PhD defenses 2022

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Accountability of the European Central Bank. Theory, Legal Framework and Practices - Ute Lettanie (14/11/2022)

PhD defense Ute Lettanie

  • 14 November 2022 - 17 uur
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Patricia Popelier
  • Physical attendance, after prior registration via this link.
  • For online participation, please register here.


Initiating the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) to fight the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the monetary policy transmission mechanism, the European Central Bank (ECB) pledged that ‘[t]he Governing Council will do everything necessary within its mandate.’(1) The question arises: Who holds the ECB to account to verify whether it stayed ‘within its mandate’? This is the core of this research.

The PEPP is an illustration that the ECB is willing, and to a certain point, capable to go beyond its non-majoritarian role. Generally, following the so-called ‘global financial crisis’ of 2007, we have witnessed (i) the expansion of the ECB’s monetary tools as it employed unconventional monetary policy; (ii) the establishment of the so-called ‘Troika’, in which the ECB plays a central role by exercising its subsidiary mandate to support to economic policies; (iii) and the development of a new legal construction, namely the ECB’s novel responsibility for banking supervision within the complicated framework of the European Banking Union (EBU).

Although the ECB’s accountability is not a new research subject, this research provides insights on this topical subject by looking not only at the legal provisions but also the related practices to keep the ECB accountable. In particular, the research examines five the accountability forums that hold the ECB to account: the European Ombudsman, the European Court of Auditors, the European Parliament, the Administrative Board of Review and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Moreover, the research takes a holistic approach because it assesses the ECB’s tasks in monetary policy, banking supervision as well as economic policy, affecting the ECB’s overall accountability and credibility.

This research demonstrates that the legal framework of accountability does not necessarily coincide with the accountability practices. Although the overall accountability of the ECB is not unacceptable, the ECB came to the foreground as the dominant actor in the accountability relationships. Hence, there is room for improvement and Treaty changes are imminent. In the meantime, we have to rely on the responsiveness of the ECB. This is essential for the ECB if it is to regain public acceptance after its role as a political actor since the crises. As a banking supervisor the ECB needs to reinforce its responsiveness while considering the importance of confidentiality. It seems that we have not reached these balances yet.

(1) ECB, ‘ECB announces €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP)’ (18 March 2020) <>.

Sharing economy in logistics: towards a legal framework for cooperation - Marta Kołacz (27/10/2022)

PhD defense Marta Kołacz 

  • 27 October 2022 - 10:30
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Wouter Verheyen, Xandra Kramer (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam), Frank Smeele (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam)
  • Joint PhD Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam & University of Antwerp - Public defense at EUR - Rotterdam


The project concerns co-operative logistics, particularly cargo bundling, that is, the practice of producing companies (shippers) consolidating cargo before the engagement of a carrier. The shippers agree to co-operate for a long period of time and to detect matching opportunities before shipment. Cargo bundling yields efficiency gains in logistics and can contribute significantly to the realisation of the EU sustainable transport policy goals that are included in, among others, the EU Sustainable and Smart Mobility of 2020. The co-operation can be governed by contracts or a mix of contracts and corporate structures. Furthermore, co-operation can be supported by specialised intermediaries who orchestrate transport.

The overarching research question of this thesis is as follows: which co-operation model would remove the legal obstacles to co-operation in cargo bundling? This question is related to two broad research objectives. The first is to identify contractual and regulatory solutions for companies that engage in cargo bundling (practical aim). The thesis thus seeks to respond to the limitations of the current understanding of different governance arrangements in logistics transportation networks.  The second objective of the research is to generate knowledge about the legal issues that affect multiparty contracts in transport and logistics (theoretical aim).

Compensation funds: their Nature, their Function and their Legality - Larissa Vanhooff (17/10/2022)

PhD defense Larissa Vanhooff

  • 17 October 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors : Thierry Vansweevelt & Britt Weyts


Compensation funds, created or recognised by the government, are mechanisms to help victims of certain accidents, disasters or other damage inflicting events, when the traditional compensation sources are not capable to fully compensate the victim.

Compensation funds have become increasingly important, proof of which are the sheer number of funds created over the years in a variety of domains of law: medical accidents, vaccination damage, natural disasters, motor accidents, asbestos-related health damage and more. With the advent of new risks came the need for new compensation mechanisms. The three traditional compensation sources – tort law, insurance and social security – are not always suited to cover damage resulting from these risks alone. Compensation funds are able to complement the traditional sources or in some extreme cases replace them.

