Wednesday 3 February 2021

Strasbourg Court Publishes the 2020 Annual Report

On 28 January 2021, the European Court of Human Rights published its 2020 annual report. The report provides an overview of the work of the Court and statistics regarding the incoming processed and pending applications. It also contains information regarding the Court's public outreach activities, publications, and trainings.

In comparison to 2019, the Court issued around 1500 fewer decisions and judgments (see page 155). At the same time, it issued more interim measures and received more requests for advisory opinions. In connection with the backlog, the Court notes that it has

recently adopted a new strategy for more targeted and effective case-processing in order to ensure that both priority and “impact” cases (i.e. non-priority Chamber cases which address core issues of  relevance for the State in question and/or for the Convention system generally) are processed and adjudicated more expeditiously. This strategy is aimed at enhancing the Court’s immediate impact and relevance for the applicants and in the member States and its ability to address core legal issues of relevance for the Convention system as a whole”.
The report does not further explain what this ‘new strategy’ is. It remains to be seen what specific changes will take place for the ‘new strategy’ to work. 
According to the annual report, the most violated human rights in 2020 were the right to a fair trial, the right to liberty and security, and the prohibition of torture (see page 159). Statistics show that after 70 years of the adoption of the ECHR, the protection of basic human rights in Europe still remains an ideal and a work in progress. The chart below shows that some States struggle more than others in the realisation of human rights. For illustration, Romania alone has the same number of pending applications as 37 States Parties to the ECHR put all together. The number of applications pending against Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Italy is a matter of serious concern.

Lastly, 2020 was an unusual year, and as President Spano notes in the report, the pandemic Covid-19 “has not spared the European Court of Human Rights”. The report indicates the Court's response to the first wave of the pandemic in spring last year. In March and April 2020, the Court suspended the six-month time-limit for lodging an application. This happened for the first time in the history of the Convention system. Working from home and holding of Grand Chamber hearings by video-conference became a new normal for the Court. Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, the report suggests that the Court has "managed to adapt to the dramatic circumstances".