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Brighton Declaration 'largely ends up avoiding the difficult questions while infringing on Court's independence and authority'

A political declaration by the 47 Council of Europe member states fails to address key challenges faced by the European Court of Human Rights even if it contains some positive measures, Amnesty International said today.

The Declaration – which comes at the end of Brighton Conference - contains proposals to reform the Court and amend the European Convention on Human Rights.

Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said:

“The amendments to the Convention proposed today will do little to alleviate the workload of the Court, while some of them instead undermine the independence of the Court and curtail individuals’ access to justice.

“If member states are serious about ensuring the future of the Court, they must start by being serious about implementing the Convention and executing the Court’s decisions.

 “Better respect for human rights at home is the most effective way to guarantee the sustainability of the Court.

“The Brighton Declaration contains many welcomed commitments by states to do a better job at implementing the Convention and to take concrete measures in this direction. Actions speak louder than words and states must now demonstrate that they mean what they say”.

One of the main challenges facing the Court is the sheer accumulation of so-called repetitive cases. These cases are originated by the persistent failure of member states to fulfil the human rights obligations they committed to respect.

Amnesty said that more robust tools should be at the disposal of the Council of Europe to exert effective pressure on those states which continue to disregard the Court’s decisions. While the possibility of sanctions, including financial penalties, had initially been considered during the negotiations, their explicit inclusion in the Brighton Declaration was eventually dropped. Amnesty said that the declaration’s signatories had missed an opportunity to provide incentives to comply with the Court’s judgement.

Instead of tackling head on the crucial need to address the repetitive violations of the Convention and the non-execution of the Court’s judgments, the Brighton Declaration instead shows member states telling the Court how it should interpret the Convention.

In addition, the declaration will reduce the time limit to apply to the Court from six, to four months.

Michael Bochenek concluded:

“Member states should not tamper with the Court’s independence by telling how it should fulfil its role to supervise their respect of human rights.

“All in all, whereas the Brighton Declaration was supposed to establish an ambitious agenda for ensuring the viability of the Convention system, it largely ends up avoiding the difficult questions while infringing on the Court’s independence and authority.”

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