Wednesday, 25 April 2012

New Belgian Judge Elected

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Assemble of the Council of Europe elected the new European Court of Human Rights judge in respect of Belgium. From the three candidates, Paul Lemmens received a majority of votes cast (85 out of 158). Of the three candidates (see their CV's here) Lemmens, who is a professor at the Human Rights Centre of Leuven University, is the one with the most extensive ECHR expertise. Apart from being an academic who has written a lot on the ECHR and human rights more generally, Lemmens also has practical experience, foremost as a member of the Belgian Council of State and a member of the Human Rights Advisory Panel in Kosovo (one of the only areas currently falling outside of the geographical scope of the ECHR). He has litigated at the European Court both on behalf of applicants and on behalf of the government. Finally, he has been an ad hoc judge in four cases before the European Court. He thus seems to be very qualified (which I can also attest from various academic conferences which I attended in which he participated in nuanced and thoughtful ways).

As to a remarkable point in the procedure, on which I reported earlier, the following can be added. In the letter presenting the three candidates, the Belgian government stated the following about the fact that the list of candidates included men only:

However, since the current list does not contain a female candidate, we are aware that is admissible only by way of an exception, having regard to the special circumstance of the case. It should be noted in this connection that the State not only made a public call for candidatures widely published in the Official Gazette and the special-interest press and open for a month, but also required all candidates who responded to undergo an interview without short-listing on the basis of the CV. Lastly, at the interview, under arrangements available for your consultation, steps were taken to have the qualifications and experience of all candidates of both sexes assessed in such a way that their applications could be considered on equal terms.

It emerged from the interview that the sole female candidate to come forward did indeed meet the requirements of competence stipulated by Article 21, paragraph 1, of the Convention, but like other candidates also meeting the requirement of competence, could be classed as not possessing equivalent competence to the three candidates mentioned above.
Paul Lemmens was elected for a term of office of nine years, starting on 12 September 2012. I wish him wisdom in the fulfillment of his new capacity. Congratulations, professor Lemmens!