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European Court of Human Rights

This article refers to the European Court of Human Rights, a Council of Europe institution; it should not be confused with the separate European Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) in Luxembourg. European Court of Human Rights building in Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg was established under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) of 1950 to monitor compliance by Signatory Parties. The European Convention on Human Rights, or formally named Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, is one of the most important conventions adopted by the Council of Europe. All 47 member states of the Council of Europe are signatories of the Convention. Applications against Signatory Parties for human rights violations can be brought before the Court either by other States Parties or by individuals.

Contents

History and structure

The Court was instituted as a permanent court with full-time judges on 1 November 1998, replacing the then existing enforcement mechanisms, which included the European Commission of Human Rights (created in 1954) and the European Court of Human Rights, which had been created in 1950.

The new format of the Court was the result of the ratification of Protocol 11, an amendment to the Convention that was ratified in November 1998. The new full-time Judges were subsequently elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

All member states of the Council of Europe have to sign and ratify the Convention. The court consists of a number of judges equal to the number of Signatory Parties, which currently stand at 47. Each judge is elected in respect of a Signatory Party by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Despite this correspondence, however, there are no nationality requirements for judges (e.g. a Swiss national is elected in respect of Liechtenstein). Judges are assumed to be impartial arbiters, rather than representatives of any country. Judges are elected to six-year terms. They can be re-elected.

The court is divided into five "Sections", each of which consists of a geographic and gender-balanced selection of justices. The entire court elects a President and five Section Presidents, two of whom also serve as Vice-Presidents of the court. All terms last for three years. Each section selects a Chamber, which consists of the Section President and a rotating selection of six other justices. The court also maintains a 17-member Grand Chamber, which consists of the President, Vice-Presidents, and Section Presidents, in addition to a rotating selection of justices from one of two balanced groups. The selection of judges alternates between the groups every nine months.

Procedure

Complaints of violations by member states are filed in Strasbourg, and are assigned to a Section. Each complaint is first heard by a committee of three judges, which may unanimously vote to strike any complaint without further examination. Once past committee, the complaint is heard and decided by a full Chamber. Decisions of great importance may be appealed to the Grand Chamber. Any decision of the court is binding on the member states and must be complied with[1], except if it consists of an advisory opinion[2]

It is the role of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to supervise the execution of court judgments, though it has no formal means of using force against member countries in order to comply. However, the ultimate sanction of non-compliance is expulsion from the Council of Europe and thus becoming a 'pariah' state within Europe. Furthermore, the European Union takes a keen interest in the Convention and Court (and its jurisprudence) so would not look kindly upon any EU member state that did not fulfill its Convention obligations.

Judges

As of 16 May 2007 (in order of precedence):[3]

Name Country Position Elected Term Ends Jean-Paul Costa FrancePresident 1998 2010 Christos Rozakis GreeceVice-President 1998 2010 Sir Nicolas BratzaUnited KingdomVice-President 1998 2010 Boštjan ZupančičSloveniaSection President 1998 2010 Peer Lorenzen DenmarkSection President 1998 2010 Françoise Tulkens BelgiumSection President 1998 2010 Giovanni Bonello MaltaJudge 1998 2010 Loukis Loucaides CyprusJudge 1998 2010 Ireneu Cabral Barreto PortugalJudge 1998 2010 Riza Türmen TurkeyJudge 1998 2010 Corneliu Bîrsan RomaniaJudge 1998 2010 Karel Jungwiert Czech RepublicJudge 1998 2010 Volodymyr ButkevychUkraineJudge 1998 2010 Josep Casadevall AndorraJudge 1998 2010 Nina Vajić CroatiaJudge 1998 2010 Margarita Tsatsa-Nikolovska Republic of MacedoniaJudge 1998 2010 András Baka HungaryAd Litem Judge 1998 2010 Rait Maruste EstoniaAd Litem Judge 1998 2010 Kristaq Traja AlbaniaAd Litem Judge 1998 2010 Snejana Botoucharova BulgariaAd Litem Judge 1998 2010 Mindia Ugrekhelidze GeorgiaAd Litem Judge 1999 2011 Anatoly Kovler RussiaAd Litem Judge 1999 2011 Vladimiro Zagrebelsky ItalyAd Litem Judge 2001 2007 Antonella Mularoni San MarinoAd Litem Judge 2001 2007 Elisabeth Steiner AustriaAd Litem Judge 2001 2007 Stanislav Pavlovschi MoldovaAd Litem Judge 2001 2007 Lech Garlicki PolandAd Litem Judge 2002 2008 Javier Borrego Borrego SpainAd Litem Judge 2003 2009 Elisabet Fura-Sandström SwedenAd Litem Judge 2003 2009 Alvina Gyulumyan ArmeniaAd Litem Judge 2003 2009 Khanlar Hajiyev AzerbaijanAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Ljiljana Mijović Bosnia and HerzegovinaAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Renate Jaeger GermanyAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Egbert Myjer NetherlandsAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Sverre Erik Jebens NorwayAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Davið Þór Björgvinsson IcelandAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Danutė JočienėLithuaniaAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Ján Šikuta SlovakiaAd Litem Judge 2004 2010 Dragoljub Popović SerbiaAd Litem Judge 2005 2011 Ineta Ziemele LatviaAd Litem Judge 2005 2011 Mark Villiger LiechtensteinAd Litem Judge 2006 2012 Isabelle Berro-Lefevre MonacoAd Litem Judge 2006 2012 Päivi Hirvelä FinlandAd Litem Judge 2007 2013 Giorgio MalinverniSwitzerlandAd Litem Judge 2007 2013

