ECtHR whip-round for extra lawyers to clear backlog
The European Court of Human Rights has appealed for voluntary contributions from member states to pay for extra lawyers to clear its backlog of cases – but no state has yet agreed to chip in.
The Council of Europe and the court’s president announced the opening of a special account for the court last week. The idea for a whip-round scheme emerged at the Brighton Declaration conference in April. Donor states will be able to stipulate that funds given by them should be used for a specific purpose, such as dealing with applications against them.
Some 2,000 priority applications to the court have been pending for more than a year without having been communicated to the relevant government for observations. A further 600 applications communicated to the relevant government more than two years previously are still pending before the court.
A statement by the Council of Europe’s secretary general Thorbjørn Jagland and the court’s president Sir Nicolas Bratza said: ‘Contributions paid into this account will be used where they will have the most effect, that is on the cases which have the most impact in terms of identifying and correcting serious human rights abuses throughout the Council of Europe countries, and particularly where the alleged victims have been waiting too long for a decision.’
The statement added that the new single judge procedure and the adoption of new working methods had already reduced the backlog of inadmissible cases and cut waiting time for applicants with inadmissible applications.
Despite ministers’ impatience with ECtHR procedures, the UK government appears in no hurry to contribute. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: ‘We support the setting up of this fund, but have not made any decision on whether we will contribute to it. At present the UK is one of the five major contributors to the Council of Europe, contributing 12% of its annual budget, which includes the court.’