As compensation funds become more important, the need for a fundamental analysis of their nature, function and legality grows. The purpose of this research is to analyse the nature and functioning of compensation funds and to know what role compensation funds (can) play in compensation law. Since compensation funds can have various shapes and several functions, they are very versatile. This versatility is reflected in the four research questions:

-          What are the advantages and disadvantages of compensation funds? Compensation funds are discussed in their totality and compared to the other compensation sources.

-          Do compensation funds offer sufficient procedural protection to applicants? Three procedural topics are examined: access to court, impartiality and independence and giving reasons.

-          Do compensation funds comply with the rules of anti-discrimination law? The creation of a fund leads per definition to a differential treatment of victims. This potential discrimination is tested on a procedural level, on the level of compensation and regarding the eligibility criteria.

-          Is concurrence with tort law, insurance, social security and other compensation funds allowed, and if so, can compensation from both sources be cumulated? This question has both a practical and fundamental value.

This PhD mixes legal analysis of legislation, case law and secondary sources such as literature and official websites and brochures from the compensation funds with horizontal comparison of the law of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK. The compensation funds have been chosen to give a good representation of the diversity and versatility of compensation funds.

The PhD concludes with practical recommendations towards lawmakers for current and future compensation funds.

Retention of title in secured transactions law from a creditor's perspective. A comparative analysis of selected (non-) functional approaches - Inge Van de Plas (23/09/2022)

PhD defense Inge Van de Plas

  • 3 September 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Melissa Vanmeenen


A key feature of the 2013 Belgian Security Rights Act is the functional approach, which aims at creating equivalent legal outcomes for functionally equivalent secured transactions in movable goods despite their potential conceptual differences. The inspiration for the functional approach was found in other jurisdictions, such as Article 9 of the UCC in the United States, and international reform instruments, such as the UNCITRAL legislative guide and model law on secured transactions and Book IX of the Draft Common Frame of Reference (DCFR).

Despite the enthusiasm of some states and international organizations to adopt the functional approach, some significant issues remain concerning its application. First, the application of the functional approach is not uniform. Some jurisdictions and instruments opt for a functional approach with recharacterization, in which retention of title is recharacterized to a PMSI or acquisition security right, while other international instruments opt for a functional approach without recharacterization, in which the name retention of title is maintained but equivalent legal outcomes are pursued between retention of title and functionally equivalent mechanisms. Furthermore, the impact of the functional approach on the rights of retention of title-creditors and on the overall coherence, predictability and clarity of secured transactions law is unclear. Finally, the functional approach is not the only method to regulate retention of title. For example, Germany adheres to a strict non-functional approach in which retention of title is not recharacterized or equated with other functionally similar mechanism. This alternative approach to t retention of title calls into question the use of the functional approach as reform method. These research problems resulted in the following overarching research question:

What is the meaning and role of the (Belgian) functional approach with regards to retention of title and what is its impact on retention of title-creditors?

Following a functional comparative research methodology, retention of title in the selected jurisdictions (i.e. the United States and Germany) and international instruments (i.e. UNCITRAL legislative guide and model law on secured transactions and Book IX of the DCFR) is analyzed and compared to retention of title in the Belgian Security Rights Act. Based on this analysis, (1) the selected functional approaches and its application to retention of title are clarified, (2) comparisons are made between retention of title in Belgium and retention of title in the selected jurisdictions and international instruments, (3) the application of the functional approach to retention of title is evaluated and (4) recommendations concerning the regulation of retention of title in Belgian law are formulated.  

Zorgplanning voor meerderjarige zorgenkinderen. Persoonsrechtelijke, familiaal(vermogens)rechtelijke en sociaalrechtelijke aspecten - Veerle Vanderhulst (2/9/2022)

PhD defense Veerle Vanderhulst

  • 2 September 2022 - 2 p.m. 
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Elisabeth Alofs (VUB) en prof. dr. Frederik Swennen (UAntwerpen)


This dissertation focuses on vulnerable adults and their parents. Whereas other children lead their lives independently as they grow older and reach adulthood, vulnerable adults need support from others. Often, it is the parents who fulfil the role of actual caregiver or who act as supervisor or care manager, which means that the parents are greatly involved in the well-being of their adult son or daughter. It may therefore not come as a surprise that parents often worry about the future. This is especially the case with regard to the time when the ageing parents will no longer be able to take care of their vulnerable child themselves or they die prior to their child. Sometimes the worry and despair is so great that parents express the wish that their child would die before them.

