Strasbourg reform ‘watered down’

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The coalition’s blueprint for the reform of Europe’s human rights court in Strasbourg achieved only limited changes after proposals to help clear the backlog of more than 150,000 cases were watered down or removed during negotiations.

Proposed sanctions against states that persistently fail to execute the court’s judgments were scrapped, as were plans to appoint more judges to help handle the caseload, lawyers said. The Brighton declaration on the future of the European Court of Human Rights, adopted by the 47 member states of the Council of Europe last week, sets out a framework for ensuring that states properly implement the European Convention on Human Rights within their own jurisdictions.

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A proposal to amend the convention to include the principles of ‘subsidiarity’ and the ‘margin of appreciation’ was rejected.

However, the conference adopted the declaration’s least controversial proposal - to reduce the time limit to apply to the court from six months to four. It also adopted a tightening of admissibility criteria.

Law Society vice-president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: ‘We are glad to see that individual petition remains the cornerstone of the system and that there are no longer plans to place further limits on admissibility. We regret that the declaration has removed proposals for fines or sanctions against states that don’t execute court judgments.’ Also, provisions for giving states technical assistance and guidance on implementation of judgments had been ‘watered down’, she said.

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