Tuesday 2 April 2019

Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos New President of the Court

Although announced on April fools' day by the Court, one may assume this is serious and real news: the Court has elected from its midst Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos to serve as its new President. Judge Sicilianos had already been one of the Court's Vice-Presidents since 2017 and a judge at the Court since 2011. Before joining the Court, he was a well-known academic expert on human rights in Greece, serving amongst others on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. He will succeed the Court's current President Guido Raimondi on 5 May, who has headed the Court for around 3,5 years. Since terms rum for nine years at the Court and are non-renewable, Sicilianos will be President for just over a year, until 18 May 2020 at most (he started his term on 18 May 2011).

The Court also elected ECHR a new Vice-President, the judge in respect of Iceland, Robert Spano. And a new Section President was also elected: Ksenija Turković, the judge in respect of Croatia. They will also start in their new functions on 5 May.

Strasbourg watchers might surmise two things from the above: the Court's Presidents in the last decade have served for relatively short terms (between one and four years) and that has to do directly with the non-renewable terms of nine years. Thus, long terms such as the one of former President Luzius Wildhaber (1998-2007) have - even if theoretically still possible - become quite unlikely. Specifically, because one may assume the Court's judges will always want to elect someone amongst their midst with a solid experience in the inner workings of the Court and that takes a few years to acquire. Secondly, one may also infer that Robert Spano may stand good chances next year, as his term runs for several more years and he has just been appointed Vice-President. But then the judges on the Court may also decide it is time to elect in the near future for the first time a female judge to head the Court. Enough to occupy the minds of Strasbourg afficionados.

Greek newspaper Ekatherimini mentioned that the election was hailed by the Ministry of Justice as a great honour for Greece and highlighted that Sicilianos is the first Strasbourg Court president from that country (one may note that, even though Ekatherimini is a quality newspaper, it sadly thinks the European Court of Human Rights is part of the EU....).

For now, all the best wishes of success to the Court's new President!