Saturday, 28 April 2007

When success becomes a curse

The European Court of Human Rights has become a victim of its own success. Rapid expansion of the Council of Europe membership into Central and Eastern Europe and growing awareness among individuals of human rights standards have led to a huge case-load for the Court.

Last year the Court gave 1,560 judgments and dismissed or struck out 28,000 applications, but around 50,000 new applications were made to the Court.

Thus, the situation is quickly worsening. At the beginning of 2007 there were 90,000 cases undecided.

In the long term the member countries should be able to secure the rights and freedoms they have promised to respect in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and their judicial systems should manage to uphold the rule of law, but today there are serious problems in some of the newer member countries in the East.

The European Court of Human Rights is supposed to be a last safety net, “after all domestic remedies have been exhausted”, but now the Court is all too often called upon to remedy grave, systematic deficiencies on the national level. In the short run something has to be done to help the Court.

The Court has tried to streamline its procedures internally and the Council of Europe has looked for resources and remedies, but the situation is still dramatic.

Ralf Grahn