Tuesday 26 April 2011

Joint NGO Statement for Izmir Conference

Today, the High Level Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights started in the Turkish city of Izmir. This two-day conference is a meeting of state representatives of all the parties to the European Convention and follows up on a similar conference in Interlaken last year. The main purpose is to take stock of the developments since then and to agree on any further steps to be taken. A consortium of human rights NGOs (including Amnesty International, Interights, EHRAC, Justice, Liberty, the Aire Centre, and the International Commission of Jurists) has issued a joint statement. These are the main points:

· the fundamental right of individual petition is preserved and not further curtailed by imposing a fee on applicants or adding additional admissibility criteria;
· there is an efficient, fair, consistent, transparent and effective screening of applications received, in order to identify the admissible applications from the very high proportion (around 90 per cent) of applications that are inadmissible under the current criteria;
· judgments are given within a reasonable time, particularly in cases where time is of the essence, or that raise repetitive issues where the Court’s case law is clear and those that arise from systemic problems;
· the Court, including its Registry, is given adequate financial and human resources, without adversely impacting the budgets of other Council of Europe human rights mechanisms and bodies.
Notably, the NGOs emphasize the following (following moves by some states to use Izmir as a platform to curtail the Court in some ways, such as extending the margin of appreciation): "The states should not view the independence of the Court as an obstacle to its reform, and should not allow the reform process to be used to put forward grievances against particular aspects of the Court’s jurisprudence." And: "Renewed efforts by states to implement the Convention in national law, policy and practice are now essential for effective application of the principle of subsidiarity, in accordance with the aims of the Interlaken Declaration. The principle of subsidiarity does not, by contrast, justify states placing inappropriate pressure on the Court with regard to its interpretation and application of the Convention."