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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Temple International and Comparative Law Journal
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Title of proceedings Temple International and Comparative Law Journal

Open Access

Abstract

What explains the difference between court practices? This article attempts to address this question by looking at the relation between legal cultures and practices through the lenses of practice theory. In particular, it focuses on public hearings as distinct courtroom practices at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). I examine the inclusiveness of their public hearings, assessing the extent to which victims and civil society groups may actively participate in the hearings. To do so, I rely on existing literature and evidence gathered through on-site visits and a series of interviews conducted at the ECtHR and the IACtHR. I show the circular relation between legal cultures and practices with a twofold analysis. First, these courts were created in different historical contexts in response to different societal needs. The self-image that they held at their inception has since served as a creation myth. This myth has largely shaped their institutional practices to this day. Second, the persistence of these practices – despite changing circumstances – has helped keep this creation myth and self-image alive. This empirically informed analysis sheds light on public hearings, and furthers our understanding of sociology of international courts.
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