Reform of the European Court of Human Rights

Introduction

INTERIGHTS takes an active role in ongoing discussions and debates concerning reform of the European Court of Human Rights (‘the Court’). Drawing on its considerable experience of litigating cases before the Court, INTERIGHTS seeks to safeguard and develop the right to individual petition, while attempting to promote greater effectiveness and efficiency of the workings of the Court.

Click here to read INTERIGHTS submission in response to the consultation on the Long Term Future of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Reform proposals

Protocol 15

INTERIGHTS is part of a joint NGO statement arguing that Protocol 15 to the European Convention on Human Rights must not result in a weakening of human rights protection. On 24 June 2013, as Protocol 15 was opened for signature by Council of Europe member states, Amnesty International, the AIRE Centre, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, INTERIGHTS, the International Commission of Jurists, JUSTICE, Open Society Justice Initiative and REDRESS stressed that the amendments to the Convention foreseen by this Protocol must not be allowed to result in a weakening of the Convention system and human rights protection in Europe.

The Brighton Declaration

In November 2011, the UK assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, culminating in a High Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights, held in Brighton on 19-20 April 2012. At this conference, Council of Europe member states concluded the Brighton Declaration and exchanged views on national implementation. During the months leading up to the conference, INTERIGHTS, together with other international and domestic NGOs, monitored the reform discussions and published periodic joint statements on the emerging proposals. We attended the Brighton conference and our views were represented by partner organisations speaking on behalf of the coalition during the roundtable discussion on the Declaration and the exchange of views on national implementation.

Key documents

20 April 2012: final Brighton Declaration agreed.

13 April 2012: INTERIGHTS and ten other human rights organisations publish a joint statement on reform of the Court, as negotiations on the draft Brighton Declaration come close to conclusion.

20 March 2012: INTERIGHTS and eight other human rights organisations provide joint input to the ongoing negotiations on the draft Brighton Declaration.

5 March 2012: INTERIGHTS and six other human rights organisations provide written comments on the first draft of the Brighton Declaration.

4 November 2011: INTERIGHTS and eight other human rights organisations publish a statement regarding the United Kingdom’ priorities and objectives for its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, announced on 28 October 2011.

26 October 2011: INTERIGHTS and seven other human rights organisations send a joint letter in response to the Commission on a Bill of Rights’ interim advice to the UK Government on the European Court of Human Rights.

Previous reform discussions

Throughout 2008 and early 2009, INTERIGHTS, together with a number of other international NGOs, monitored the meetings of the Reflection Group (DH-S-GDR), a sub-body of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe charged with developing proposals for ensuring the long-term effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights. The group of NGOs presented their comments on the work of the reflection group during a half-day hearing held in March 2009. The comments included the NGOs’ views on the various proposals under discussion before the Reflection Group, including establishing a Statute for the Court, the use of the pilot judgment procedure and new procedures for filtering clearly inadmissible or repetitive applications. Many of these observations were reflected in the final Activity Report of the Reflection Group.

During the final part of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, INTERIGHTS, together with other partner organisations, played an active part in the process of preparation for the Ministerial Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights, which took place in Interlaken, Switzerland on 18-19 February 2010. The meeting was concluded with the adoption of a joint Declaration setting out an action plan for the reform of the Court and a timetable for implementing the action plan. In the run-up to the conference the coalition of NGOs, of which INTERIGHTS is part, provided comments on the successive drafts of the Declaration. In addition, a statement setting out the vision of civil society for the reform process was issued, which was subsequently endorsed by 156 organisations from 36 Council of Europe Member States.

Key documents

10 January 2012: INTERIGHTS and six other human rights organisations provide written comments as part of the Council of Europe’s follow-up to the Interlaken and Izmir Declarations

19 February 2010: Joint Interlaken Declaration

11 December 2009: Joint NGO appeal statement (in English and in French) and list of signatories.

Fees

INTERIGHTS has opposed proposals to introduce fees for individuals who file an application to the Court. We are pleased that this proposal was not included in the final Brighton Declaration. As part of our work with other NGOs relating to reform of the Court, we signed a statement opposing the fees proposal in October 2010.

Imposing a fee on applicants to the Court would deny victims of human rights violations access to justice, based on their ability to pay. Administering a fee system could drain the Court of human and financial resources while deterring individuals – based on their economic standing – with well-founded human rights claims from seeking redress before the Court.

Judicial Appointments

INTERIGHTS’ work in this area has included:

In the course of 2007 and early 2008, 21 of the 47 judges of the Court were considered for election. Building on its previous work regarding the process for the nomination and election of judges which culminated in the 2003 expert report, INTERIGHTS worked with local partners to review the most recent nomination and election processes. Represented by the Chair of our Board, Jeremy McBride, our observations on the process and recommendations for improvements were presented at a special hearing of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in early June 2008. The memorandum prepared for this occasion focused on the domestic part of the process for the nomination of the judges to the Court. While highlighting some examples of good practice, INTERIGHTS noted that the domestic processes in some States did not comply with the fundamental principles of transparency, fairness and consistency. Such shortcomings are detrimental for the credibility of the Court and are likely to negatively affect citizens’ trust and confidence in the primary institution for the protection of human rights in Europe.

Contacts

For further information on INTERIGHTS’ work in this area contact Joanne Sawyer, Litigation Director