Wednesday 21 April 2021

Frédéric Krenc Elected New Judge in Respect of Belgium

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) elected Frédéric Krenc as the new judge in respect of Belgium. Mr Krencs was elected by absolute majority, right away in the first round, receiving 148 of 262 votes. 

Mr Krenc is a practising lawyer from Brussels - and thus a relatively rare choice as most judges in the European Court either come from judicial practice or from academia. Next to a distinct expertise in sports law, he is very well-versed in human rights. In fact, in his studies already he did research about a still living issue: 'to what extent are EU Member States liable under the European Convention on Human Rights for actions by the European Union?'. Since 2014, he has also been the editor-in-chief of one of the leading French-language journals on human rights, the Revue trimestrielle des droits de l’homme. He can truly be said to actively have committed himself to the further increase of ECHR knowledge among his fellow practising lawyers, both in his function of Secretary General of the Human Rights Institute of the Brussels Bar as well as in advising and training lawyers on the ECHR. He has organised numerous academic and professional seminars on the ECHR as well as published articles on the subject and knows a number of his future colleagues from those activities. He has been a visiting lecturer at various universities and also has judicial experience acting as a judge-arbitrator at the Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport. And finally, and very significantly, he has extensive experience in bringing human rights cases to international institutions, including the Court of Justice of the European Union, the United Nationans Human Rights Committee and, most notable, he has brought and participated in over 200 cases at the European Court of Human Rights. A truly multi-faceted expert who can bring all that experience to bear in Strasbourg.

After a selection process at the national level in which a specially composed selection board interviewed 18 candidates, it selected those most fitting, amongst others, criteria like 'their specialist qualities, as evidenced by practical experience of human rights law, a university education, research and/or works published, and personal commitment to the values embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights.' After this selection, the Belgian government put forward a list of three candidates to PACE: a legal adviser from an NGO, a professor and a practising lawyer. In what could be called a typically Belgian weighing of the interests of the different communities and constituencies, this time the three candidates put forward have, as noted in the press, French as their first language (whereas it was Flemish the last time round). Mr Krenc speaks both French, Dutch and English it should be noted. 

The selection may have led to a smooth sailing in Strasbourg, with the plenary Assembly in the first round confirming the recommendation by its own committee, in Belgium itself the choice was more contentious. The currently governing and often-called 'Vivaldi' coalition, consisting of four different political party ideologies (thus the reference to Vivaldi and his Four Seasons) was perceived to innovate. In the Belgian press it was noted that the government was submitting a list with three specialists, who were relatively progressive and young, to Strasbourg. Especially the latter was noted as a clear break with the past, as thus far most judges elected in respect of Belgium in Strasbourg were quite experienced national senior judges. This may fit with the image the relatively new Belgian government itself wants to convey. Maybe not surprisingly, this drew criticism from more conservative circles in Belgium, where - quite outrageously - even the fact that the government put forward a list in which the majority of candidates were women was seen as political; a sad comment in the 21st century to qualify that as a negative!

He will succeed the current and very esteemed judge Paul Lemmens, who currently also heads one of the Sections of the Court. As judge Lemmens' term of 9 years started on 13 September 2012, Mr Krenc will succeed him starting on 13 September of this year. Good luck to the new judge!

On a different note, PACE has sent back the list of three candidates put forward by Poland.