This dissertation examines which possibilities exist within current Belgian law for these parents to shape a plan for the future care of their vulnerable child. The aim of this plan is to guarantee lifelong care for the vulnerable adult in a legally enforceable manner, lasting after the death of the parents. In this dissertation the concept of ‘vulnerable adult’ is broadly interpreted: vulnerable adults can for example be persons with a physical, motoric, mental or sensory handicap, persons with a long-term illness or psychological health problems, persons with a drug, gambling or other addiction or persons who are physically or socially vulnerable. The research is carried out by crossing the boundaries of different legal areas, focusing on persons law, family (property) law and social law aspects of care planning. The dissertation is built around five possible objectives that the parent can aim for with his plan for the future care: 1° protect the vulnerable adult against himself; 2° facilitate the participation of the vulnerable adult in legal transactions; 3° protect the vulnerable adult against creditors; 4° provide the vulnerable adult with assets, income, services, housing or benefits in kind; 5° strengthen the social network of the vulnerable adult. The fourth objective also pays special attention to care planning aimed at obtaining or maintaining the social protection provided by the state.Care planning comes to the fore in this dissertation as a delicate balancing act in which different boundaries constantly interact with each other. The legislator, science of law, legal practice and legal users are invited to reflect on this interplay of boundaries:- the boundary between the objective and subjective need for care of vulnerable adults (whereby in social law one can argue for the abolition of categorical legal rules for vulnerable adults and in family property law one can argue for the introduction of categorical legal rules);- the boundary between ‘careship’ and ‘thirst for care’ (whereby ‘careship’ can be put forward as a new concept to denote the legal anchoring, facilitation and caring relationships that can replace the ‘thirst for care’ or the parent's desperate attempt to carve in stone a care plan for the adult child to be carried out for the further life of the care child in a rigid manner);- the boundary between family protection and social protection (whereby one may call for more in-depth examination of the interaction between the two);- the boundary between the family context and the legal context (whereby the practical effectiveness of some strategies discussed in this dissertation may be questioned when applied in a purely family context).Finally, this dissertation also pays considerable attention to identifying future lines of both broad and punctual research.

Transport services in the digital era. Consumer Protection and the Concept of ‘Mobility-as-a-Service' - Bregtje Dikker-Pavlovski (30/6/2022)

PhD Defense Bregtje Dikker-Pavlovksi

  • 30 June 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Wouter Verheyen


The emergence of online platforms has radically changed the services sector. In the platform economy for transport services, the 'Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)' model plays an important role. MaaS strives to offer mobility via an online platform that connects the demand side (passengers) with the supply side (available means of transport). Consumers can choose the quickest, cheapest or least polluting way to get from a to b. MaaS is thus expected to contribute to reducing congestion and pollution.

Over the past two decades, the EU has developed a comprehensive legal system that focuses, among other things, on protecting consumers from commercial manipulation and ensuring a safe and timely journey. Specific rules, pertaining to  inter alia small claims and alternative dispute resolution, strive to enable consumers to enforce their rights. However, the system is often not designed with the interference of platforms in mind. The central question in this thesis is therefore whether the current legal framework offers a high level of consumer protection when using transport services in the digital era. 

The thesis concludes that the level of consumer protection can indeed be improved. It is proposed, among other things, to enshrine the position of the (online) transport intermediary as well as the rights of passengers in case of multimodal journeys in the EU passenger rights acquis. It also highlights the great importance of both public and private enforcement mechanisms for consumers. After all, effective protection stands or falls with the enforceability of consumer rights in practice.

Kwaliteitscontrole doorheen de wetgevingscyclus - Laura Martens (29/06/2022)

PhD Defense Laura Martens

  • 29 June 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Patricia Popelier & prof. dr. Wim Marneffe (UHasselt)
  • Joint PhD  UAntwerp (Faculty of Law) and UHasselt (Faculty of Business Economics)


We leven in een snel veranderende maatschappij. De wetgever moet dit hoog tempo volgen en voorzien in wetgeving die aan de noden van de huidige maatschappij kan voldoen. Daarbij moet aandacht uitgaan naar de kwaliteit van de wetgeving. De wetgever schiet namelijk tekort wanneer wetgeving wordt vernietigd door het Grondwettelijk Hof of om andere redenen het vooropgestelde doel niet bereikt. Om de kwaliteit van wetgeving te garanderen, werden er specifieke instrumenten en procedures in het leven geroepen. Een voorbeeld hiervan is de reguleringsimpactanalyse (hierna: RIA). Dit instrument controleert of wetgeving nodig is en schat in of ze effectief zal zijn.