The Plenary Court elects the Registrar and one or more Deputy Registrars. The Registrar is the head of the Registry, which performs legal and administrative tasks and drafts decisions and judgments on behalf of the Court. The Registrar and Deputy Registrar as of 4 January 2007[3] are:

  • Erik Fribergh, Registrar
  • Michael O’Boyle, Deputy Registrar

Sections

Composition of the Sections (2007)[4]Position Section I Section II Section III Section IV Section V Section President Mr C.L. Rozakis Mrs F. Tulkens Mr B.M. Zupančič Sir Nicolas Bratza Mr P. Lorenzen Section Vice-President Mr L. Loucaides Mr A.B. Baka Mr C. Birsan Mr J. Casadevall Mrs S. Botoucharova Judge Mrs N. Vajić Mr I. Cabral Barreto Mr J.-P. Costa Mr G. Bonello Mr K. Jungwiert Judge Mr A. Kovler Mr R. Türmen Mrs E. Fura-Sandstrom Mr K. Traja Mr V. Butkevych Judge Mrs E. Steiner Mr M. Ugrekhelidze Mrs A. Gyulumyan Mr S. Pavlovschi Mrs M. Tsatsa-Nikolovska Judge Mr K. Hajiyev Mr V. Zagrebelsky Mr E. Myjer Mr L. Garlicki Mr R. Maruste Judge Mr D. Spielmann Mrs A. Mularoni Mr D. Björgvinsson Mrs L. Mijović Mr J. Borrego Borrego Judge Mr S. E. Jebens Mrs D. Jočienė Mrs I. Ziemele Mr J. Šikuta Mrs R. Jaeger Judge Mr G. Malinverni Mr D. Popović Mrs I. Berro-Lefèvre Mrs P. Hirvelä Mr M. Villiger Section Registrar S. Nielsen S. Dollé S. Quesada L. Early C. Westerdiek Deputy Section Registrar A. Wampach F. Elens-Passos S. Naismith F. Araçi S. Phillips

Reform

Due to the increase in awareness of European citizens of their rights under the Convention, the Court was becoming a victim of its own success. Some cases were taking up to five years before being heard and there was a significant backlog. For example, according to the Human Rights Information Bulletin (issued by the Council of Europe), between 1 November 2003 and 29 February 2004 the Court dealt with 7315 cases, of which 6255 were declared inadmissible.

Working on the principle that 'justice delayed is justice denied', the Council of Europe set up a working party to consider ways of improving the efficiency of the Court. This resulted in an amendment to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Protocol 14. This new protocol, which requires universal ratification by all Council of Europe member states to come into force, makes a number of changes:

  • A single judge can decide on a case's admissibility. Currently, three judges decide.
  • Where cases are broadly similar to ones brought previously before the Court, and are essentially due to a member state failing to change their domestic law to correct a failing highlighted by that previous judgement, the case can be decided by three judges rather than the seven-judge Chamber.
  • A case may not be admissible if it is considered that the applicant has not suffered 'significant disadvantage'. However, this is not a 'hard and fast' rule.
  • A member state can be brought before the court by the Committee of Ministers if that state refuses to enforce a judgment against it.
  • The Committee of Ministers can ask the Court for an 'interpretation' of a judgement to help determine the best way for a member state to comply with it.

Amnesty International has expressed concern that these changes to the admissibility criteria will mean individuals may lose the ability to 'gain redress for human rights violations'.[5]

Special Case Germany

The official translation of an extract of the German Federal Constitutional Courts's decision of 14th Oct 2004[6] reads:

"As a result of the status of the European Convention on Human Rights as ordinary statutory law below the level of the constitution, the ECHR was not functionally a higher-ranking court in relation to the courts of the States parties. For this reason, neither in interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights nor in interpreting national fundamental rights could domestic courts be bound by the decisions of the ECtHR.”

