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Human rights law as social control

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JournalEuropean journal of criminology
DateAccepted/In press - 23 May 2019
Original languageEnglish


Criminologists have long used the concept of social control to consider the ways in which societies respond to individuals or groups regarded as deviant or problematic. Although it is generally recognized that law and its enforcement is a cornerstone of social control, there is very little research on how human rights law might fulfil a social control function. Through an examination of a purposive sample of cases adjudicated by the European Court of Human Rights, we show how human rights law can facilitate forms of upward, inward and downward social control in contemporary societies. Our overall conclusion is that human rights law enables, produces and shapes contemporary practices of social control, often with significant and far-reaching consequences.

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