Future of the European Convention on Human Rights

The Council of Europe is currently conducting a consultation on the longer term future of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The consultation closed on 27 January 2014 and is this exercise will continue until Spring 2015.

JUSTICE considers that the future of the Convention system must build upon a commitment to the right of individuals to seek a remedy before the European Court of Human Rights. A strong, independent Court capable of providing a decisive interpretation of the rights protected by the ECHR is crucial to the success of the system. We stress that the goal of any further reform should be to enhance the protection of individual rights in Europe.

This process must be evidence-based and should focus on achieving a truly shared responsibility for implementation of ECHR rights. No further reform of the processes of the Court should take place until the impact of the latest round of changes can be fully assessed. The first priority should be commitment to more effective national implementation measures and better mechanisms for the implementation of judgments. States must be supported to change domestic laws, policies and practices to ensure the protection of individuals’ rights at home. This will not only divert cases away from the Court but will help prevent violations happening at all.

JUSTICE hopes that recent vocal criticism from some commentators within the UK will not dominate debate on the future of the Convention system. While this commentary has attracted a significant degree of political attention, it should not detract from the contribution which the ECHR makes to the protection of individual rights within the UK and around the world.

An open dialogue about the risks facing the Convention system is welcome, particularly in light of significant political challenges to its authority. However, this process should must not ignore important developments in human rights law since 1950, and the significant role played by the ECHR. The case law of the European Court of Human Rights has not only helped improve the lives of individual applicants and change the shape of domestic law and policy across Europe, but it has helped judges across the world in better understanding the application of human rights principles in international law and in domestic constitutions.