The Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights has announced an open call for information, proposals and views on the issue of the longer-term reform of the Convention and the Court.
The announcement says that the process follows on from the Brighton Declaration adopted in April 2012 (under the Chairmanship of the UK ) and that “[i]t is intended to be open and inclusive, allowing questions to be raised and examined concerning all aspects of the Convention system and the Court”. Its purpose is to respond to the following invitations to member states (which should be read and understood in the context of the Declaration as a whole):
- to “consider the future of the Convention system, this consideration encompassing future challenges to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention and the way in which the Court can best fulfil its twin role of acting as a safeguard for individuals whose rights and freedoms are not secured at the national level and authoritatively interpreting the Convention”;
- to “carry out a comprehensive analysis of potential options for the future role and function of the Court, including analysis of how the Convention system in essentially its current form could be preserved, and consideration of more profound changes to how applications are resolved by the Convention system with the aim of reducing the number of cases that have to be addressed by the Court”;
- to “initiate comprehensive examination of:
– the procedure for the supervision of the execution of judgments of the Court, and the role of the Committee of Ministers in this process; and
– the affording of just satisfaction to applicants under Article 41 of the Convention”; and
- to “secure the participation and advice of external experts in order to provide a wide range of expertise and to facilitate the fullest possible analysis of the issues and possible solutions”.
The results will eventually be included in a report of the Steering Committee for Human Rights to be submitted by 15 April 2015 to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
The consultation process is open to everyone, subject to certain basic procedural requirements which are set out in the submission form (a Word document that can be downloaded from the announcement page). The deadline for submissions is mid-day (12 noon French local time) on Monday 27 January 2014.
Comment: As regular readers of this blog will have realised by now, we both regard the ECHR and the Court as critical elements in the area of law and religion: not just in relation to Article 9 itself but across a whole range of interlocking human rights issues which have implications for religion and belief (however defined). Moreover, as we have said on more than one occasion, we believe that human rights are inseparable from other legal considerations .
The Court is certainly not beyond criticism – not least because of the relative slowness at which it moves. But given the opprobrium that has been heaped on both the Convention and the Court – largely but certainly not exclusively by elements within the British Conservative Party – and the growing dissatisfaction in some quarters with the UK’s relationship with the Court, perhaps this is an opportunity to offer constructive suggestions for improvement and generally to show support.
We will follow developments in this area with interest, and will post our assessment of the Consultation at a later date.
Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington
 However, the final version differed significantly from the UK’s “unpublished” aspirational version of February 2012