overturn in a simple majority vote.

The European Convention of Human Rights creates a much larger set of rights. Adjudicating it is the European Court of Human Rights, with judges appointed by national legislatures. These judges have little regard for what national law actually says, and instead impose their opinions on the entire Continent. Half of the 46 judges have never served as a judge in a lower court. Eleven were lawyers. One judge served as the “gender equality rapporteur” at a Council of Europe committee.

A group of 2,000 women in their 70s took the Swiss government to this court, claiming that insufficient climate change regulation violated their basic human rights, particularly their “right to respect for private and family life.” They alleged that climate change would lead to hotter heat waves, which disproportionally affect older women. The court agreed, ruling that the convention “encompasses a right to effective protection by the state authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life.”

It’s nonsense. The court has decided:

  • Climate change is happening.
  • It is caused by human beings.
  • Government regulations can stop it.

Every one of those judgments is debatable. Often, climate change regulation in the West leads to more government control and more pollution. Laws on industry mean factories move to China and ship their goods west. China’s carbon dioxide output has doubled in the last decade. Other environmental laws are simply counterproductive: Bans on single-use plastic bags, for example, have increased the amount of plastic thrown away. Heavy-handed government regulation often does the opposite of its intent.

Then consider the fact that many more elderly die of cold than of heat: One study concluded that Europe has over 200,000 excess deaths due to cold each year, but only 20,000 due to heat. Applying the court’s logic, European governments should actually be forced to pollute as much as possible, since a warmer climate would save more European lives.

But the court had a political agenda and cut the law to match. It will take time, but this will impact everyone in Europe. Even the United Kingdom, though out of the European Union, is under the European Court of Human Rights.

More is coming. “This is only the beginning of climate litigation,” said environmental activist Greta Thunberg. The court voted 16:1—this extreme judicial activism wasn’t even controversial.

Norway is being taken to court for issuing new oil and gas licenses. A man with multiple sclerosis, whose health suffers when it is hot, is taking Austria to court. National courts across Europe will have to follow this precedent. Activists could soon go after businesses as well as governments. It could even affect rulings from the International Court of Justice and set precedents for the world.

How many more areas of life will the European Court of Human Rights wade into? The court has already prevented nations like Britain from taking action against migration. Now they are imposing climate change regulation. What will be next? The court is rapidly becoming the highest power in Europe.

Escape is not easy. The court holds the convention to be a “constitutional instrument of European public order” and holds itself above European constitutions. Germany has pushed back, insisting its constitution and constitutional court are superior. It is also enshrined in several international treaties. The EU is legally obliged to join the European Convention on Human Rights and has incorporated the convention into EU treaties. For EU members, getting out from under the court could mean quitting the EU.

The European Convention on Human Rights was created after World War ii to stop another return to dictatorship and lawlessness. By setting themselves up as the absolute power and refusing to be constrained by law, they are becoming the new tyrants. But they endanger Europe in another way.

The convention’s rulings on immigration have caused real harm to country after country. So France has hit upon a novel solution: Break the law. Last October, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that France would deport dangerous criminals without waiting for the court to rule. If the court decided those deportations were illegal, then the government would just pay the fine.

Europe needs a basic constitutional law, absolute fundamental rights that cannot be infringed. But by twisting the European Convention to impose unpopular policies on voters, the European Court is discrediting constitutional law and the rule of law itself.

At best, the court is destroying the safeguards designed to prevent another tyranny. At worst, they’re becoming the tyrant themselves.

European nations have generally been democratic for the last 80 years. People take that democracy for granted—perhaps that’s why few are worried about these safeguards.

There are good reasons not to take this for granted.

In 1945, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that Germany would rise again after the war as part of “a European union.” In 1959, he wrote, “This coming union … is first to start as an economic system with very great prosperity. Later it is to become a political union.” He said that it would develop a “common currency” and that fear of the Russian military “will be the spark to bring the heads of nations in Europe together.”

But then he said they would go even further. He wrote that “a politically and militarily united Europe is coming!”

Unified by the Catholic Church, this new military power will be a major force in the world.

European nations are becoming “distrustful of America and thinking more and more about uniting themselves into a united states of Europe,” he wrote in March 1950. To do that, they need a “new supreme leader—the successor of Adolf Hitler—to rise up and assert himself and take command.”

This a crucial next step for Europe—the rise of an undemocratic strongman.

In eroding the rule of law, the European Court of Justice is aiding this development.

Mr. Armstrong was able to make these specific, accurate predictions because they were based on Bible prophecy. Few would look to the Bible to forecast news today. But the results speak for themselves.

To understand why Mr. Armstrong was able to forecast these events and know what the Bible says is next, read our Trends article “Why the Trumpet Watches the Rise of a German Strongman.”