De concrete implementatie van deze instrumenten verschilt van land tot land. Zelfs binnen bepaalde rechtssystemen kan het toepassingsgebied van deze instrumenten variëren. Zo zijn de procedures in Vlaanderen om de kwaliteit van de wetgeving te bewaken niet dezelfde als de procedures op federaal niveau. De empirische component in dit onderzoek maakt een selectie noodzakelijk. Omdat het Vlaamse wetgevingsbeleid een voorloper is in België, maar de Vlaamse instrumenten - en de manier waarop de Vlaamse Regering hier mee omgaat - nog nooit uitgebreid werden onderzocht, focust dit doctoraatsproefschrift uitsluitend op de Vlaamse wetgevingscyclus. Niet alleen de empirische studie van de werking van de verschillende instrumenten in de praktijk maakt dit een uniek onderzoek. Ook de link tussen het Grondwettelijk Hof en de procedures zorgt voor een nieuwe invalshoek. Zo wordt nagegaan in welke mate het Hof effectief de verschillende instrumenten in rekening brengt bij de beoordeling van de proportionaliteit.

De instrumenten die de kwaliteit van de Vlaamse wetgevingscyclus bewaken, zijn de reguleringsimpactanalyse, de adviezen van de Raad van State en de adviezen van de strategische adviesraden. Wat betreft de impact van de RIA, bleek uit enquêtes en interviews dat de implementatie van de RIA zeer beperkt is, terwijl er wel een sterk geloof is in het potentieel ervan. Ook de impact van de adviezen van de strategische adviesraden was eerder beperkt in de praktijk. De decreetgever antwoordde op de helft van de gemaakte opmerkingen niet, ondanks de decretale verplichting hiertoe. Wat betreft het gebruik van de instrumenten voor en door het Grondwettelijk Hof, viel vooral de invloed van de adviezen van de Raad van State op te merken. Het gewicht van de adviezen van de strategische adviesraden en de reguleringsimpactanalyse op het uiteindelijke oordeel van het Grondwettelijk Hof was eerder beperkt.

De rol en de betekenis van de openbare orde in het burgerlijk procesrecht. Een zwanenzang - Frédéric Dupon (22/06/2022)

PhD Defense Frédéric Dupon

  • 22 June 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Stefan Rutten & prof. dr. Beatrix Vanlerberghe


De aard van de rechtsregels was lange tijd bepalend voor de omvang van de taak van de feitenrechter om er ambtshalve toepassing van te maken. In een klassieke leer mocht de rechter enkel rechtsregels van openbare orde ambtshalve toepassen, zelfs wanneer partijen de toepassing ervan hadden uitgesloten. Sedert 2005 wijzigde het Hof van Cassatie zijn rechtspraak op dit punt voor wat betreft het materiële recht. De aard van de materieelrechtelijke rechtsregel biedt niet langer het antwoord op de vraag of de rechter er ambtshalve toepassing van moet maken. Het antwoord op deze vraag vindt men aan de hand van de intensiteit waarmee partijen feiten in het debat brachten. De rechter is sedert 2005 namelijk verplicht om ambtshalve toepassing te maken van de rechtsregels waartoe de in het bijzonder aangevoerde feiten tot staving van de eis aanleiding gaven.

Deze evolutie ging voorbij aan de rechtsregels van procesrecht. Wanneer de proceswet geen eigen handhavingsleer op sanctieregeling voorschrijft, doet de rechtspraak nog steeds een beroep op de drieledige indeling van de rechtsregels om uit te maken of de rechter deze of gene rechtsregel van procesrecht ambtshalve moet toepassen dan wel er geen ambtshalve toepassing van mag maken. De aard van de rechtsregel bleef ook na 2005 van belang in het raam van het leerstuk van de ambtshalve toepassing van rechtsregels.

