Brighton Declaration on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights is adopted by member states
Article explaining the significance of the Declaration published on Family Law Week
The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has announced that the Brighton Declaration concerning reform of the European Court of Human Rights has now been formally adopted by all 47 member states of the Council of Europe following talks this week.
Mr Clarke said:
'These reforms represent a substantial package of reform and are a significant step towards realising the goals that the Prime Minister set out in Strasbourg.
'Taken together, these changes should mean fewer cases being considered by the court. Those that it considers should be allegations of serious violations or major points of interpretation of the Convention and will be processed without the scandalous delays we are seeing at present.
'The court will not normally intervene where national courts have clearly applied the Convention properly. These reforms strengthen the commitment of all the member states to the obligations of the Convention and will improve the ability of the Court to enforce these obligations sensibly.'
The Ministry of Justice says that the Council of Europe agreement will tackle issues with the Court by:
- Amending the Convention to include the principles of subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation
- Amending the Convention to tighten the admissibility criteria - so that trivial cases can be thrown out and the focus of the Court can be serious abuses
- Reducing the time limit for claims from six months to four
- Improving the selection process for judges
- Setting out a roadmap for further reform.
Writing for Family Law Week at the beginning of the Brighton Conference, Deirdre Fottrell, barrister of Coram Chambers and Visiting Professor at the Center for Human Rights at Columbia University in New York, said:
"Any proposal that would limit or curtail the right of individuals must ..... cause concern to family practitioners in common with other domestic lawyers. The draft Brighton Declaration which is the centre piece of the British Government's proposals at the Conference seeks to reduce the jurisdiction of the ECtHR's to hear individual petitions. The proposal is that the ECtHR would consider only those cases which have not been litigated before domestic tribunals or in which the claimant can show that they have suffered a serious disadvantage. Such an approach negates the purpose of the Convention itself which is intended not just to apply within the national arena but the efficacy of which has always depended on the existence of a robust supervisory supranational mechanism, namely the ECtHR itself."
To read the full text of the Brighton Conference, please click here. To read Deirdre Fottrell's article – Why Should Family Lawyers be Interested in the Brighton Conference on the European Court of Human Rights? – please click here.