Friday, 16 June 2017

PACE Report on Delays in Implementation of Judgments

Last month, the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) discussed the newest report on implementation of the European Court's judgments. This 9th report was made by Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ and, as always, is a valuable resource to get insight into the many problems in giving follow-up to the judgments of the Court. The number of judgments pending at the Committee of Ministers has now almost reached 10,000. More worrying than that is that there is an increase in the number of leading cases, in which states are really required to do something new to remedy a situation and usually change their laws or policies structurally, that have not yet been implemented for more than five years. Here, it clearly is not only about lack of capacity within national jurisdictions or slow procedures of amending legislation, but also about political unwillingness. As the Committee noted, it does not stop there. There also are "attempts made to undermine the Court’s authority and the Convention-based human rights protection system."

As in earlier years, a relatively small number of states causes most problems in this respect. This time - and close observers may not be surprised - Italy, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova and Poland are the main problematic countries. 

The appendix to the report give a detailed overview of where matters stand in relation to a number of leading cases in a large number of countries.

Friday, 9 June 2017

New System for Single-Judge Decisions

The European Court of Human Rights announced last week that it has adopted, as of this month, a new procedure which allows more detailed reasoning to be given in single-judge decisions. Ever since the single-judge procedure was introduced through Protocol 14 in 2010, the Court had been applying a very summary procedure to deal with the large backlog of tens of thousands of cases. Both by practitioners and academics this state of affairs, born out of necessity, has often been criticised as it gave no clarity or reasoning to people whose applications were rejected by single-judge decisions.

Two years ago, the State Parties at the High Level Conference in Brussels on the Convention, welcomed the Court's intention "to  provide brief reasons for the inadmissibility decisions of a single judge, and invites it to do so as from January 2016." It has taken a bit longer, but now that - in the Court's own words - "the backlog has been eliminated", more detailed reasoning will be given, but still not in all cases. This is how the procedure will unfold:

"Instead of a decision-letter, applicants will receive a decision of the Court sitting in single judge formation in one of the Court’s official languages and signed by a single judge, accompanied by a letter in the relevant national language. The decision will include, in many cases, reference to specific grounds of inadmissibility. However, the Court will still issue global rejections in some cases, for example, where applications contain numerous ill-founded, misconceived or vexatious complaints."

This still may not satisfy everyone, but it at least come along some of the road. As the court indicated in its press release, it has to "strike a balance between addressing a legitimate concern about the lack of individualised reasoning and maintaining an efficient process for handling inadmissible cases so as not to divert too many resources from examining potentially well-founded cases." The very fact that this is now possible, should be a good sign.