Ireland signs Protocol to reform the European Court of Human Rights Strasbourg, 13 May 2004
Mr. Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for European Affairs, represented the European Union at the annual meeting of European Foreign Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 12-13 May 2004. At the meeting, the Council adopted a landmark package of measures to reform the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The Court serves the 45 Member States of the Council of Europe which have a total population of 800 million. The Court currently has a backlog of over 70,000 applications and the caseload is growing by over 1,000 new applications per month.
The Court reform package includes a new Protocol as well as a series of measures to be taken by national governments in their own jurisdictions to ensure protection of Convention rights at the domestic level. The new Protocol (Protocol Nº 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights) is a key element of the overall reform package. It will amend the control mechanism of the Convention and will specifically address the problem of repetitive and unmeritorious applications as well as identifying new criteria to be used by the Court in deciding which cases are admissible.
Minister Roche signed Protocol º 14 on behalf of Ireland at a special ceremony held in Strasbourg this morning. Ireland was among the first states to sign the Protocol.
Speaking after his opening address to the Ministerial Meeting, Minister Roche welcomed the breakthrough which had been made on this important issue:
“When I addressed the Council of Europe here in January, I emphasised the importance and urgency of a deal to reform the European Court of Human Rights which is a longstanding priority of the Irish Government. I am delighted that a package of reforms is now ready thanks to the outstanding effort to reach agreement by all the states involved.
“Ireland has always acknowledged that great care was needed to ensure that rights which have been hard won were not undermined in this reform discussion. I am aware that some concerns have been expressed about the change in the admissibility criteria. This issue has been discussed in depth by member states and the result is a carefully thought through compromise. I believe that we achieved the right balance and, indeed, that we have strengthened the individual right of petition through securing the long-term effectiveness of the Strasbourg Court. As was made clear in yesterday’s debate, the proposals in the Protocol enjoy the support of the President of the Court himself.”
Note for Editors :
The Reform process to secure the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights was launched in November 2000 at a special Council of Europe Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Rome. Ireland has been to the forefront of diplomatic efforts in Strasbourg, to ensure that the European Court continues its important human rights work at a time when the Court's caseload is growing at a rate of 1000 cases a month. Among the reforms included is the addition of new admissibility criterion which aims to increase the effectiveness of the application system. Currently, a case may take as long as five years to go through the Court system.
Further information can be found on the Council of Europe’s website: www.coe.int and on the website of the Court of Human Rights: www.echr.coe.int .