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Draft Brighton Declaration: The European Court of Human Rights must not be marginalized

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
 
PRESS RELEASE
 
Draft Brighton Declaration: The European Court of Human Rights must not be marginalized
 
(Brussels, 8 March 2012) “The European Court of Human Rights must not be given a secondary role in the protection of human rights in Europe” says Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
 
As member states of the Council of Europe are at a critical stage in the negotiations over future reforms of the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International calls on European governments to protect the integrity and authority of the Court; and to fully guarantee individuals’ access to the Court to seek redress for violations of their human rights.
 
A strong Court, accessible to individuals who claim that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been violated, is essential for the protection of human rights in Europe”.
 
Under the United Kingdom’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the 47 member states of the organization initiated negotiations of the text of the so-called “Brighton Declaration” on Monday. Jointly with other leading human rights organizations, Amnesty International raised serious concerns over measures proposed by the UK chairmanship that would damage the integrity and authority of the Court and further restrict individuals’ access to the Court. 
 
“The draft contains some positive aspects, such as the need to strengthen national implementation of the Convention and the execution of the Court’s judgments. However it dangerously reduces the role of the Strasbourg Court to a minimum”.
 
In labelling the Court’s jurisdiction as merely “subsidiary” and in stating that states have a “considerable margin of appreciation” in how they apply and implement the Convention, the current draft of the Declaration undermines the Court’s capacity to hold states to account. While states have the primary responsibility to implement the Convention, the Court must be able to effectively supervise their adherence to the obligations of the Convention. It ultimately has to be the Court that gives the authoritative interpretation of the Convention and assesses the way states have complied with their obligations. Of particular concern are proposals from the United Kingdom, joined by Switzerland, to introduce new measures that would curtail the Court’s jurisdiction and bar individual access to the Court. 
 
In an open letter to the member states of the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and other civil society organizations have also condemned the complete lack of transparency surrounding the current negotiations of the draft Declaration. The UK Chairmanship refused to share the text with civil society, thus preventing it from effectively contributing to the discussions on the future of the Court. 
 
Background
 
The UK Chairmanship of the Council of Europe will hold a High Level Ministerial Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights in Brighton from 18 to 20 April 2012. This Conference will adopt the so-called “Brighton Declaration”, containing a package of measures for reforming the Court, including through proposed amendments to the European Convention on Human Rights. 
 
The first draft of the Declaration was circulated to member states on 23 February 2012, with the formal negotiations having started on 5 March 2012. 
 
For more information, see:
Joint NGO preliminary comments on the first draft of the Brighton Declaration on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights, AI Index: IOR 61/003/2012, 5 March 2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/IOR61/003/2012/en
Reform of the European Court of Human Rights: Open letter to all member states of the Council of Europe. Considerations of the drafts of the Brighton Declaration must include civil society, AI Index: IOR 61/004/2012, 8 March 2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/IOR61/004/2012/en
 
For more information please contact:
 
Peter Clarke 
Media & Communications Officer
European Institutions Office
Amnesty International
Tel: +32 (0) 2 548 2773                      
pclarke@amnesty.eu