The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has just published conclusions on the future of the Strasbourg Court and enforcement of ECHR standards: reflections on the Interlaken process. Conclusions are available in French and in English. The Interlaken Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights will be held on 18-19 February 2010. Some important points are highlighted as follows:
14. The Strasbourg supervisory mechanism is “subsidiary” in nature. States are responsible for the effective implementation of the Convention and it is the shared duty of all state organs (the executive, the courts and the legislature) to prevent or remedy human rights violations at the national level. This is principally, but not exclusively, the responsibility of the judiciary. Hence the logic of putting into place an effective human rights complaints mechanism at the national level, which would diminish the risk of the Strasbourg Court acting as a fourth instance appellate jurisdiction. Witness the small amount of complaints, comparatively speaking, that reach the Strasbourg Court from Spain and Germany. Appropriate domestic remedies, intensive training of lawyers, prosecutors and judges, the creation of a human rights culture and the impregnation of the Strasbourg acquis within national state structures – especially with respect to the “big sinners” (see paragraphs 6 to 8 above) – would help stem the flood of applications to the Court. Thus, well-functioning national human rights protection mechanisms might make superfluous the idea of creating a separate filtering body within the Strasbourg Court and shift back primary responsibility to national legal systems, where it belongs.
15. One subject of particular significance, discussed at the hearing, was the need to enhance the authority and direct application of the Strasbourg Court’s findings in domestic law. Rather than refer to the erga omnes effect of Grand Chamber judgments of principle, it is probably more accurate to refer to its interpretative authority (res interpretata) within the legal orders of states other than the respondent state in a given case. Here, I have in mind the United Kingdom’s 1998 Human Rights Act, Section 2 § 1 of which specifies that national courts “must take into account” Strasbourg Court judgments, and Article 17 of Ukrainian Law No.3477–IV of 2006, which reads: “Courts shall apply the Convention [ECHR] and the case-law of the [Strasbourg] Court as a source of law”. This subject merits special attention in Interlaken.
Few can predict what will happen at Interlaken but it seems that a change of Strasbourg arhitecture is likely to be agreed upon.