Today marks the 60th anniversary of the entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights on 3 September 1953. This was within three years of the formal signature on 4 November 1950 in Rome - the date usually referred to mark Convention milestones. In September 1953, Luxembourg, the home of the Court's current president, Dean Spielmann, ratified the Convention as the tenth state, which triggered the entry into force. It would take many more years before the majority and eventually all state parties would recognize the right of individual application and the jurisdiction of the Court. The start was thus relatively slow, but the Convention's and Court's effectiveness quickly gained pace from the 1970s onwards, growing into what it is now: an almost continent-wide instrument of human rights protection.
As president Spielmann remarked in the Court's press release on the anniversary:
“Those who deposited the instrument of ratification believed that the Convention would form the bedrock of democratic Europe, an enterprise for peace and freedom. They considered it a great honour for Luxembourg to make possible the entry into force of what they described as ‘the finest European undertaking to date’. Sixty years on, we strive every day to continue on the course they charted for us.”
In a slightly ironic twist of history, the Arab League decided this very week to set up an Arab Court of Human Rights in Bahrein, a state that two years ago violently crushed protests. The Arab Court idea is said to have been inspired by the Court in Strasbourg, but the new idea has immediately been as a PR stunt by human rights institutes in the region itself, who do not believe that this will be a serious effort at human rights protection. Of course, that remains to be seen and the European Court also took years to fully function and become the protector that it is today. In any event,one may hope that the new Arab Court will not be a fig leaf but will be developed as something serious, maybe with practical help from its European peer.