Creating a fairer Britain
7 November 2011
On Monday 7 November 2011, the United Kingdom began its 6 month chairmanship of the Council of Europe (CoE)’s Committee of Ministers, where it will be prioritising the reform of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
The EHRC shares the view of the government that this is 'an opportunity for the UK to play a leading role in the vital work of the Council of Europe in promoting rights, democracy and rule of law across the continent.'
It also welcome the focus that the UK government is putting on reform of the Court and encourages the UK government and the other Council of Europe members to support the essential role that the Court plays in guaranteeing justice for the 800million people under its jurisdiction.
The EHRC welcomes the focus on strengthening implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights at the national level; it is only by ensuring effective national implementation of the Convention that the caseload of the Court can be addressed, and rights better protected across Europe. The Commission encourages the UK to focus its presidency on work with other Council of Europe member states to ensure better implementation of the Convention and the Court's judgments at national level.
However, the EHRC is concerned to ensure that the reforms of the Court do not limit access to justice for individuals. Along with the other A status National Human Rights Institutions in Europe, the EHRC argues that that there should be no curtailment of the right to individual petition where there is evidence of breach a of the Convention. It is also concerned that some suggested measures to improve the efficiency of the Court and strengthen subsidiary may actually restrict the ability of the Court to hear cases where there may be a human rights violation. It is essential that the Court remains able to consider whether a breach of the Convention has occurred, including when cases have been considered by the national courts.
For those in the UK, the real danger is that the Human Rights Act could be watered down by the UK government at the very same time as it is arguing that the crucial protections provided by the European Court should be eroded.