Thus neither German State Authorities nor its judges recognize the authority and the international contract it signed of the ECHR, whereas the relevant Article and sub-article of the treaty granting this authority read:

Article 46 - Binding force and execution of judgments

1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.

Thus it is irrelevant how German judiciaries think the decisions of the ECHR should be ranked in their national legal hierarchy at home: The ECHR has, by treaty, to be obeyed. Germany is, therefore, open to sanctions to be determined by the Council of Ministers for her unilateral action.

Despite the statement[7] of Prof. Dr. Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff, LL.M. (Harvard), Judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, the ECHR recognised[8] a serious violation of the father's right to family life by prevention of the Naumburg Court of Appeal's decision of 20 June 2001 and after this the rejection of the Constitutional Complaint the German Federal Constitutional Court the father Görgülü from living with and having access to his son. Since this decision the family had to fight in 50 court cases[9] and is already a second time at the ECHR.

Notable cases

In December 1977, the court ruled that the government of the United Kingdom was guilty of "inhuman and degrading treatment", of men interned without trial, by the court, following a case brought by the Republic of Ireland (Case No. 5310/71). The court found that while their internment was a violation of the convention rights, it was justifiable in the circumstances; it however ruled that the practice of the five techniques and the practice of beating prisoners constituted inhumane and degrading punishment in violation of the convention, although not torture.[10]

In 1980, the court ruled out the foetal right to sue the mother carrying the foetus. In Paton v. United Kingdom, it was discovered that the life of foetus is "intimately connected with, and cannot be regarded in isolation from, the life of the pregnant woman".[citation needed]

In 2003 and 2004, the court ruled that "that sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy" (13/02/2003),[11] because the sharia rules on inheritance, women's rights and religious freedom violate human rights as established in the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2006, the court denied admissibility of the applications of former Soviet secret services operatives convicted in Estonia for Stalinist crimes against humanity after Estonia became independent in 1991. See also European Court of Human Rights cases on Occupation of Baltic States.

Since the Russian military invaded Chechnya for the second time in 1999, the court has agreed to hear cases of human rights abuse brought forward by Chechen civilians against Russia in the course of the Second Chechen War, with 31 rulings to date as of June 2008 (including regarding the cases of torture and extrajudicial executions).[12] In 2007, for example, the Court ruled that Russia was responsible for the killings of a human rights activist Zura Bitiyeva and her family;[13] Bitiyeva herself had filed a complaint against Moscow with the ECHR in 2000 for abuse while in detention, in then-second case from Chechnya, but she was murdered in 2003 before the ruling was issued.[14] Other cases ruled against Russia included the deaths (or presumed deaths after years of forced disappearance) of Ruslan Alikhadzhyev, Shakhid Baysayev, Nura Luluyeva and Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev, the case of the indiscriminate bombing of Katyr-Yurt, and some of the deaths during the Novye Aldi massacre. As of 2008, ECHR has been flooded by a complaints from Chechnya, what the Human Rights Watch called "the last hope for the victims".[12]

Other cases

Architecture

The building, which houses the court chambers and Registry (administration), was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership and completed in 1995. The design is meant to reflect, amongst other things, the two distinct components of the Commission and Court (as it then was). Wide scale use of glass emphasises the 'openness' of the court to European citizens.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Art. 46, European Convention of Human Rights
  2. ^ Art. 47, European Convention of Human Rights
  3. ^ a b ECHR website - Composition of the Plenary.
  4. ^ ECHR website - Composition of the Sections.
  5. ^ European Court on Human Rights: Imminent reforms must not obstruct individuals' redress for human rights violations by Amnesty International News Service No: 120 11 May 2004
  6. ^ The decision of the German High Court of the Constitution 2 BvR 1481/04 of 14th Oct 2004
  7. ^ ECHR and national jurisdiction - The Görgülü Case
  8. ^ GÖRGÜLÜ v. GERMANY JUDGMENT of 26 May 2004
  9. ^ Listing of the court cases in the German Wikipedia
  10. ^ Search ECHR data base "In the case of Ireland v. the United Kingdom" (No. 5310/71)
  11. ^ [1] Refah Partisi (The Welfare Party) and Others v Turkey
  12. ^ a b Chechnya: European Court Last Hope for Victims; France, EU, Should Use Rulings to End Abuses, Human Rights Watch, June 9, 2008
  13. ^ "Russia Ruled Responsible For Killings Of Four Chechens" 21 June 2007, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 21, 2007
  14. ^ Russia Convicted in Chechnya Killings, IslamOnline, Jun. 22, 2007
  15. ^ Court press release of 5 April 2007, Court judgment

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: European Court of Human Rights

Coordinates: 48°35′47″N 7°46′27″E / 48.596389, 7.774167

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