Jean-Paul Costa, a life at the service of human rights and the European idea

“Nothing is possible without people, nothing is sustainable without institutions”, affirmed Jean Monnet in his Memoirs. The career of Jean-Paul Costa, State Councilor and former President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), particularly illustrates the extent to which the strength of institutions depends on the commitment and talents of those who serve.

His sudden disappearance on April 27, in the Dordogne, at the age of 81, caused intense emotion, not only in France, but also beyond our borders, and especially on the European continent. This emotion is not surprising, as he was so respected by all those who, imbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment, are attached to European ideals and human rights.

Read the portrait (2009): Jean-Paul Costa, the last resort

After a brilliant education at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, the Faculty of Law and the National School of Administration (ENA), Jean-Paul Costa joined the Council of State in 1966, as auditor. He spent a long and rich part of his career there. As Daniel Labetoulle, his former clmate from the Montesquieu promotion at the ENA, points out, if “it is the priority interest given to the jurisdictional function that dominates [sa] career “Jean-Paul Costa “remains imbued with the fact that the jurisdictional and advisory activities are intimately linked to it”.

He was thus general rapporteur of the report and studies section, under the chairmanship of Guy Braibant. But it was mainly through the judicial functions that he exercised there (in particular government commissioner and president of the 10ᵉ sub-section from 1993 to 1998) that Jean-Paul Costa marked the Council of State and the administrative jurisdiction with his singular imprint. , both respectful of the prerogatives of public power and concerned with the effective respect of individual freedoms; at the same time, deeply attached to the values ​​of the Republic and convinced that the horizon of the rule of law is projected on a European scale.

Public commitment

A pioneer in various fields of public action, he thus invested himself as a pioneer in the field of new technologies (in particular as Deputy Director General of the Intergovernmental Bureau for Informatics, a UNESCO body in Rome, and President of the Legal Observatory of Information Technologies, from 1988 to 1990) and contributed to developing the transparency of the administration by chairing the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents, from 1995 to 1998.

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