Time to Fix the European Court of Human Rights?
Big things are afoot in Europe, especially as the United Kingdom inches further and further away from European institutions. The U.K.’s refusal to join the recent fiscal reform plan has gotten all the headlines, but I hadn’t realized that the U.K. is also embroiled in an ongoing battle of wills with the European Court of Human Rights over that Court’s order that the UK enfranchise its felons. In addition to continuing to resist implementing that decision, the U.K. is taking its opportunity as president of the Council of Europe to push big reforms of the ECtHR.
Ministers hope to win big changes to the way the Court operates during Britain’s six-month spell in the rotating chairmanship of the 47-strong Council of Europe, which lasts until May. A leaked document, setting out reform plans agreed jointly by the UK and Swiss governments, says: “Urgent action is needed in order to avoid further damage to the reputation and effectiveness of the convention system.”
It accuses the Court of interfering with issues “that do not need to be dealt with at the European level” and says it must “address growing public and political concern” about the way it functions.
Pointing to a backlog of 160,000 cases, the report says many of them are “hopeless” and that the court is used as a last resort by those whose cases have been rejected – rightly – in their own country.
Of course, the UK Independent has no further details on what exactly this secret reform plan is. But dissatisfaction with the ECtHR appears to be growing in the U.K. and some real reform may come out of this.