European Court of Human Rights is no small claims court
(Brussels, 22 February) Following the British Government’s growing criticism of the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International has appealed for support for the Court, which is one of the world’s most developed human rights protection mechanisms. British Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed reforming the Court, but Amnesty International is concerned that the British proposals are misguided and would represent a net loss for human rights.
“David Cameron is short-changing the Court’s role by calling it a ‘small claims court’. Changes to the Court mustn’t be allowed to compromise the essential right of access to the Court”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “The case for reform is based on the myth that the Court is somehow paralysed by its case load. In fact the Court is making important progress in tackling its backlog of cases.”
The Strasbourg Court issued full judgments in 1,500 cases last year; 85% of which found human rights violations. Generally, these cases involved violations to such rights as fair trial rights or freedom from torture or other ill-treatment.
Amnesty International believes the proposals tabled by the UK and Switzerland are more harmful than effective. It believes that a serious restriction of the Court’s accessibility would probably result from the proposals' implementation, as people would no longer be able to take cases to the Court. While inadmissible cases are a burden familiar to most judicial systems, Amnesty International believes they cannot be used to justify artificially limiting access to the Court, with potentially damaging consequences for human rights protection in Europe.
The Court is already taking steps to ensure inadmissible cases are dealt with resourcefully. Amnesty International considers that the Court should be given the support it needs, including financial support, to ensure it can address its backlog. The organisation believes there is insufficient effort at national level, which the Court also emphasised in its Opinion on Monday. Amnesty International joins the Court’s call for Council of Europe member states urgently and effectively to tackle the root causes of repetitive cases and target the structural and endemic situations which generate such cases. It also believes all countries should be making greater efforts to implement the Court’s rulings, especially in the cases of Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia and Turkey, which in 2011 accounted for most of the Court’s judgments finding violations.
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