Sedert 2008 voltrok zich een belangwekkende wijziging in de rechtspraak van het Hof van Cassatie voor wat de rechtsregels van procesrecht betreft. Hoewel de eiseres tot cassatie een middel afleidde uit de miskenning van een rechtsregel van procesrecht van openbare orde, ging het hof niet over tot de vernietiging van de bestreden rechterlijke uitspraak, omdat deze uitspraak in overeenstemming met de conclusie van de eiseres tot cassatie was gewezen. De rechtspraak wekt verwondering op, aangezien het Hof van Cassatie in de mogelijkheid verkeerde om de miskenning van een rechtsregel van openbare orde te verhelpen, maar dit niet deed. Hoewel deze rechtspraak goedkeuring verdient, valt zij onmogelijk in te passen in de klassieke leer van de openbare orde, de drieledige indeling van de rechtsregels en de procesrechtelijke gevolgen ervan. Om die reden moet de toepassing van voornoemde – veeleer privaatrechtelijke – leerstukken in het procesrecht in twijfel worden getrokken.

Onderzoek van de belangrijkste rechtsregels van procesrecht wijst uit dat de rechtspraak deze rechtsregels doorgaans onderbracht in de drieledige indeling van de rechtsregels, louter met het oog op de realisering van de procesrechtelijke gevolgen die een klassieke leer aan deze of gene kwalificatie verbond. Vanuit een conceptuele invalshoek, valt de kwalificatie van een rechtsregel van procesrecht als van openbare orde, aanvullend of louter dwingend recht doorgaans niet te verantwoorden.

Het alternatief is een eigen geïndividualiseerde handhavingsleer en sanctieregeling voor rechtsregels van formeel procesrecht die een rechterlijke plicht tot ambtshalve toepassing van de rechtsregel verzoent met de rechtspraak van het Hof van Cassatie dat partijen geen cassatiemiddel kunnen afleiden uit de miskenning van een rechtsregel van procesrecht wanneer de bestreden beslissing in overeenstemming met hun conclusie werd gewezen. Deze geïndividualiseerde handhavingsleer en sanctieregeling dient uit te gaan van een unitaire opvatting van de proceswet en kan enkel door een ingrijpen van de wetgever tot stand komen.   

Ensuring reparation for arbitrary displacement: the role of international (quasi-) judicial mechanisms - Deborah Casalin (02/06/2022)

PhD Defense Deborah Casalin

  • 2 June 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Koen De Feyter


In ensuring reparation for arbitrary displacement, what role has been played by international (quasi-)judicial mechanisms, such as regional human rights courts and commissions and UN treaty bodies?

The rationale for examining this central research question is twofold:

Firstly, reparation for arbitrary displacement had been relatively under-examined from a legal/rights-based perspective, especially since the adoption of key soft law instruments in 2005, i.e. the Van Boven/Bassiouni Principles on reparation and the Pinheiro Principles on housing, land and property restitution. Given the protraction and scope of displacement situations globally, this aspect requires attention in addition to prevention, protection and assistance.

Secondly, international (quasi-)judicial mechanisms were also under-analysed as avenues for reparation for displacement, despite a wealth of relevant decisions resulting from displaced people’s claims. These bodies are permanent; allow access to individuals/groups; and are mandated to apply relevant norms and order/recommend reparation. This makes them particularly interesting fora for displaced people in contexts where reparation is unavailable domestically, and/or where there is insufficient political will for ad hoc reparation processes.

Different aspects of the central research question were approached via three sub-questions:

What could a comprehensive right to reparation for arbitrary displacement entail?To set out an analytical framework for the case law analysis, this sub-question was examined via a legal doctrinal study based on the right to reparation and the right not to be displaced (two emerging, comprehensive frameworks centred on the rights-holder).

How have the mechanisms’ decisions contributed to developing the scope of such a right?To examine how the mechanisms’ decisions have contributed to international law on displacement reparations, a systematic case law analysis was conducted on 70+ decisions on arbitrary displacement (broadly defined as coerced/involuntary population movement contrary to a norm of international law).

How have these decisions contributed to realizing reparation for displacement in practice?

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To gain insights into the role of the mechanisms’ decisions in specific displacement contexts, three desk-based case studies were conducted, focusing on the implementation phase of comprehensive and diverse displacement reparation decisions. These were: Moiwana v. Suriname (Inter-American Court, 2005 – conflict displacement); Endorois v. Kenya (African Commission, 2010 – development-induced displacement); IDG v Spain (CESCR, 2015 – forced evictions). The analysis focused on compliance and extra-compliance effects, as well as related contextual conditions. Sources included public documentation produced by official follow-up processes and stakeholders; academic and grey literature; and media reports.

