Court of Human Rights key to protecting human rights across Europe
(Brussels, 7 November 2011) As the United Kingdom assumes the six-month chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the organisation’s main decision-making body, Amnesty International has urged the UK to guarantee the essential role of the European Court of Human Rights.
Among proposals for the Court’s future, and with the aim of tackling the increasing case backlog, are potentially damaging changes such as charging applicants fees, additional admissibility criteria, and increasing countries’ margin of appreciation. These proposals have arisen in the midst of a climate of greater opposition to the Court, particularly in the UK, the Netherlands and Russia.
“The Court’s independence and authority is essential for protecting human rights throughout Europe”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “Council of Europe member states must also do more to implement the European Convention on Human Rights nationally and ensure timely and full compliance with the Court’s judgements.Ensuring individuals can seek redress at home for human rights violations would be the best way to reduce the Court’s increasing backlog.”
During its chairmanship, the UK intends to seek agreement on further measures to reform the Court, which include ensuring the Court plays a subsidiary role where member states fulfil their obligations under the Convention and the Court leaves a wide margin of appreciation to national authorities in its judgements. In a joint NGO statement issued on the eve of the British chairmanship, Amnesty International and its NGO partners warned that these objectives must not result in restricting the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction.
“States must never allow the reform process to limit the Court’s mandate to assess compliance with the Convention. Respect for the role of the Court in protecting human rights under the Convention, and its independence and authority, must serve as guiding principles for any current and future reform of the Court”, said Beger.
The UK holds the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s main decision-making body, from 7 November until 14 May 2012. In its chairmanship programme the British Government committed itself to playing a leading role in the Council of Europe’s work promoting rights, democracy and the rule of law across the continent. As part of the overarching theme of promoting and protecting human rights, the British chairmanship will focus inter alia on reforming the European Court of Human Rights and strengthening implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Other key issues include reforming the Council of Europe, strengthening the rule of law, and combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Chairmanship programme issued by the British Government is available at: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp
To see the full statement concerning the British chairmanship programme Amnesty International issued jointly with NGO partners see:- http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/IOR61/013/2011/en.