Human Rights commissioner to hound EU member states on unenforced judgmentsNew Page
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Pic: Shutterstock

31 Dec 2018 / human rights Print

EU states to be hounded on unenforced judgments

A dream born from the ashes of World War Two was how the European Court of Human Rights was described on its 20th anniversary this week.

But human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović is alarmed by the non-implementation of judgments, decrying the tendency of several member states to ‘cherry-pick’ judgments, depending on their acceptance by current political authorities.

Denial of justice

At the end of 2017, more than 7,000 judgments of the court were still awaiting full implementation by member states, which the commissioner described as a denial of justice.

But the commissioner intends to pursue the issue of unenforced judgments, pledging to take the matter up with Council of Europe Member States during her tenure

“I intend to use the possibility to submit written communications on the execution of judgments. The new rule 9 that the Committee of Ministers amended in 2017 provides the Commissioner with this power, and I am currently devoting some thought to this issue,” she said.

Rhetoric

The commissioner pushed back against the “political rhetoric which delegitimises the court and, as a consequence, the Council of Europe and the values and principles it stands for”, saying that ignoring these rights is ignoring the raison d’être of the organisation.

She said this is done on the mistaken belief that governments can decide whether or not to implement the court’s judgments on the basis of the political, electoral, and sometimes personal interest of the rulers in charge.

“This belief is profoundly erroneous and dangerous,” she continued. “It is erroneous, because the essence of our system is that member states agreed to uphold the judgments of the court.

“It is dangerous because eroding the court’s authority and fomenting citizens’ distrust towards the court will result in a manipulation in forging the public’s opinion on democracy.”

Collapse

The consequence will be the collapse of the rule of law and human rights, the commissioner warned.

She said that maintaining the independence and effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights is a matter for us all, and for the lives of hundreds of millions of people living in Europe who can apply directly to an international court to obtain redress for the violation of their human rights by states.

“With its judgments, it has made a decisive difference for thousands of people, a difference sometimes as concrete as a life spent unjustly in prison or lived in freedom,” the commissioner said.

“It is thanks to the court that victims of torture have access to redress; that relatives of murdered persons can obtain some measures of justice; that people of different sex, gender, colour [and] ethnicity can claim their rights on an equal footing.

Achievements

The court’s remarkable achievements should make Europeans proud of it, the commissioner said.

“The success of the court rests on our common ability and willingness to respect its independence and ability to interpret the Convention as a living instrument, protecting the hundreds of millions of individuals from state abuses and arbitrariness,” she continued.

“The workload of the court is not only about statistics, or about the need to save an institution flooded with complaints: it is about human beings turning to the court because they feel unable to find justice at home.

Expectations

“The problem is not that people complain, but that they have reasons to do so. We have to make sure that the court continues to live up to these expectations. Preserving the Convention system as the home of freedoms, justice and human dignity must be our common priority,” she said.

“We all have a particular responsibility to ensure that the European Court of Human Rights remains the lighthouse for all those seeking protection of their human rights,” the commissioner said.

58,000 applications are pending

President of the court Guido Raimondi said this week that 58,000 applications are pending before the court – down from 160,000 applications pending in 2011.

In the 20 years since its foundation in November 1998, the court has dealt with more than 800,000 applications, delivering nearly 21,000 judgments.

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