Convention through States' Eyes: Embedding of the European Convention on Human Rights in States Parties - Sarah Lambrecht (31/5/2022)

PhD defense Sarah Lambrecht 

  • 31 May 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Patricia Popelier


The European Convention on Human Rights entered into force in 1953 at a time when Europe was a war-shattered continent. Since its creation, the European Court of Human Rights has issued close to 25,000 judgments and decided on around a million applications.

In her dissertation, Sarah Lambrecht explores the different ways States have embedded the European Convention on Human Rights in their legal systems, how well States comply with the Convention standards, and what factors explain why differences between States remain so significant.

Lambrecht first tracks how States have engaged with the development of the Convention system and how they have contributed to the consolidation of its core functions—individual justice, supervision of States and the setting of a European minimum standard of rights protection.

Next, she details the gradual embedding of the Convention system in national legal systems. Particular attention is paid to the evolutions that contributed to the rise in importance of the Convention system for the protection of fundamental rights in Europe, as well as the influence of the constitutional design and traditions of States on the embedding process.

In the third part, Lambrecht develops a model for measuring the level of embeddedness of the Convention system in Sates, both in law and in practice. Based on several indicators, she evaluates the level of legal embeddedness, as well as the performance of States before the European Court of Human Rights. Based on the findings of the first two parts, she also identifies the different factors—grounded in constitutional traditions and design, or beyond the law—that might affect the embedding process. In closing, she discerns several patterns and classifies these patterns in different models of embedding.

Lambrecht’s findings, based on a comparative study of 43 States Parties, show how the European Convention on Human Rights has never been more firmly embedded. Nevertheless, the consolidation of its embedding in national legal systems is under pressure due to criticism of overreach, political unwillingness to embrace limits on sovereignty and democratic backsliding. The more these counter-dynamics influence States’ behaviour, the likelier the deep level embedding of the Convention system will be affected.

The role of constitutional courts in furthering democracy in Latin America. The cases of Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico - Aída Araceli Patiño Álvarez (12/1/2022)

PhD defense Aída Araceli Patiño Álvarez

  • 12 January 2022 - 17 uur
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Patricia Popelier


Do constitutional courts created after the fall of the Berlin Wall (late third democratic wave) promote democracy by enforcing human rights? This question was approached from an empirical perspective. The cases of Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico were used to observe whether courts have been responsive to rights claims, what factors explain the responsiveness of courts and whether the judicial enforcement of rights has improved democratic performance. The analysis was based on a random sample of judicial decisions on human rights (amparo proceedings) issued since the creation of the courts in the 1990s until 2012. In total, 1 137 amparo judgments were analysed using statistical techniques.

The results reflect quite divergent behaviour of the courts when deciding human rights issues across the three countries. A strong commitment to human rights protection can be observed in Colombia (a hybrid regime) and in Costa Rica (a stable democracy) while in Mexico (a hybrid regime) the sample shows a high rate of dismissals and the lowest number of cases in which protection was granted. The findings confirm that a legal opportunity structure is the key factor in explaining the responsiveness of courts to rights claims. In Colombia and Costa Rica, where the rules of admissibility and procedure materialise the right to an effective remedy, the courts respond more assertively to rights claims. In Mexico, in contrast, amparo proceedings are expensive and inaccessible to the population at large due to complex procedures and strict rules.
Contrary to what has been argued in previous studies, external factors, such as the economic, political or social context, are not linked to how courts decide. For example, the case of Colombia demonstrated that high levels of violence and political instability did not prevent the court from being highly active in the protection of rights. Finally, the exploratory study of the relationship between the judicial enforcement of rights and democratic performance revealed that courts contribute to democracy to a very small extent.

Based on these findings, I argue that constitutional courts in hybrid regimes can be catalysts of democracy. Crucially, a legal opportunity structure is a prerequisite in order to facilitate access to justice. In addition, courts are required not only to decide cases at an individual level, but also to identify structural problems rooted in a systematic violation of rights, adopt a deliberative approach by issuing measures to prevent further human rights violations, pave the way for a public debate with those who were not heard in the decision-making process and implement a monitoring system for the enforcement of judgments open to public scrutiny.