Friday 27 January 2012

The Court's Annual Report 2011

Today, at the opening of the judicial year in Strasbourg, the Annual Report and an overview of facts and figures for 2011 were presented. This includes a table of violations (by country). It reveals that the top five of countries against which judgments were issued are: Turkey (174 judgments), Russia (133), Ukraine (105), Greece (73) and Romania (68). If there would not only be credit ratings for countries, but also judicial ratings, these numbers would be a good starting point, especially considering that most of the violations found relate to unfair trials, overly lengthy judicial proceedings and lack of effective remedies (Articles 6 and 13 ECHR).

Very helpfully, the Annual Report includes an overview of the main judgments and decisions of 2011 - for anyone who spent a year in splendid isolation or for those who want to get a quick update on the Court's work. This also shows the productivity of the Court: slightly less judgments and more decisions. As the report states:

In 2011 the Court delivered a total of 1,157 judgments, compared with 1,499 judgments delivered in 2010. In fact, in 2011 a greater number of applications were resolved by a decision. 875 judgments were delivered by Chambers and 269 by Committees of three judges. 13 judgments on the merits were delivered by the Grand
Chamber. 1,860 applications were declared inadmissible or struck out of the list by Chambers.

In 2011, 46.6% of all judgments delivered by a Chamber were categorised as being of high or medium importance in the Court’s caselaw database (HUDOC)2. All Grand Chamber judgments are of highlevel importance in HUDOC. In 2011, those judgments classed as importance level 1 or 2 represented 36.39% of all judgments delivered
during the year, a slight increase when compared with the figure of 32.5% from the previous year. As to the rest, 736 judgments concerned so-called “repetitive” cases with a low level of importance (level 3).

The majority of decisions published in 2011 in the Court’s case-law database concerned so-called “repetitive” cases.
In the press conference yesterday, the president of the European Court, Sir Nicolas Bratza, noted the successes - amongst others an increase of 30% of applications disposed of under the Single Judge filtering mechanism since the implementation of Protocol 14 - but also issued two cautionary notes. One on the position of human rights in general:

Human rights, the rule of law and justice seem to be slipping down the political agenda in the current economic climate. It is in times like these that we must remember that human rights are not a luxury and that the burden of their protection must be a shared one. We must continue to ensure that the Court remains strong, independent and courageous in its defence of the European Convention on Human Rights. But, of equal importance is the fact that the Court should be able to assume the supervisory role for which it was designed. This it can only do with the help of the 47 European governments which have ratified the Convention.

And one on the atttitude of state parties towards the Court:

Its independence and authority should not be undermined and that criticism by governments, even where legitimate, should rely on reasoned argument rather than emotion and exaggeration.
See also the reporting in the Guardian in the overview article 'European Court of Human Rights: which countries get the most judgments?'.