Council of Europe must protect European Convention on Human Rights
(Brussels 23 January 2012) As the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) prepares to debate the authority and effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights, Amnesty International has urged PACE members to protect the right of individual application to the European Court of Human Rights and ensure it is fully preserved in any future Court reforms.
“Unless the 47 Council of Europe countries get serious about applying the Convention, respect for human rights in Europe is in jeopardy”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “National authorities must do better at implementing the Convention and the Court’s judgements. That’s how to prevent the backlog of cases from increasing again. The solution is absolutely not to follow British and Swiss suggestions to limit the Court’s jurisdiction or restrict public recourse to the Court.”
While the backlog of cases awaiting the Court’s attention has recently decreased, it struggles to match scarce resources to the volume of individual applications. Amnesty International believes the right of individual application should be fully preserved, and that rather than being portrayed as a problem, it should be seen as a fundamental guarantee of the effectiveness of the Convention’s protection system. The organisation asserts that restricting access to the Court risks denying justice to victims of human rights violations.
The Parliamentary Assembly, a statutory body of the Council of Europe (CoE), comprises members of all 47 national parliaments. On 24 January it will debate and vote on a draft resolution and recommendation on Guaranteeing the authority and effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights, based on a report by Marie-Louise Bemelmans-Videc on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs & Human Rights.
CoE countries are considering how to reform the European Court of Human Rights. Switzerland and the UK have made challenging proposals, which include adding a new admissibility criterion which would allow the Court to examine far fewer cases of human rights violation. The two countries have also proposed a sunset clause, which would allow some kinds of claim to be automatically rejected before any judicial decision was made.
The UK currently chairs the CoE Committee of Ministers, the main decision-making body. It aims to reach agreement on a package of measures to reform the Court by the end of its chairmanship in May. The British Prime Minister will address the Assembly on 25 January, following an address by the British Minister for Europe on 24 January.
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Amnesty International’s open letter to PACE members is available at:
The Committee on Legal Affairs and & Human Rights report Guaranteeing the authority and effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights is available at: http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/DocListingDetails_E.asp DocID=13646
See also related Amnesty International reports:-
Council of Europe: Comments on follow-up to the Interlaken and Izmir Declarations on the future of the European Court of Human Rights, AI Index: IOR 61/001/2012, 9 January 2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/IOR61/001/2012/en
Joint statement on the United Kingdom’s priorities and objectives for its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, AI Index: IOR 61/013/2011, 4 November 2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/IOR61/013/2011/en